Holidays – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory for our December 2016 theme “Holidays.” 

Tonight we celebrated the holidays.

We celebrated a nightmare before Christmas with Pinterest projects of disembodied heads and zombie angel blobs, all while wearing a giant pink rabbit suit.

We took a walk on a snowy Christmas Eve to the Grove Park Inn, travelling from childhood dreams of luxurious parties to a disappointing reality of fanny packs and screaming kids—and found we had fulfilled a better dream.

We shared holiday memories of great-grandmother Gigi in brightly-colored Easter outfits, 42-holidayswith eels and fishhooks and violins and a cat in a Cheerios box…and those special rolls.

We celebrated Thanksgiving with a large family of strangers, feeling awkwardly cared about, before escaping to Black Friday—only to learn during the flood what it means to be your cousin’s sister.

We remembered a Christmas with Aunt Rene, and angry growling Sput, and Spanky in our cornflakes—and screaming at a family who still wonder what that was all about.

We saved Christmas for a little boy in a hotel full of junkies, and a lonely woman in a line outside the letter room…and somehow saved Christmas for ourselves.

We wanted a better Christmas after a terrible year of divorce and debt and a destroyed car. But when our quiet coffee was interrupted by our always loud brother spewing shocking insults, we were possessed by some insanely mad spirit—but it felt good!

On a Christmas Eve we gave birth to a son and could not grasp the news that all was not OK. But three wise men led us through it all, until we heard the news that he was OK…and saw the news that for others it was not.

We celebrated a “Merry Freaking Christmas” that began with frantically wrapping our own gifts and crankily cooking carrot cake, and ended with traffic tickets and being late for dinner—and a wonderful meal full of family traditions.

These were our holidays.


Thanks to Darcie, Anna, Brittany, Will, Gayathri, Laura, John, Michelle, and Dana for their stories! Join us on January 30 at Douglas Corner for our first 2017 theme, “Starting.” Pitch your story here.

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Secrets – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory from October 2016’s theme “Secrets.” 

Tonight we learned secrets.

We learned of childhood clubhouses, and running into walls, and a pledge to keep the next accident secret—until our underarms exploded!

40-secretsWe learned of family secrets about wealthy descendants of conquistadors in dresses and gloves, and seedy pool bars, and the joy of good food, tequila, and fine wine.

We learned what goes on when cocaine addicts secretly enter a church basement and make loud, barbaric angel noises, which make us feel like we could be good—except for the faking it part.

We learned the secret of how the windshield was cracked, after we said an unladylike word 37 times, and slammed down the “end call” button—and were exposed by Sgt. Son-in-Law.

We learned a state trooper’s secret of how he lost a brown Dodge Aspen pulling a U-Haul on I-40—a secret no one should try at home.

We learned of our racquetball buddy’s secret affair, and the divorce, and four daughters…and now brushing our teeth is a painful experience.

We learned of the shameful secret tryst of two 19 year-olds in a passionate Rav-4 in a megachurch parking lot, serenaded by the strains of “Desire,” and interrupted by headlights, flashing lights, and an all-knowing blue-suited head honcho.

We learned the secrets of a woman with scars from an unthinkable cause, and another with an infection from an unthinkable source—and we responded in silence…What could we say?

We secretly dug through the trash and recovered a treasure horde of evil occult paraphernalia—and gave thanks for the wonder of answered prayer!


Many thanks to all our secret-tellers: David, Darlene, Amanda, John, Rob, Christy, Bob, Cindy, and Rachel! Our next night of true stories is Nov 14. Our theme is “Hard Times.” Submit your story idea here!

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Nashville – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory from Tenx9’s 3-year anniversary theme “Nashville” in September 2016. 

Tonight we visited Nashville.

In Nashville we met Chainsaw, an English major who couldn’t understand Twain, who would be singer but couldn’t sing, and who used his body with its underlying text to meet39-Nashville his idol.

We moved from Manhattan to Music City, lured by the magic of honky tonks and amused by the cute traffic, till we found ourselves house hunting while the joys of pregnancy overflowed all over town.

We came to Nashville pursuing an opportunity at a major publishing house—excited about the life-changing, dream-fulfilling possibilities. We raced in a toy car to an interview with a team of quirky grandmothers…and now we are where we belong.

We encountered Music City’s fiddle-wearing monsters in the walls. We imagined a poltergeist of thousands of jumping spiders—but we were somehow calmed by research that revealed that the nightmares were true…but rare.

We attended church in Nashville in a large, dark sanctuary with a small gathering, listening to the endless sing-song intercession, gripping the pew and awaiting the impending peril of the silence-shattering shout.

