I had one of the best birthdays ever! In fact, it wasn’t just a birthDAY, it was a birthday WEEKEND! Crazy fun times!
Really, what made it so great was that A2 went the extra mile all day long to just make the day special for me. She bought me donuts for breakfast, arranged for a haircut for me, and even finished the mowing and edging for me so I could go enjoy the 90 minute massage she gave me!
Then, we went to dinner at the Silver Fox Steakhouse (…soooo good…) and then… the big event of the evening… We went and saw Ira Glass! (more on Ira later)
Sunday night, the celebration continued with friends and family who came over for cake and ice cream. It was great to share the evening with such great friends, talking, catching up, and stress testing the child-enjoyability of our house. (We have a LOOOOOONG way to go, but somehow the 10 kiddos made it through.)
(Sadie made it through my teething on the chair’s foot rest…)
We bought one of those seven pound chocolate cakes from Costco, and made homemade ice cream! Yum! Thanks A2 and Trav!
Anyways… back to my birthday highlight: Ira Glass!
Yes, Ira Glass!
No, for reals… Ira Glass!
Oh, you don’t know who Ira Glass is?
I could show you a picture:
But you still don’t know him, do you?
Ira Glass hosts the weekly radio program, This American Life, one of the greatest shows on air right now. At this live event he played interviews, told stories, and joked with us about some of the circumstances he’d found himself in and some of the strange people he’d met. He walked us through how they find the stories, create the shows, and how they make them so appealing to such a wide range of people.
And a wide range of people it was! Everyone from beatnik hippies to Dallas socialites to country farmers showed up for the one-night-only event. A2 and I both noticed (out loud) the eclectic-ness of the gathering as we walked back to our car.
One of the more memorable stories he told was of a guy who came to them with a story about his father who, upon his wife’s death, went to deliver her ashes to the Veteran’s cemetery for a free veteran’s burial. Upon finding out there was a $16 “handling fee” for the burial application, the father became so enraged that he exited the front door and defiantly began to scatter his wife’s ashes all over the parking lot of the cemetery. He came home and told his children of the debacle, which then became something of a family legend.
As the story’s producers were preparing this story to go air in a program they had titled “Fine Print,” they began to do their final fact checking. When they called the Veteran’s cemetery to check about the $16 fee, they were surprised to find out there was no fee. There never had been a fee. They went on to ask about the story of a man scattering his wife’s ashes in the parking lot, and the office staff laughed saying that if something that crazy had ever happened it would be a legend around the office. (Apparently, nothing much happens around cemeteries.)
The producer then had the gall to ask, “well, can you go to the crypt” (where now the husband had been dead and buried for 2 years) “and check to see if she’s in there.” They obliged. She took another step: “Well, can you check to see if her ashes are in there?”
They replied, “No. We can’t do that. But we can pick up both urns and tell you whether or not they feel more or less the same weight.”
They did. — And they did.
After the producers broke the news to the son who had originally reported the story he resolved that, as best the family could tell, one day their dad just went on a drive and came back with this hilarious story about a $16 fee, a mad man, and an impromptu parking lot burial service.
The program had to quickly substitute the story for another they had been working on, but ended up with this great anecdote about storytelling itself which worked wonderfully for a live event like this.
I think we underestimate how pervasive storytelling is in our lives, and how regularly we do it ourselves. Getting together with good friends or family always results in some good, suspenseful stories with an every-day quality to them. Blogging has taken off as a result of the desire we have to tell each other stories. The funny thing is, they are all stories we’ve heard before: children’s blunders, parent’s worries, difficulty at work or between friends, worries and doubts, cute bows, shopping trips, and travel – the stories only become more interesting because we know and care about the people involved in them.
And that’s just it – the story Ira shared about the ashes and a parking lot wasn’t about the ashes or a parking lot – nor was it about the originally anticipated them of “fine print”. It was about story telling itself.
As it turns out, our life’s story really happens only the first time when we live it it, but can happen again and again, an infinite number of times, in the telling of it.
Ira’s show has a strange ability to get us to care about stories and strangers which we don’t know at all. They are mostly just run-of-the-mill, every-day-life stories, but told in a way that engages the audience and keeps us on the edge of our seats wondering what we will most enjoy from listening to them talk.
All-in-all, it was definitely worth hanging around a bunch of hippies to see this guy. Thanks, Ira and crew, for a great show.