Life is Beautiful — The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory from November 2019’s theme “Life is Beautiful.” 

Life is beautiful, Nashville.

We always wanted to be a mom and we plan it all with Excel sheets and white boards. And we taught them all the important lessons, like how to cook and there’s more to banking than the card working, and to lean to the right. But we forgot to tell them where to find the…“Kentucky Jelly.”75 - Life is Beautiful

We climbed to base camp through Middle Earth, across swinging steel bridges with prayer flags, in a drenching sleet storm, with acrophobia and low oxygen. But the helicopter bill was cancelled, and we have pictures of how annoyed we were.

We became friends with “Lady Gaga for Jesus,” who never worried about cancer, and went to chemo in Dolly droppings, and was happy in hospice. Her job here is done…but she sparkled in the shadows.

After 9 pins and a metal plate and 3 years of injections, we learned where to look in an elevator and how to dodge bridal pedal parties. But the real story is about measles and a baby and a chance at life—because of our breaks.

Our virtual friendship disintegrated in fights over ridiculous things, till he shouted, “I will find you and kill you!” After two days in the sunshine at Holiday World, we stopped responding—but life is better without him.

We mean the beach, or the mountains, or even the B’oro, but in the world’s largest open-air prison, they mean something very different. A wrong turn led to hours of interrogations and different definitions of “normal.” And we can only say, “This is the life.”

Two liters of wine helped us understand the Irishman. But after two missed flights and two missed buses, and a trail of puke, and a shocking discovery at an internet café, we avoided a terrible fate with the trafficker. And we will never forget the gift of their magic carpet.

We were screaming at the “Son of the Virgin,” but his words were like an injection in our eyeballs. We remind him of how much he has to be thankful for. And he taught us that incarceration is just a matter of geography—and to focus now on beautiful things.

We climbed on the counter to fix plastic bowls of Crispy Rice and pretend to be a fantastic mother. After the grief of divorce, we were still not a real mother. But we learned to be lovable and found someone who loves us. And after months of peeing on sticks, we laughed hysterically, because now we are a real mother!

…And I’m a real great-uncle!


Thanks to our storytellers Brittany, Matthew, David, Jackie, Marilyn, Brad, Nelson, Gayathri, and Charlie! Join us December 9 for kid stories. Should be brilliant. Pitch your story idea here!

76 - Kids

Nashville – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory from our Sept 2019 6th year anniversary theme “Nashville”. 

Tonight, we experience Nashville.

We all enjoyed a weekend of temporary bachelorhood with pimento cheese and bourbon, till an impromptu gig for bachelorettes at an Airbnb, where wine and Wagon Wheel led to a blues jam Stairway to Heaven…and a night of Music City Magic.

We gathered a legion of lesbians to gather supplies from the unexpectedly kind 73 - NashvilleChristians to take to the laughing Egyptian beauties. At the end of a day of asking and receiving and giving, we felt the ugliness of being ourselves…till she translated the smiles from shame to beauty.

We were homeless with a sense of humor and needed the million-dollar fee for the song-writing context. But we settled for sweet tea and the show at the Golden Arches dinner theater, moved to Nashville, and married the feller of our dreams.

Our champion rescued us from brothers with cat food and staple guns—and he wasn’t what was wrong. But Mom died on his birthday, and he died of a broken heart. But he encouraged us to find a better future—and we found a better home in Nashville.

We spent a lot of time with Nashville losers, when a mysterious stranger at the mall encouraged us to do what we love. And we never talked again. Then we read his obituary…just before our first gig doing what we love.

Our colorful and mortifying dating life in Nashville finally led us to someone who didn’t expect a Scandinavian model and didn’t need us to explain ourselves. But we slowly learned he was more fascinated with our race than with us—and we need to be more than a fetish.

We pursued our semi-dormant ferocity to change our society by kindergarten, till a nervous breakdown brought us back to Nashville. We unschooled our children with self-directed hippies, without selling our souls to the devil…but we did get secular religious status from the devil system.

We made a garden to separate us from the Airbnb parties. But a hairy, New Jersey, drunk “good guy” in pajama shorts put us in “murder-you-mode.” And we got to tell his whole group that we squirted Kevin in the crotch.

We welcomed our family from Jersey, till ice-breaking ACT comparisons foreshadowed the nightmares to come. The room painted with make-up and manure was the last straw. And Nashville sighed with relief as they left—and we would love to pour them a full cup of coffee!


Thanks to our storytellers—Karla, Tamara, LJ, Michael, Melissa, Matthew, Sally, Sonia, and Marilyn! We are back Oct 21 with some shocking stories. Plus, we are partnering up with Mewsic Kitty Cafe on Nov 10 for cat stories. Submit your story idea for either here.