We moved suddenly to Nashville, landing amid CMA crowds, finding southern hospitality despite the lack of room in the inns, dazzled by the fireworks of the Fourth and the glittering diamonds of downtown, and stepping outside our comfort zone to find the comfort of our new home.

We attended a wedding in Nashville between the most wonderful little girl in the world and a young man who did not follow a wise father’s advice…but who better remember some of it.

We lured our homebody parents from the cornfields and reality-show dates to their first trip to Nashville. The highlight of their adventure was encountering a real-life reality-show celebrity and watching him…leave the store.

We moved to Nashville to relive the grief of the river of tears, now flooding our daughter’s life as it once flooded our own, and moved to a new home too close to another river of tears. But, for all the tears, we would choose it again because we choose to love.


Many thanks to Brittany, Joe, Rob, Jacquie, Chris, Anne, Stephen, Laura, and Gail for telling such excellent stories! Our next night of true stories is October 24, and our theme is SecretsGot a story? Tell us here!

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Strangers – The Understory and Next Theme

Here is Rob McRay’s Understory from August 2016’s theme “Strangers,” in collaboration with the
excellent Porch Writer’s Collective

Nashville, tonight we encountered strangers.

We teetered the line between strangers and friends with an awkwardly younger neighbor, till we cried in his hair as he said good bye to his puppy…and we discovered we had crossed the line before we knew it.

We over-analyzed a comment about movies we like and discovered that we were more strangers than friends, even though we once loved each other—or did we? But now we know ourselves better, and we don’t know him…and we like it that way.

We sifted through pictures, listening to gossip about town folk and mailmen, and discovered that the stranger in the old cherished locket was a first love…once forsaken for true love…leaving a pain for which we hope we have been forgiven.

38-StrangersOur tranquil day at the beach was invaded by strangers—an angry mother with a rhinestone phone, a Baywatch lifeguard administering first-aid, a mysterious, fungus-toed, 60-year-old advisor, and a woman with a baby spared by the injury of the boy who now seems one of our own.
We encountered strangers with strangely familiar connections to our past—a wedding on our old block, and a child of dear friends who quickly moved from being a stranger to a friend—all from a few simple questions.

We journeyed from the Old South to San Francisco, worked on antique computer equipment, and traded our problems for cable. And we encountered strangers from strange lands, who held strange affections for those we thought surely they would despise.

We met a stranger over cider in a quaint wine bar. Our inspiring friendship led us to fighting enemies in her defense, only to lose her to an enemy we cannot defeat. But we said goodbye with a blue stone under a blue sky, and we remember her with each sunset.

We encountered a creepy old man in a Gucci ball cap on a crowded Moroccan train car, whose magic prayer book failed to heal the coughing Armenian, but who taught us a song of life.

We encountered a family of strangers with dancing children, refugees of a war-torn homeland. And though we had lost our own father, we gained a new one…and learned to say yes to the hospitality of strangers.


Thanks to all our storytellers: Jacques, Cherie, Judy, Rose, Jennifer, Leah, Laura, Tessa, and Keith! And thanks to The Porch for partnering with us on such a lovely night of stories. Join us next Friday (9/2) for our 3-year anniversary fundraiser at Black Abbey Brewery at 7:30 for 9 retold stories from the last 3 years. And we hope you’ll come for our next regular storytelling night at Douglas for our annual “Nashville” theme on Sept 26. Pitch your story here! See y’all soon.

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Change – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s excellent Understory for July 2016’s theme, “Change.” 

Nashville, tonight we were changed.

Life changed in a moment in a gym full of grunting and bending and dancing—terribly exposed. But suddenly we felt in control…no matter what the crowd of mechanical gazelles thought.

We have changed from the self-absorbed 19-year-old in a half-way house. Now we are 37-Changehealthy, at home with our family…but she lies somewhere alone with an apology on her back.

After a long line of potential wives, and unfulfilled dreams of proposals, we saw her across the room…and pursued her, sometimes too confidently, till everything changed…and she said “Yes!”

After online dating apps led to a date with a green-eyed guy who applied for a loan, and ultimately to a moment of dating honesty—a month too late—our life has changed and we are happily dating-app free.

We hiked the 200 ft. block of mystery, till we crouched on the ledge, serenaded by a lotus-sitting flute player…and gave up. A second try revealed something had changed. We found we did not lack the courage—we had too much to live for.

Life changed when a frustrating, troublesome young woman, whose life had led from pregnancy to addiction to rape to desperation, told us “you don’t want to know.” And she was right…but now we do.

After a 10-year relationship, violating FAA regulations, offering lights to attractive ladies, and contemplating the possible benefits of eye patches, it all changed when we realized that Mom could outrun us—and we dumped our love.

We have loved passionately and lost, again and again, until after two weeks of solitary confinement we realized that we could see inside him, and everything changed. We have found mythic love with one we may never see again.

