Nashville – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory from our 5-year anniversary theme “Nashville” in September 2018. 

Tonight, Nashville, we were in Nashville.

In Nashville, we got to know our 101-year-old spitfire Gram—shopping for the Lexus of 61- Nashvilledouche bags, discussing proximity theories, and revealing descending dove tattoos. And in the end…we fed the ducks.

In Nashville, we arrived with a dream and discovered how much we love salsa dancing and matzah ball soup. We fished our keys out of the dumpster and attended a barbecue party for the wrong Mark. And we learned to be careful about bragging too soon.

In Nashville, we left a boring party in a strange part of town, when Cinnamon Girl ran low and a call for help didn’t help. But T with his slim jim overcame our stranger danger, and we stared the handshake that connects.

In Nashville, we came for her dreams but found long days and abusive nights and sleeping alone at the holidays. We finally left when the flinching fear became reality. But we’ve found family and learned to love the place we hated…boots and Elvis statues and all.

In Nashville, we took our master’s degree in sewing and made clothes for elite families and costumes for a burlesque show. Then shopping for notions led to Dolly’s designer and a very challenging career. And we learned to be very careful where we stick the pin!

In Nashville, we met a friend who almost drank himself to death, and almost drown in the park, and almost died of some duck disease…and we still don’t know the answer to his question.

In Nashville, we saw her gliding in an angelic sundress through the ethereal light—and we forgot our raisin’! But our baby-doppelganger plan didn’t work, and now we dream we don’t have to observe the 500-foot buffer zone.

In Nashville, our glowing reviews slowly unraveled before our eyes. The mysterious bad guy from “Taken” helped us make our home, and we shared the struggle of our precarious status. But a new job and a new guy led us to like our new self better.

In Nashville, we met him on a blind date…with someone else, while we were semi-engaged…to someone else. Twelve dates, countless romantic letters, and 62 years later we said our final good-bye here—and through it all we listened to the music of the moonlight.


Thanks to all the storytellers for a wonderful night—Rose, Rob, Ty, Annette, Mercedi, Christy, Sally, Iisha, and Emily! Join us next time for stories that take place “All in a Day”. Got a story? Pitch it here!

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Almost – The Understory and Next Theme

Here Rob McRay’s understory from August 2018’s theme “Almost.” 

Almost, Nashville, almost.

We almost hugged a biker cop the night we almost got a D.U.I.—on our scooter—when 60-Almostour legally sufficient lie could not cover for our irresponsibility.

We almost didn’t get to fulfill our drinking fantasies in the only country that gets attacked by aliens. But a D.M.V.-like bureaucrat suddenly gave us a break for his lunch break.

We were almost about to be kind of a big deal, working with a director we’ll call “Andrew” on a British-Chinese-South African documentary about America. But the doomed negotiations with communists did lead us to a new friendship—and that’s kind of a big deal.

We almost bled when we were bullied, and unheard, and got a ticket to eternal torment for lipstick and rap and failing to obey men. But a light took us to a new place, and now we love life and pranks and our son…and the next adventure.

We almost got the girl, when we visited the solitary trailer with unrealistic expectations of the “Number One Crush.” After nearly getting shot by Redneck Rambo, we returned home alone to the strains of “Love Fool.”

We almost gave up on our novel about 7th-grade Abbie’s almosts. But minor accomplishments led to an Abbie-like editor whose decision to publish encouraged us to never give up.

We almost kept our secret in the basement of our souls, when we were invited into his “special club.” We told no one to protect our parents, until our husband revealed it and our mother apologized she couldn’t protect us.

We almost won a dream contract from that label, but our geek army playing anime conventions were told “Asians don’t sell.” But we won a Supreme Court case and inspired a generation of kids to fight for the voice of our community.

We thought we almost died from chlorine poisoning, which led to compulsive handwashing, and tapping on tiles, and an irrational fear of decapitation or being stabbed by a toy. But Lawrence died, and we smoked, and it stopped—and even after the swine flu, we didn’t have to worry about Chucky.

Almost, Nashville.


Thanks to all our tellers—Steve, Caroline, Pratik, Joshua, Kerrie, Simon, Raj, Kat, and Drew! Join us for our 5th year anniversary September 24 for our annual theme “Nashville.” Got a story? Let us know!

