If there are eight million stories in the naked city, do we have to hear them all? | Worst of Chicago | Chicago Reader

If there are eight million stories in the naked city, do we have to hear them all

A dispatch from the storytelling circuit inspired by true events

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Jamie Ramsay

Please don't take this the wrong way, but while we're really flattered to be invited to your storytelling show, right now the greatest single obstacle keeping us from attending is actually getting to your storytelling show.

You can certainly follow this logic, because though the incentives to plot our week around attending "Really Specific Grandma Narratives: An Incubator Night of Intermediate Storytellers" are both legion and legitimate, and though our otherwise dogged fight to restore net neutrality deserves a well-earned night off, if we're going to make it to the Story Consortium Lab North Side Chapter in time to catch the first up-and-comer at the top of the bill, we're going to have to ride the Chicago Transit Authority. There, as you surely know, we are uncommonly likely to encounter a homeless guy from Tulsa named Kit who's selling opium suppositories in order to purchase an Amtrak ticket to Decatur the next day so that he can be at his daughter's side in time for her surgery or ballet or T-ball championship, and now Kit is competing with you not just for our already-precious niche attention span for unique, compelling common-man narratives told openly and honestly in a public forum to an indifferent listenership, but also—if your story that we're boarding a train to hear in person involves anything bad that happened to you which we, the audience, might feel guilty enough about after your set that we're compelled to buy you a drink—Kit from Tulsa is additionally competing with you for our cultural/humanities guilt dollars.

We know that when you were carefully deciding the perfect Chicago studio at which to enroll to learn how best to tell your story—the story that whoever in your life ever doubted you was specifically doubting you could tell, thus inspiring you to take vengeance in the form of storyelling classes that will allow this hitherto untold pent-up narrative to reveal itself (in a pub on a weeknight in front of a crowd potentially populated with rising Eve Harrington storytelling types)—we know that this unsupportive person you've invited us to hear you talk about in a curated evening of other aggrieved autobiographical narrators probably didn't ask you tough-but-helpful questions when you were trying to choose the most conducive story studio at which to pay to learn. How could he/she/they? He/she/they were unsupportive in the first place, which seems to be how we got invited to your big show at the Chicago Untold Tellers Unreconstructed Narrative Collective. Anyway, this unsupportive person might have told you that you shouldn't choose the studio or the class or the teacher with the most unverified Moth credits, but the one whose ads honestly hock their ability to make your actual story so compelling that the Chicagoans, the Chicago transplants, the vagabonds, and the transients we will encounter on public transit while trying to get to your show will be forgotten about by the time you start talking about the time when your grandma said that one thing.

Speaking of! Needless to say, when choosing where to study the newly emerging craft of talking about yourself, really woke aspiring storytellers will pay special care to the vital new splinter movements of storytelling, the ones that responsibly pit native Chicagoans' stories and showcases against those of transplanted Chicagoans, whose stories and showcases need to be appropriately interrogated for their authenticity. That said, of course, if you choose the wrong path for reasons that aren't your fault and which you can one day hopefully tell a story about, maybe the studio you choose to study at will land you in one of the new storytelling showcases that are innovating the genre by filming storytelling nights in pubs and putting them online. Then, when we're on the Red Line en route to a live show produced by one of these other groups while watching you, on our phone, finally telling your story, though in a show produced by a warring storytelling faction, everyone's stories can at last still fairly be heard, justice will hopefully be served (Kit will know not to hustle us if we have our earbuds in cuz they still have manners in Oklahoma), and we can all return to the fight for net neutrality spiritually refreshed and intellectually rejuvenated.

That said, we really can't wait to hear your story.   v

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