Stranger Things

When a project is this personal, and the topics related to it are of a deep enough interest, you can't get away from it no matter where you are or what you're doing. And this is a good sign. Sometimes exhausting, but a good sign.

I went to the Moth StorySlam at the Bellhouse in Gowanus, Brooklyn. I have been twice before - once with my MFAVN class and teachers - and I was looking forward to another evening of totally unpredictable but always moving story experiences on stage. However, I was forced to arrive much earlier than I planned because of the bizarre, complicated ticket situation, scrambling to finish an assignment on my phone (possible, but hellish), and I was sitting waiting in the bar two full hours before the show was supposed to start, frustrated and not even able to guarantee I was going to be able to get in to the show at all.

I then did a few out-of-character things, and spoke to strangers.

(One) I saw an empty spot on a very small couch in a rather cozy corner already inhabited by two women, and asked if I could sit with them. They said yes, someone was sitting on one half of the empty couch but I could have the other half. Then that someone, another woman, came back. She introduced herself spontaneously, so no one knew each other before sitting in this corner. I was answering a text so I wasn't part of the conversation initially, but when I heard that none of the three had ever attended this event before, I decided to (Two) join in and comment on how supportive everyone is and that it was really an amazing experience. I learned that two of the women had prepared stories and were hoping to have a chance to tell them that night for the first time, being long-time listeners of the podcast but never having attended an event where they could participate. The one next to me, Laura, told me that she had driven in from New Jersey. At some point I (Three) mentioned that I was a graduate student working on my thesis, and she perked up and asked me what on, to which I replied that I was working on a project that involved an adaptation of my personal history using memory palaces and curiosity cabinets.

Over the next ten minutes I learned that Laura is a neurologist with a non-verbally communicative son, and is extremely interested in the subject of memory and the synapses involved in "creating" and "storing" them in our brains. I heard about a character in Sherlock, season 2, whose memory palace was an important spoiler; the Buddhist concept of the "limbic system", which connects the formation and recollection of memories to "scarring" emotion (specifically fear); and an Australian YouTube channel that uses beautiful illustration and animation to teach anatomy, showing neurological synapses intertwining like vines and flowers across the parts of the brain.

As I was digging frantically in my bag to find a pen to write all this down, she said, "I bought some extra tickets online, they're at the desk, do you want them?" I offered to pay her and she said, "Well, it could be a donation to your thesis and support for the arts," which I was very touched by, though I insisted she take the cash anyway.

She didn't get to tell her story on stage that night, but she added to mine. Maybe I should talk to strangers more.