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Regret – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory for July 2018’s theme “Regret.” 

Nashville, tonight we had regrets.

We celebrated our 20th anniversary in a bubbling fish tank, where we enjoyed a large red Cosmo that sent our body on journey past the potted plants and the upright Sunday School teachers, with a stop at the gravel lot. We released the shifting anvil and collapsed in a vague resemblance to the ending we had hoped.

In our Ralph Lauren High School we choose one crush between rival brothers. We became a thing at the playground when we were scared to speak our truth. And we wish we had known it was okay to say, “no.”

An ill-fated ski trip with no conditioner led to an ill-conceived plan for an eternal, growing, secret, half-pound golf ball. But our decisive aunt shuttled us to the E.R. salon, where our elaborate like finally hit the floor.

A leap of faith led to an encounter with Barney, Floyd, and Aunt Bee, three ambulance rides, and membership in the Sufferers Club. And maybe we can finally say that we no longer regret our biggest regret.

After repelling on our first date— “Not-Naked & Afraid”—we married our Indiana Jones husband. He took us camping in Destination Hell, ignoring warnings, and waivers, and mating gators, where we became “Cybil of the Swamp.” But never again!

We roomed with A.A.R.P. aunt, who thinks we’re not that young. Despite that April night when she selected the only channel she knew and we watched 2 ½ minutes of rhythmic body parts, she’s still the best roommate we ever knew.

She was bilingual, and we were…dangerously equipped. We awkwardly used the present tense, and confused fear and feces. But that was nothing compared to ordering male-member soup from the star QB waiter—and everyone who loves the Lord knows about it!

At the nursing home with Great-Grandmother Bitc— …uh, Great-Grandmother, we met him eating flesh-toned paste by himself. We became pen pals, till 12-year-old life intervened, and we never answered his last letter. And now we just want to say, “We’re sorry, Mr. Kimbrell.”

We celebrated her bachelorette party with a cucumber massacre, and Wishbone advice, and sober streaking with former home-schoolers. We escaped the cornfield led by Pregnant Rambo…but Mom is glad we would never do anything like that.


Thanks to all our storytellers—Rebecca, Jacquelyn, Cynthia, Melissa, Ty, Steve, Mary Margaret, Elly, and Alexandra! Join us August 27 for our annual partnership with The Porch Writers’ Collective. Our theme is “Almost.” Get in touch here with your story proposal! If you missed the stories, check our podcast page in a couple weeks to catch up on all the goodness!

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Parents – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory for our June 2018 theme “Parents.” 

Nashville, tonight we shared stories of parents.

We moved next door to the Church of Not-Entering-Without-Knocking, where our lying58-Parents siblings caused a crisis. But our brother confessed, and we told our parents, and the Incredible Hulk was saved.

We felt like a Kennedy at technically a bed-and-breakfast. We learned we were on our own dealing with a barf sprinkler spewing a ton of not-puke. But in the end, it was worth a good laugh and, maybe someday, a thank you.

After a life of bullying at hell camp, we took a ride in our father’s big Buick…the day “the ship it the sand.” Our bombshell confession led to a prayer for healing…and words of love. And we wish he knew the shame free version.

We went from winning at the best day ever to falling on our face on the way to the birth of the most alert newborn ever. But we have survived raising ourselves, and we have learned not to talk about cows on trains.

We lived with never living up to his expectations, and the questionable ethics of plagiarizing our own plagiarism. But Father’s pride over a story that wasn’t fully true left us with unfulfilled dreams of mutual apologies.

We don’t remember breathing when she told us the news. After an evasive call to him and an intuitive call to her, we were on our own to say the words we could not say. And we learned it takes a long time for a heart to heal.

Sliding down a big toy with nails led to frantically looking for a penis bucket. But the good news is that it didn’t hurt much…but someday it will!

Mom’s cooking mishaps included strange pseudo-Mexican dishes, and demonically blooming steaksicles, and Dad with Joe Pesci eyebrows. But we all survived the physically painful experiences.