We had terrible visions—that came again and again—of crack and pleading and death and violation and hate and revenge. But that changed when the monster became a six-year-old boy whose mother tried to drown him. And we pray that Patricia rests securely…and that Ivan will find peace.


So many thanks to our storytellers–David, Jeremy, Amanda, Deepak, Jeannie, Michael, Veronica, Tony, and Hector. We hope you’ll join us for our next FREE night true stories when we partner with The Porch Writer’s Collective for “Strangers” on August 22. If you’ve got a story, pitch it here!

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Show and Tell – The Understory and Next Theme

Rob McRay delivers another excellent understory at April 2016’s theme “Show and Tell.” 

Tonight, Nashville, we had “Show and Tell.”

33-ShowandTellWe learned what happens when a radioactive Southern girl goes through TSA with fresh fruit, mysterious powder, and explosive perfume…and almost gets engaged.

We learned about providing a home for abandoned cats and rescued kittens, even though they clutter your house with toys and make you sneeze.

We learned about pieces of the Titanic on late night TV, in worldwide museums, and in a genuine, authenticated, 100% pure plastic locket.

We learned about listening to cool sounds…and murmurs…and making hard choices…and unplugging machines…and watching the lines go flat.

We learned about hiking in some foreign land at some unknown point in time, and about ironic dog collars, and marking territories—which may or may not be useful information.

We learned about bizarre students at a hippie school gambling illegally on a boxing exhibition between Boom Boom and the Quickness.

We learned about misogynist snake-handlers, and boas in our hair, and metaphorical life-threatening serpents…and venomous systems that keep breathing in our ears.

We learned that you can’t make a short-wave radio out of a toy jumbo jet—no matter what an idiot with a flaming crew cut tells you.

We learned about stressful election nights, and frantic newsrooms, and the pride of earning a pith helmet from a masterful editor, whose bear hugs we will miss.

That was our “Show and Tell.”


Our next night of true stories at Tenx9 will be May 23. Our theme is “LOL.” Got a funny story about your life? Let us know here.
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Yes or No – The Understory and Next Theme

Our March 2016 theme was “Yes or No.” Rob McRay delivered yet another fantastic understory. Read it here and look below for April’s theme. 

Tonight, Nashville, we said “Yes” and “No.”

We said “yes” to a bicycle-riding urban farmer—thanks to St. Wendell—but then said “no” to a Marvin-Gaye-playing  conspiracy theorist with a strange voices and a toxic meteor in his dining room.

We said “no” to the humiliation of Little League try-outs—but then said “yes” to dropped32-Yes or No flies, and dribbling ground outs, and one triumphant triple that brought clarity to life.

We said “yes” to a walk sign that wasn’t a sign, and learned that we must say “no” to driving, and to bowling, and to seeing faces…until they cured the incurable and we learned to say “no” to scaring the driver and “yes” to driving.

After drinking and shopping up and down Broadway till we were out of money, we returned to Nashville without our fiancé, saw our mystical number, and left our life in Jersey—and we said “yes” to an adventure in our city.

We tried to say “yes” to addiction, then we said “yes” to marriage with an addict—an addict from a different planet—till we finally said “yes” to therapy and boundaries and separation…and forgiveness.

We waited and waited for a “yes” or “no,” and after an interview with tall and short librarians, we wrote our obligatory thank-you notes and waited still longer…till a confusing “no” that was really a “yes” led us to our dream job.

We said “no” to fights over video games and laundry and Southern Living and a life that was not going to be ok—and we said “yes” to a cruel ending that we chose, and “yes” to a new beginning, and to a life that will be ok.

We learned to play guitar on a cheese grater, and graduated to a Japanese lawn sculpture with a hair-drying amp—till we said “yes” to a life of “crazy lady” collecting, fleeting fame, and a little beer money along the way.

Our M.A.S.H.-inspired dream of the perfect proposal was nearly spoiled by an argument over packing light, an eager aunt waiting the news, and a bag left on the platform—but we found ourselves on that hill with that view and that person…and we said “yes”!

Tonight we said “yes” and “no.”

Thanks to Magda, Michael, Melanie, Emily, Jen, Doug, Leah, Darcie, and John for their most outstanding stories. 


Join us in April for our next night of true stories. Our theme is “Show and Tell.” Bring an object. Tell the story (as long as it’s about your life of course). Pitch your story here!

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Alone – The Understory and Next Theme

Rob McRay delivered another most outstanding understory at the end of February 2016’s night “Alone”. 

Tonight, in an apparent act of protest against Hallmark’s forced romanticizing of Valentine’s, we chose to spend this evening alone.

