Gone – The Understory and Next Theme

Here is Rob McRay’s understory from August 2020’s Zoom event “Gone.”

Tonight, Nashville, they were gone…and we were gone.

Dad took us from the L.A. beaches to the New Mexico mountains, where bears seemed to outnumber people. But after watching bears by the headlights and riding with the truck driver to the diner, we came to love small town life in the clouds.

Our father’s journey took him from the bedroom to church to the institution. We were frightened by the fervor of faith, but Dad was drawn to the control through fear. We returned from down under, but our father never returned.

In the golden light, Tom told us, “Right now, this is as good as it will ever get.” Now, after the Alps and race cars and 35 years of a better life. We are grateful for that moment of clarity.

We could not stop the dissection to determine the cause of death of dying dementia patient. Her self-inflicted wound, and endless infections, and long life led to the words, “No more.” But the dash of her life would not be gone.

Chessie could spell and gave generous gifts of undead snakes and rodent innards. She went to cat heaven and mouse hell…and we heard loss in the shape of a sound. But to the end, she was proud she was not a dog.

It was a different kind of being the only one. But she was the lifesaver who saw us. We found a family of validation, and then grew slightly away. She went to the Waffle House…and was gone. And now everything is colored red.

Good night, Nashville.


Thanks to all our storytellers—Ty, Kayla, Bill, Pam, Sam, and Melissa! Join us for our 7-year anniversary on September 28, for our regular anniversary theme of “Nashville.” Submit your story idea here!

Letting Go – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory from February 2020’s theme “Letting Go.”

Tonight, Nashville, we were letting go.

It was the year of dead animals. We fed the personality-free screensaver until the living room smelled like medicine pee, and we buried our little fish-sicle in a Tupperware coffin.

The 3-ft. asshole ripped the head off Little Red Riding Hood, followed by sexist excuses, 78 - Letting Gomaternal scolding, and being ratted out by Mr. Crotchety Pants. And we still want to flick his ear!

Bounced checks led the yin-to-our-yang to demand a divorce. After cycles of yelling and blubbering, fruitless counseling and mutual confessions, we let go of our happily-ever-after and Hollywood dreams for a new future in a new home.

We constantly reviewed the video footage, wanting a do-over, till he sat on the edge of the bed. We talked about playing with Lincoln Logs and weed…and his funeral. And we discovered he had erased the video.

Going to that movie alone was more embarrassing than a surprise, tuba-like, desk-rattling fart. Even worse was failing at our expertise. We removed the ring at the Biltmore…and yes, now we do feel better.

We were born like Jesus; but we got our own tree, decorated it with toiletries, and celebrated all summer. We worried what our next-door strangers would think of a Jewish Dexter—so we disposed of the evidence…just in time to plot our next holiday heresy.

We were “difficult,” especially on vacation. We finally visited the Happiest Place, where we sent Sammy off to the southeast. After a drenching storm and some George W. shoe-dodging, we found him—with one of the good people.

We went from showing her how to wash potatoes to reading their troubled texts. Somehow, he still proposed, and she wanted an ally. And we decided peace was more important than the dream.

On an unforgettable day with an unforgettable girl, we decided a few cheap angry orchards constituted an official date. Familiar Team Fear fell down, and we went in for the kiss. And through the haze of foggy glasses, we saw a different self.

And tonight, Nashville, we let it go.


Major thanks to our tellers—Steve, Natalie, Pratik, Matthew, Holly, Alesha, Brad, Ben, and Elly! Join us March 23 for “On the Edge.” Got a story? Pitch it here.

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That’s My Song—The Understory and Next Theme

A bit late, here’s Rob McRay’s understory from January 2020’s collaboration with Team Music is Love, “That’s My Song.” 

Tonight, Nashville, we shared our songs.

