Beginnings – The Understory

(The “understory” is a thematic weaving together of the 9 stories, written live as they are heard and then performed as a  summary of the night.)

If it begins with, “Oh boy, stage fright!”, it ends with finding your voice.
What begins with chapstick parties on the school bus, with a dinosaur thrown in, becomes twenty years of friendship.

The firsts of a new relationship are an all-too perfect beginning that ends in a phone call. And with the douchebag gone, becomes you, just you, saying, “Yes!”

When it begins with a naïve, if confident, traveller in 1971, be glad it didn’t end up in Turkish prison like it could. But if it begins with, “I’m just dead to the world,” you just know an obituary’s coming. And a very awkward funeral.

What began in Vermont on September 12th, 1983 became a new start: a path of creativity and identity lived stitch by stitch. Meanwhile, the feminist collective that began in Knoxville in ’94 did not end well. But it birthed its own legacy of voices & creativity, of thriving beyond surviving.

However it begins, and however it ends, peacefully, loved & cherished we hope, it’s always a new beginning for those you leave behind.

Remember: if you begin as Linda, you might end up as Mae. You can end up whoever you want to be. Even if that means re-beginning as Linda.

tenx9nashville, this was your (under)story.

Big thanks to our storytellers. You made this another great night. – Cary.

Hindsight – The Understory

Cary’s summary of the evening. Written live as the stories are told & then performed…


In hindsight,
It shoulda been James Brown
But then in hindsight you shoulda played safer
You coulda killed someone, or (more importantly) yourself

You should known he’s the same crazy guy your father’s always been
You coulda gotten it sooner
Woulda known sooner

You coulda gone sooner
Woulda seen Paris already
You coulda stopped waiting for someday
You coulda realised, someday is now.

But then, in hindsight
You coulda x-rayed that finger
Shoulda seen another doctor
Then again, the doctor shoulda listened to his wife.

The surgery should’ve made her better, you thought.
Just like your grandmother shoulda gone that morning.
But then…
That morning was full of

Shoulda. Woulda. Coulda…

You coulda taken French
You shoulda fessed up
You coulda fixed that wall
Coulda dropped that class
But then, where would you be?

You coulda had more to drink
You coulda had less
Could’ve ignored that girl
Could’ve died at the wheel
You shoulda thrown up…
But you didn’t.

You woulda been braver if you could
Wouldn’t have shaken if you could
Would’ve taken control if you could
Been less angry if you could.
But you couldn’t.
And you shouldn’t.

In hindsight you shoulda waited another week
Taken another ride.
Some journeys are meant to be less travelled.

Shoulda. Woulda. Coulda.
Like a bright blue morning in September,
Our stories are full of ’em…

20/20 rarely makes for a good story,
Don’t change a thing.

Fear – The Understory


It’s starts with October:

Horror films :: Halloween tales :: Dolls with creepy eyes :: Shitty relationships.

Darkness falls over a park in Prague.

When the map doesn’t match the city, will you take the path less taken?

Are you afraid yet?

So you say you don’t scare easily. You got this. What about when your life is on the line?

Turbulence :: Near in-flight collisions :: Drunk drivers.


A car where your sofa should be. A tree where your wall should be.

Getting caught after a a tornado in your underwear :: The dark :: A fire.

Will you have your shoes when the moment comes?

Are you afraid yet?

Small towns ::  Parties :: Boys ::  Alcohol :: A bathroom.
Violation. Bruises. Loss. Despair.

(The road is getting darker.)

Gossip. Shame. Loneliness.


Wait! What road are you on?

You afraid yet?

Midnight :: Soldiers. Bullets.

Occupation :: Home invasion.

Think you can fly? Fly away? Think that’ll save you? It might save you. Might not save them.

Are you afraid yet? Laid to the void yet? Motivated yet?

Thunder :: Lightning :: Dank basements.

Silence :: Darker.

Who are you?

The doorway ::  A form.

Dying ::  Living :: Success :: The drink.

Can you tell what’s real?
Fear will rob you.

You afraid yet?

A canyon :: A handsome young man to walk with you :: People turned to stone.




Think screaming will help? There’s your voice screaming back at you.

You afraid yet?

Corporations ::  Shit! Lawyers for corporations. :: Demons!


You ain’t gotta go nowhere to get somewhere.

Take nothing.

Swamps :: Alligators. [*deep exhale*]

Are you afraid yet?

Severed thumbs :: A father’s tears :: Quadruple bypass.

Dementia :: Your tears.

tick tock tick tock tick tock

Are you afraid yet?

Spiders. Now it’s time to freak. The. Fuck. Out.

There’s the fear you can remember. And the fear you can’t forget.

Feel its brush upon your cheek :: An army of spiders :: Blitzkrieg.

Foe? Or friend?

Are you afraid yet?

A haunted house :: A plane :: Bathroom :: Hebron.

A basement :: A canyon :: Hospital room. Childhood.

This stage…

When your heart’s pounding, when you’re afraid…
You’re still living.
And if you’re still living, there’s still hope.

Be afraid.

tenx9nashille, this is your story.

Things My Parents Never Told Me – The Understory

Here is the beautiful summary of the stories told at March’s Tenx9 by co-host Cary Gibson. Our theme was “Things My Parents Never Told Me.”


Our thanks to tonight’s storytellers: Miriam Mimms, Ben Sawyer, Suha Ahmad, Kari Hoffman, Kate Gazaway, Joshua Hurley, Zach Swann, Sawyer Wallace & Kristen Chapman Gibbons.

In a world of increasing digital connection, there’s something precious about the experience of hearing real stories in real time, face to face. Tonight, the stories once again ran the full emotional spectrum. They called to mind, as Tenx9 Nashville stories often do, one of my favorite poems, “On Joy & Sorrow” by Kahlil Gibran,

Then a woman said, “Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.”

And he answered: Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

And how else can it be?


Tonight your stories of Things My Parents Never Told Me drew once again from that deep human well:

My parents never told me how my mother, the writer, killed Ralph, my pet rat, out of her love for me. Nor did they come right out and tell me that my father was gay. I’d figured that out on my own. And that was just fine. They never told me how to bring up children amidst the confusing & scary mythical narratives of multicultural America without traumatizing us all into family therapy. I had to learn for myself that wanting something you might not get & having the persistence to achieve it anyway is a really good thing to want & do. My parents never told me that my businessman father was once a nomadic, hippie cowboy who was afraid of disappointing his parents & didn’t have it altogether & that I don’t need to know where I am headed either. My mother never told me of the strength it took to stand in the reality of my death and not lose faith that I would live. At 6, my parents never mentioned that alongside taxes, the one guarantee in life was death, even if I did become a video game testing pirate. Nor that my dad’s obsessive fear for his kids was born of silent grieving for my baby brother to be who never came & who I still don’t know how to grieve myself. My parents never told they’d not been to the theatre until I was on the stage, nor how to be out in the world & also of it, living without certainty.

These are your stories. Thank you for sharing them. It’s a privilege to hear & bear witness to them.