74- Shock

 

SPECIAL - Cats

I Was Never the Same Again – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory from August 2019’s theme “I Was Never the Same Again.”

Tonight, Nashville, we were forever changed.

Evil witches warned us of green thumbs and buck teeth. But we didn’t heed the warnings…till the self-inflicted horror shocked us into a new life that doesn’t suck.

We expected by 21 to be a dead award-winner with no ambition, till an open mike 72 - I Was Never the Same Againturned Kansas into Oz…and sleeping in Target parking lots.

We left the empty apartment for a 5-day trip up the coast. We hid an axe in the trunk, jumped off waterfalls, shared our insomnia, encountered a rocking horse, and talked under countless stars. And we learned the joy of spontaneity.

Our finger ran across the graph, and we answered the flood of questions, till it all crashed in on our head. But he rode without words, and the kids had his back, and he aced the test, and but we missed the picture. And we celebrated our stinkeroo butterfly.

She was 104, but the Redskins were playing. She walked with command and spoke of pride, and a room of Georges, and snitching on sitters, and the birth of a union. And we learned when to call.

We were her guinea pigs and just wanted to socialize. But he wouldn’t call on us and sent us to an office interrogation, and we saw her cry. But the new director knew us—and gave us a new future.

An apology and flashbacks led us to know we couldn’t hide from what we were hiding. We learned it was our brain and not our worth. And something left our body that day.

We loved to sing the sweet lullaby, till haunting images, and gluttonous guilt, and the clanging chimes of doom forever changed the song we sing.

We had a driving force to create something with our name on it. We read at a Purim festival and were on the brink of “celebra-Steve.” But we were the opening act for the other one, and magically made our self-respect disappear.

But we were never the same again.


Our thanks to the tellers, as always—Steve, Malinda, Rob, Gennae, Beth, Cortney, Jackie, Molly, and Jane. Join us for our 6-year anniversary night on September 23 for stories that took place in our city. Pitch your story idea here. See you then!

73 - Nashville

Snapshot – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory for July 2019’s theme “Snapshot.”

Tonight, Nashville, we looked at snapshots.

Our first expression of romantic love led to our mint bush dying with our relationship, and to the haircut that would turn our life around. We got 13 likes—and even he thought we pulled it off.

We played the game of “Who’s driving my Lincoln” and took a trip with an armful of 71 - Snapshotkeys to the world. But a growing oil spot and growing symptoms led to the loss of a Lincoln and a life that were ours.

We helped raise him, but how do you explain leaving to a 4-year-old who leaves you out of his prayers. We had to leave again after talking about the Big Bang and the girl—and his father missed it all.

She was good at sports and was happiest winning. We weren’t…but we learned when to cheer and to boo. Later we learned about “Pretty Girl” and threats…but now you can see the kindness in her lines.

We decided to fight the universe and chose lots of injections against medical advice Despite problematic side effects—we have increased various personal maxes.

We were fanatic for wrestling—but were better as a commentator. We wanted to be a writer—but we got removed from the gig. And someday someone will take a picture with us.

We drove to the home of our father’s mother—the matriarch of a family of vets and a pacifist Baptist minister. She has a life story of the worst life has to offer. We missed the moment by an hour and a half, but left the sweet pie on her grave.

She could ring a chicken’s neck with her thumbs and was proud someone made a better section of the paper. We dreamed of modeling in New York City, but identified as a hillbilly. We miss her warnings at Big Rocks—amoeba warnings just aren’t the same.

Traveling taught us that Latin is better for Harry Potter than for socializing. We toured the “drunken sticks” and rode with tangoing gauchos—and learned that important things don’t always require language.


Our thanks to all our storytellers—Matthew, Tom, Sally, Genevieve, Matt, Barbara, Colleen, Brad, and Karla. Join us August 26 for “I Was Never the Same Again,” stories of the moments that have changed us. Submit your story idea here!

72 - I Was Never the Same Again

 

Courage – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory from June 2019’s theme “Courage”. 

 

Tonight, Nashville, we shared tales of courage.

We counted noses and found Toby dead…until he wasn’t. After a panic attack in knee-deep hair, we learned you have to mow the pastures. But now we can throw dead squirrels by the handles.

We moved to New York City with no job and two roommates who wouldn’t kill us. We had an exciting internship and gave tours of crying places; but, despite it all, we grew up there.70- Courage

We didn’t have language for it, but we attracted friends who were “off to the side.” Interviewing their stories helped us become visible—and we earned the pin.

We knew the rules, but we were strangely jumpy and sleepless that night. The ground-shaking steps produced concurrent fear and courage, which led us to feel sympathy for our biological systems and acknowledge the value of bear mace.