Dolly narrated the story of our life—a life that culminated in a world-stopping moment as a manicured finger shot a lightning bolt between the strategically placed swirls. And we don’t know if it’s a real religion—but we trust in Jesus and Dolly.77 - That's My Song

Jeremy gave permission for the slumber party and the musical orchestra of the hospital room accompanied two worlds touching across 93 years. We sang the song of blessings—and all she knows is “you’re mine.”

We were facing surgery with catastrophic side effects, till a miraculous connection led to the revolutionary gamma knife. Now we live like we are dying, just like the song says…except for the sky diving!

Our first post-divorce date had a face tattoo and a lot going for him; but by the second cocktail he was preoccupied with a text from his ex. But we were saved by a choreographed dance party and a happy 60-year-old in bell bottoms…who loves his song!

This kind of stroke usually kills you—but we were lucky to be permanently disabled. A trip to a ski-resort took us from a wheelchair to a ski-lift. You either make it or you don’t—and we’re taking it to the limit!

Our mother with lightning phobia saw her son for the last time on September 10. And we did not hear his voice again until a spin class on Easter took us back to their 3-part harmony calming the child—and the memory of Seven Bridges.

We were protected from post-’65 Satanic power by album-smashing spiritual warfare, till a lost Catholic girl smuggled the tape and our sex ed was undermined by a boombox and Darling Nicky—to the horror of our red-faced Care Bear Momma!

Mom was ecstatic we might follow in her royal footsteps. From the top bunk of the sleeping porch, we could see the news coming. She watched over us from over the rainbow as we followed her footsteps again—and they loved us through it.

She couldn’t leave—but we could. She woke him up, and he loaded the gun. We heard the pings—but they came from the voice in the trees that called us to a new home…and to our own Independence Day.

Our songs, Nashville.


Huge thanks to our storytellers—Ed, Mike, Kristen, Jessie, Charlie, Sheila, Carla, Melissa, and Jen! Join us Feb 24 for “Letting Go.” Got a story?

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Kids – The Understory and Next Theme

Here is Rob McRay’s understory from our December 2019 theme “Kids.” 

Tonight, Nashville, we heard about kids.

We knew we had to do it…without dwelling on the reality of it all. We gave their 76 - Kidsdaughter food poisoning, and lost their son behind the curtain, and got stuck in the elevator. But banana pancakes were made for a day like that.

We chose the cheaper option over having a scalpel near his junk. We gave a pep talk to the little guys and gave TMI to the family. We worry some about their future, but we are still confident because we love our little rocket scientists.

Shouts through the screen door and more fussing upstairs led to temporary insanity and creative parenting bondage. We wonder how the therapists heard the story—but the girls are still closely bonded.

Dr. Moses brought us to the Promised Land. Then trying again, and a drop-off, and a friend with cancer, and an evil stepmother, and a run-away, and a posse member led to the chaos we love. Now were’ down to three…but there are still prayers out there somewhere!

We cherish the tapes of grandmother talking to the crew, and memories of the “Rail sisters.” And we are fascinated by the mystical soul connection between those sisters and our own children. And we discovered it all on a trip to Kroger.

Our future as a star catcher required obeying the strange rule, and wearing the piece of hollow plastic and a white strappy thing over our days-of-the-week panties. But hey…it builds character.

We get paid for obsessing over “who” and “whom,” despite three pages of slang about willies and bad stories about Richard Flacid. A deeply disturbing story from one of our least favorite tumors led to a weird sense of pride…and sadness for a troubled child.

“Nothing happened”—except for eating the detention slip and wearing a Walmart-bag Dumbledore hat. We exercised the crazy, as we saw…we saw…we saw his future…and it was fun!

We resented the infringement of camp on our free time, until a chance to flex our altruistic muscles at the hottest nonprofit. Then Pokémon fights and warm shoulder rides and a sign from Oprah led us to once again be glad it’s over.

And it’s over tonight.


Huge thanks to our amazing tellers, Maddi, Allen, Molly, Jackie, Alesha, Steve, Sonia, Elly, and Christy! Join us January 27, 2020 for our exciting collaboration with Team Music is Love for the theme “That’s My Song.”

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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