The tests and treatments led to shattered beliefs and tearful pleas and avoiding Baby Gaps and baby showers. After seeing a priest and a psychic and a papa, we finally heard the song…and she gave us our dream.

That was our night with parents.


Thanks to all our storytellers—Hamish, John, Adam, Anne, Kerrie, Ty, Melissa, Trey, and Pratik! Join us July 23 for “Regret.” You can pitch your story idea here. See you then!

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Snapshot – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory from May 2018’s theme “Snapshot”, where each storyteller told a personal story based on one of their personal photos. 

Nashville, tonight we looked at pictures.

We took a 3,500 mile journey to eat pizza with the Boy Band—Diversified, reversing 57-Snapshotevolution all over an Amsterdam bar, and dancing to Shakira with French heroines. The boy band is all grown up now, enjoying photos of our epic adventures, and planning an epic reunion tour!

We saw the look of disdain, and remembered needing therapy until we both faced the obvious. Life with an O.D.D. adolescent was a horror story—but it has a picture-perfect ending…until adolescence returns.

We were ashamed of the flailing photo, and the party where we didn’t know the social rules on rides and face-sucking. And we wish we could delete the voices as easily as the photos.

We made wildly inaccurate assumptions about each other’s photos, assuming coolness…and hair. But despite discovering the contrast between an anal-retentive closet and clean clothes on the floor, “In-the-World-Today” is now in the picture.

After the jarring loss of invincibility and getting an angry tattoo, we had the best day of our life watching a laser light show in the cave—high on permission! And now just wish one day we would look and know he’s there.

A picture of speaking on a truck in Berkley reminds us of childhood questions and fighting Nazis and dodging concrete soda cans. We expected to be focused on academics—but what we are really doing is harm reduction.

We saw the portrait of our grandparents, who carried Jessie Belle from the sulfur odor of Odessa to her final resting place in a budget-conscious D.I.Y. funeral. And they have space available on the return trip!

For years we wrote letters to missing Lizzy, till we got a friend request from the spitting image of Mamma, and a blurry copy of the family picture finally ended the nightmares.

We always posed for contrived family photos that did not capture the weirdos we really are, until our shocked Syrian Sitto took the Most Awkward Family Photo…ever! But it did lead to new friends, and offended church folk, and amazing bragging rights.

And we saw the picture!


Thanks to our wonderful storytellers—Marissa, Bassam, Kelby, Christina, Barbara, Robyn, Steve, Jessica, and Laura!

Our next theme is “Parents” on June 25. If you have a story, let us know here!

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Lost – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory from our April 2018 theme “Lost.”

Nashville, tonight we were lost.

We were lost in a deserted part of the ancient city, and more lost in the early days of 56- Lostmarried life. But in the end, we were just glad to finally both know where we are.

We lost our “5-year-old” mother when our discriminating 17-year-old palette led to sprinting around the perimeter of the grand opening, till the cringe-worthy announcement reunited us in a moment of self-discovery.

We grew up traveling in military engagements in which the prime objective was to make good time. But we discovered that families in bizarro world were happy just to kind of know where they were going and not get lost.

We took a beauty break for the soul and got lost in the maze of the sandstone city, teaching Pi in Marakesh, and camel-riding in the Sahara. But we found our own life—which we brought home, and found home was also new.

We were lost in interviews where we wasted time competing with fire alarms and looking for people in the witness protection program and seeking connections in pubs and Pokemon. But we finally found relationships we cherish, and we know we can find our way out of the woods.

We left behind the red-eyed heathen of depression and bitterness and went to look for a place that calms a beating chest. And hiking through the tundra, avoiding apex predators, and fishing in the majestic beauty of wilderness streams, we found hope.

We felt lost when unrealistic dreams of perfect child-birth in a puffy pink gown crashed into Fantasy Mom’s prophecy of rejection and drying up. But our beautiful baby rescued us from the nightmare of a hot-rock massage.

We were lost in unmet family expectations and Grandpa’s dominating opinions. We were happy to learn that he thought his baby doll was talented—but we found we aren’t defined by that. And we sent him off with his version of “The Curtain Falls” and cherish his last musical “Grandpa.”