We didn’t know we were hit, but we were visited by a self-serving ex, a protective sister, and friends who dug in. After crying alone at our desk and watercolor tutorials, now life is messier…but it’s ours.

We were too shy to ask for a Taco Bell refill, but we explored the American side of Uganda. We endured a bargain haircut from a non-Bar-Mitzvahed beard butcher, and congratulated ourselves on how far we have grown.

We bravely weathered a terrible hurricane singing over the howling winds, while our brave prince prepared to do what had to be done—however ridiculous it may have been.

We endured two years of tormenting till pillow punching lessons and an angelic choir ended the torment. Then we met a new bully at a new school, and waited for the hit that never came. And 30 seconds changed the rest of our lives.

We knew something was wrong, so we researched the disease and decorated the walls. We took the longest ride of our lives, throwing up till we got the great news. But now we can tell her story.


Thanks to all our storytellers! We’re looking forward to our next night of stories for “Snapshot,” where we’re telling stories based on personal photos. Submit your story idea here!

71 - Snapshot

Whoops – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory from February 2019’s theme “Whoops.”

Tonight, Nashville, was a big “Whoops!”

The apex of our athletic career came crashing down in a humiliating case of the yips. After being exiled to right field, we now avoid throwing darts and skipping rocks, and the only throwing we do is up.

In college the only thing that kept us going was skiing. A relationship she wanted to be more casual than we wanted only made it worse. But after an apparent third strike with a cautious brunette, and many years of happily married, we’re going home to her tonight.

Our efficient moving plan was upended by an all-expense paid trip to sing “Ring My 66 - whoopsBell.” We consulted a higher authority, frantically packed boxes and cars, and arrived late for our departure. But thanks to a suitcase in a wheelchair, we made it.

A precisely-measured 3’ 10” hole led to panicked gasps, screaming “Steve,” 11 hours in the ER, an unnecessary pregnancy test, “Broken Femurs United,” and a gay fan club.

Our final summer with our best friend since conception involved estimating the odds of two gorings, turning as red as our neckerchiefs, and imitating a Mexican game show host in a gynecologist’s office—but we earned a B+!

We took a 7th grade field trip to a sulphur processing plant with an eyelash-eating girl, an exquisite farter, a Liberace fan, and a frighteningly beautiful pigeon-toed gazelle. But a disdainful sniff that released a slow-motion snot rocket still makes us cringe.

Playing basketball at 55 was a mistake. Playing kickball was a bigger mistake. Not listening to our brother was a mistake. And we’re afraid that admitting it in front of him in public could prove to be the biggest mistake of all!

The relationship between the jello-shot queen and the tie-died pot distributor started with a rescue kiss and led to whip-its and tequila in a hot-tub in a country commune…and a long smelly drive home.

Our first time on public transportation alone led to missed stops, looking for change in cinderblock buildings, and carrying a soda bladder on the bus. We may be a tonta, but we made it home.

Whoops, Nashville!


Thanks to all our wonderful storytellers—Ty, Malinda, Rob, Steve, Sarah, Bill, Jackie, Holly, and Tom! Join us next time for “Sorry”. Got a story? Let us know here!

67- Sorry

The First Time – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory from January 2019’s theme “The First Time.”

Tonight, Nashville, was our first time.

We spent our first Southern Christmas without oddly wrapped socks or a “What’s-a-Jew-65 - The First Timeto-Do Party.” But we helped Nanny with the gravy, opened an athiest’s search for Jesus, and cherished her favorite cookbook.

We went to our first Hanukkah party on a jaded road trip with a pornstar, where we had a God-arranged date to Abilene, and got a goodie bag from a surprising place…that seemed to surprise no one.

We had our first psychedelic experience at the legendary hippy refugee camp, where our spiritual awakening turned out to be hurling zucchini; and we left the disappointed Deadheads to go listen to CSN in the a/c.

We remembered our first images of beauty, when we saved our lunch money for a magic hair potion and learned that being “black black” wasn’t attractive. But in time we learned to wear our natural hair and agreed with his compliments…even if he was kind of stupid.

We took our first joy ride in a stolen family minivan, when we tore up the yard and raced around at an astonishing 15 miles-an-hour! But our new sense of self nearly cost us our greatest ally—and it wasn’t worth it.

In our first year of teaching, a gallon of cheese balls revealed that 7th graders lack integrity. We struggled through a culturally insensitive kimono hole and gave Spanish instructions about finding trash—only to hear again that fateful chant.

After growing up in a very Baptist town with no bars or Catholics, we experienced our first Mass, wearing highly inappropriate footwear and being inappropriately grateful for the moon-sized wafer. But we have learned to receive a gentle blessing and say, “Amen.”