We went to a boring silent film with a hot chick, became possessed by the spirit of the 31-Alonefilm, and started a revolution all on our own—but we made permanent friends with a giant and his family.

We spent a last night alone in the city of love, crying over the quiche splattered on our fancy lady shoes, and Charlie Brown walked toward the Eiffel Tower…through the golden arches.

We went alone to a Tay concert, feeling creepy but excited, and lost our minds with an enthusiastic crowd worshipping an idol floating on a pedestal.

We went on a lonely bike ride, looking for someone with skin, and remembered the kindness of a German stranger, and paid it forward to a lonely woman looking for shelter…and answered each other’s prayers.

We entered the field of battle with our mighty talon, emerging victorious…only to lead our team again into enemy territory—and found ourselves alone, mortally wounded by friendly fire.

We sat alone, rewriting Anakin’s love story, compelled by some inner Darth Vader to make his story yet deeper—and found the words to our own primal scream.

We rode an elevator alone, running away again and again, seeking attention as a poor substitute for something more—but we finally found enough light to see our own beauty.

We took our first family vacation to the Disneyland of the North, anticipating the screaming nausea, but finding ourselves alone in the midway, lost in the strange world , finally finding our family in the fog, only to feel we are still in the fog.

We waited in line to destroy space nuggets at the skating rink, wishing for a date with our 8th grade crush…and contemplated the relative value of video games and coloring books.

This was our evening alone.


 

Thanks to Michael B., Bayard, Kate, Luar, Michele, Emily, David, Sarah, and Whitney for some excellent storytelling.

Join us next time on March 21st for our theme “Yes or No.” Have a story? Submit your proposal here. And bring a friend! It’s always free.

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Whoops – The Understory

Tenx9 storytelling veteran Brittany Sky gave the understory a go at January 2016’s night “Whoops.” She nailed it. 

Nashville, tonight we said whoops when sleep deprivation and a train ride with big-spoon Borat led to an epic nap in the Sistine Chapel.

We said whoops when being forced to finish our peas and parsnips in England led to a 30-Whoopssemi-famous star of a mother cleaning vomit out of the carpet.

We said whoops when Beasley Sweetheart Pageant revivals led to denial, dresses, social anxiety, dancing to Tina Turner at a Baptist school, and very big confident answers.

We said whoops when searching for common ground with a left-handed math partner led to the realization that you should make sure your left-handed friend has a right hand.

We said whoops when the understudy Bob led the marching band right into chaos during our senior year…the best of times.

We said whoops when working at Sprocket meant getting a bad ass call-sign based on your life story of out running a distant relative of a raptor and forever being called “Emu.”

We said whoops when were in the “race with the devil” to create the “song of our people” when the realization that “this is not the men’s room” dawns.

We said whoops when the gray and black aura of our father accidentally got whacked by a lead pipe between the eyes and everything changed for the better.

We said whoops when kneeling in prayers of confession lead to pure farts.


Thanks to Michael B., Rob, Darcie, Paulina, Christy, Rebecca, Jeff, Lizzy, and Tony for their stories!

Join us next time for another free night of true personal stories. Our theme is “Alone.” Submit your story idea here! RSVP on Facebook here!

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Work – The Understory

Nashville, we went to work tonight.

Our first job was an exciting position in a VD Control Unit…where we feared sexually active boxers, prison riots, and possible newspaper articles in our mom’s scrapbook!25-Work

We wanted to change the world, so we found a fun, free job in an experimental program with juvenile offenders, working with sociopaths who don’t cry at documentaries.

The pain and loathing caused by a man who should have loved us led to tragic journey from strange disco nights to constantly unsuccessful working relationships—until a good, respectful, caring man who walks on water began to transform our pain.

A day’s work with mentally ill, suicidal, self-mutilating, spitting, fighting prisoners taught us to be careful what we say.

We left an unplanned career in retail to teach writing to three terrifying children, where lies on top of lies about our famous fantasy lover nearly sent us back to the mall.

We were shopping for faux fur in New York, when we put our bartending job on hold—again—to spend two holy months without work; then we got one last signature from her…before she was gone.

We cherished our time while Mom worked in the flower beds and we talked of life, until a Sunday afternoon in the back yard when she said those words. Our last day ended in a promise to remember her irises, and life started over—and her irises still bloom.

We’ve had a lot of jobs with creepy bosses—such as, a telemarketer, Ebay clerk, underwear seamstress, and a long career as a sign twirler—which has led to multiple personalities.

We worked with teenage Irish dropouts sharing our expertise in cooking, winging it with potato salad and chicken—which led to creativity, independence, and real relationships.

And, Nashville, isn’t that why we were here tonight at Tenx9 for an evening of work.


Join us September 21 for our next night! Our theme is “Nashville.” You can sign up here.