We were lost on a date when brownies with secret ingredients led us to not know if we were on a train, or what our date was saying, or whether we had eaten, or how to talk, or how to feel our face! But he helped us find our way home…and all we can say is, “Happy Friday!”


Huge thanks to Chloe, Anna, Matt, Cindy, Steve, Erin, Sharon, Jack, and Amy for their stories! We look forward to seeing everyone at Douglas Corner May 21 for our theme “Snapshot”. Bring a photo, tell the story. Let us know if you have a story!

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Things I Never Told My Parents – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory from our record-breaking night at February 2018’s theme “Things I Never Told My Parents.”

Nashville, tonight we are really glad are parents weren’t here!54-Things I Never Told My Parents

We never told them of our break from the rigid rules of the all-girl school to throw an all-girlfriend party, complete with bilingual education in the use of contraband and marital education watching unimaginable things in a decidedly unromantic movie.

We never told of skipping school to sneak into the cow pasture, or bribing Queen Betty with shoplifted goodies and facing legendary African discipline, or guzzling a large wine glass of…not-wine. But we learned our lessons and became our parents’ pride and joy.

We never told of going to Bonnaroo without A/C, observing dead-head bongs and landscape paintings on inappropriately free canvases, where we engaged in an act of cultural defiance involving sophisticated daisies—which led us to the profound discovery that we would rather be fully clothed.

We never told that we investigated the legality of our parents’ marriage, or that we used the imaginary story of our grandparents’ marriage to deflect unwanted advances, or that we knew the truth of our mom’s mom’s plot to snare our dad’s dad.

We never told of how preaching our grandmother’s funeral led to discoveries of useless floppies, and handwritten records of grandfather’s…compulsions, and tales of the horny bugger’s conquests. And we’re certain that Mom still wouldn’t want to know!

We never told of our Jeckyll-and-Hyde youth in the Flatbush fish tank—of the gangster threat at the off-track betting parlor, or the whack from the camp survivor, or the assault from the street punks—or of our life with the Huxtables and Yiddish raps.

We never told of flipping off the universe and luring death into the mosh pits of anarchists and the tense world of colored bootlaces, and landing in a dangerous fight between commies and skinheads—but we were more afraid of losing our mother.

We never told of how our drama teacher, who sacrificed God’s gifts to help young thespians, promoted us from lip-syncing “Happy Birthday” to performing as a singing rat—when performance-anxiety-induced pit stains led us to a novel first use for feminine hygiene products.

We never told of a moment in the dark in a funeral parlor 63 years ago, or of being afraid of what others would think, or even more of what Dad would do. But we can now say that secret is no longer in those shadows, and we are free from the fear…and we can now say, “Me too!”


A special thanks to all our exceptional storytellers—Annette, Anna, Gayathri, Jeannie, Elisa, Steve, Melissa, Sally, and Amanda! What a night! Join us in March for “Ouch.” You can request a story slot here.

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OMG – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory from January 2018’s theme “OMG!”

OMG, Nashville!

There in the fancy spa was the one destined to be our friend. So, we streaked from the aloe chamber to the steam bath—and celebrated her birthday in our birthday suit.

We went from a wedding reception with cupcakes and sober dancing to a weird rage 53-OMGparty, with siblings who hit each other’s crotches and freeze placentas. And, while watching a water bottle crash to earth, we tilted over the precipice of adulthood.

Scotty’s friends had come and gone, when we found a giant pig regally strolling through the living room. But with our best Shakespearean monologue, we banished the swine into the darkness!

We pursued the life-long goal of double-dating with Mom and her date’s son, which took us from a tennis stud with whispering hair to a tinder match with a scrub, and a shocking Facebook encounter—OMG! WTF! LOL—which somehow didn’t keep our parents apart!

We spent Easter season in Italy. We didn’t know what to do with the ash on our scalp. We scored Catholic Super Bowl tickets at the Vatican. And we closed the season by sharing a plate of chic-pea bread from Nono.

She had always had a past we did not want to know, but when we heard her voice this time, something was different. As she sat in the dark shadow of death, we frantically summoned the Law—and we will never know if we really helped.

We practiced law low-bono for free plumbing and AK-47s. But after our attempt at Matlock failed, our improperly dressed client caused us to question who was actually selling themselves.