For the first time we took charge of our own happiness and reversed societal roles—then hid in the Phantom’s darkness. Rereading the Instagram led to a roller coaster ride of emotion, but now we are content waiting for the right person.

The first time we had a gun pulled on us we were on beach just 50 miles from horror, when a creepy soldier invaded our space and questioned our vocabulary—and we came to wonder, “What is an acceptable reason for war?”


Thanks to Natasha, Paul, Josh, Sally, Emma, Deena, Karla, Brad, and Jenny for such great stories! Join us February 25 for our next night, with stories on “Whoops.” Got a story? Let us know here!

66 - whoops

Something Unexpected – The Understory and Next Theme

Here is Rob McRay’s understory for our November 2018 theme “Something Unexpected.” 

Nashville, tonight was unexpected.

She used to hug strangers in the stuffed-toy aisle, wear hair helmets, and take naked 63- Something Unexpectednursing home strolls. But when the pinpoint was gone, she could still sing that love song…and we missed the crazy.

We loved Hee Haw and theme parks and trivia on the Nashville channel, and dreamed of DJ glory…till the cheese slipped off our cracker, and we were married by Fat Elvis—who turned out to be our teenage crush.

In the Swipe Life of Vancouver, we met a girl who liked “chocolate”, and invited her to come dodge bachelorette parties on Broadway. But on a Sunday morning in a month that sucks, three bullets made us choose how to live and give.

We wanted to seize the day before the day ceased, but we ran out of our flip flops when a face in a ski mask was no nightmare. Fear followed us to Marrakesh and Caroline’s, but supportive friends and tapping pressure points helped us “Fear not.”

In the conciliation-present house, where the baby got the balcony, we were really scared of the attic door knob and Mom’s ugly crying. But we peeked out from the covers to watch our gun-toting grandpa free Coco—who needs to learn to meow!

Our two-year-old refused to swallow her breakfast, and we had a flashback to cat pee under the floorboards, and meat-eating flies in the chimney, and mold forcing us out of the nest. But projectile eggs helped us see we were parenting ourselves.

In Colorado we searched for legal brownies and found a kite store, where we remembered a boy who wouldn’t let girls fly kites. And everyone enjoyed our niece’s butterfly kite—everyone but the child!

We saw the most beautiful girl in the world, but she was waiting for someone special. We got revenge with the “sucko monster incident.” When we learned the revealing truth, we were too absorbed with our own pain to hear hers.

We spent Christmas with our family and a boyfriend whose breathing we couldn’t stand. But we were pleased with the kale-induced body changes that improved our highly toxic wasteland. And we are still loving our 4-year-old present.


Thanks for Daniel, Cindy, Marilyn, Ty, Shana, Rebecca, Gayathri, Brad, and Karla for their stories! Join us December 10 for 9 true stories of “home.” Submit your story proposal here!

64 - Home

All In a Day – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory from Monday’s October stories on “All in a Day”. 

What a day, Nashville!

We spent the day at the beach on a “real vacation,” where we took pictures while 62- All In a Daythinking, watched a hippy resuscitate a shark, and thanked a redneck for finding our son. But our breathing returned to normal watching the sun set over the marsh.

We spent our 18th birthday scraping ice, breaking up, causing a traffic jam, and losing “Big Dog.” But an ugly cry in the shower and a family dinner at Cheddars helped…a little.

It was the first day of school after the year of heartbreak and choosing the guy in the red flash truck over our best friend. But the coach encouraged us to jump off the pedestal into a new school—where we broke up again.

The day started without our tea and with a rush to get to work—where we got a call that stunned us into vulnerability and a surprise offer from the boss. But the bigger surprise came when our office bestie gave the watch he loved to the person he loved more.

We made a lasting impression on the day of our flu game of marketing, when we shipped a transcendent Brad Pitt meme that was shockingly misinterpreted as a bomb threat—but at least we didn’t go to federal prison.

We spent the day driving four hours to Memphis and back to decide against buying a car from a guy who switches license plates and sells dope. We made it back safe…but missed a good time at the dog track.

We spent the day leisurely paddling down the Harpeth, until a low guttural nowise led to multiple efforts to rescue an uncooperative calf. We adopted our T-ball-ready stance…and watched as Coach carried it to safety—but that doesn’t prevent someone from claiming to be a hero.

One June day in Chicago we got all busted up running into fences, falling off chairs, breaking beds, and frantically searching for an armed toddler—who was having a party with the Chicago police.

What a day, Nashville!


Our thanks to Annette, Kristen, Jacquelyn, Tamara, Kristen, Steve, Jeremy, and Becca for such wonderful stories! Join us November 12 for “Something Unexpected.” Got a story? Pitch it here!

63- Something Unexpected

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!

62- All In a Day