Our anxiety rose as we signed the waivers, donned the identity-marking vests, and learned the 3-step rescue plan. But an autograph for his daughter revealed that we had helped change what is underneath his tattoos.

“I am up for anything” proved to be ill-advised words as we entered the Japanese equivalent of an American pub, where we dropped the loin cloth and exchanged nudity for inebriation—and found life-long friends.


Thanks to all our storytellers—Melissa, David, Madison, Marilyn, JW, CJ, Simon, Anna, and Bill! We will be back at Douglas Corner Cafe on Monday, February 26 for our theme “Things I Never Told My Parents.” Gotta story for that? Let us know here!

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That Was Awkward – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory from our December 2017 theme “That was Awkward.”

Tonight was…well, awkward.

We planned our wedding in great detail…except for one crucial document. But we finally 52 - That Was Awkwardcelebrated with a church full of unenthusiastic strangers.

We attended the funeral of our political Protestant grandmother, who was noticeably dead in the pink casket. After uncomfortable memories over casserole with cousins, we learned the palpable presence of absence.

We stalked a tall handsome stranger with our love-struck friend…for a long time. Then we attended his Bollywood wedding, where we were the focus of the entire village’s sympathy!

O.J. inspired us to grow from a ghoulish child to the coolest kid. And we inspired more girls with Diet Coke explosions, self-electrocutions, and…well…wheat germ jizz.

We had an out-of-body experience in the “Not-a-Diary-Queen,” and had to confess to the church—“I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see!”

Eight hours into an eleven-hour trip, we plotted revenge…leading to the exchange of sexy, stolen merchandise for divorce-friendly yoga pants—and a thoroughly confused teenager.

We wore rubber gloves and wrote romantic novels and took leaning graduation photos…and somehow grew from the devastation of unrequited 8th grade love to the confidence of an adult with fond memories.

Regrading silence as an invitation to blurt out hair-brained remarks, we compared a tumor-inspired necklace to shrimp cocktail, which led to an awkward volleyball game about aquariums and Blackfish and beluga whales.

Tonight was awkward.


Thanks to all our storytellers—Rob, Darlene, Brittany, Christy, John, Ty, Bekah, and Deepa! Join us on Jan 22 for our 2018 launch theme “OMG!” Pitch your story here!

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When I Was Young – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory for our November 2017 collaboration with One Voice Nashville on “When I Was Young.” 

Tonight, we remembered when we were young.

We remembered life as a Neanderthal hunter, chased by mating German Shepherds, and dragging home a decapitated deer—where we expected a family celebration, but instead got solitary confinement.

We remembered the day Poseidon died on Easter Sunday, and we led black-clad funeral goers in a deeply meaningful memorial—despite the rib-cracking laughter of the Wicked Witch of the West!

We remembered growing up in the One True Church in the universe of Texas. Then we discovered that people existed elsewhere, that filmstrips were not the source of undeniable truth, and that mother was right—we might be wrong.

We remembered the tough love of Coach Dad—and the life lessons learned from the agony of scoring the losing goal, and the ecstasy of scoring the winning goal.

We remembered visits to Papa Donny’s house, and touching toes on the tree swings, and fireflies in a mason jar, and delivering gingerbread boys—and the origin of a Christmas tradition with the aroma of a childhood where you know everyone’s name.

We remembered the year of opportunity, when we crossed the wood-plank bridge one step at a time through eternity, and Mr. Mittens taught us we need help to reach our dreams.

We remembered with gratitude her long walk on Christmas Eve to swap four chickens for a few groceries, a little red truck, and a small doll—when it was too cold to sing, “Hard times come again no more.”

We remembered a lesson learned from a girl long ago—and now we are Moises’ super-hero—and he helped us recover the brick from the depth of our fear.

We remembered a hard summer mixing mortar with a perfectionist father, and guilty trips to the V.A., and a special gift full of pictures…and stuff…and the story—and you have to remember the story.


Thanks to all the storytellers–Richard, Qu’ana, Kathleen, Michael, Annette, Kathy, Gabby, Jan, and Jeff! Join us December 11 for our theme “That Was Awkward.” Got a story? Let us know here!

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