How I Got to be a Professional Story Teller (A Story in an Envelope) [1976]



That was me!

In my 20s as a night law school student out East working days at a legal services office, my best friend was a guy named Bob.  One night Bob invited Lisa Garlandson to come down from NYC and play guitar on open-mic night at the Sea Breeze Tavern.  I went along and when the guy at the door asked me to pay the $5 cover charge, I said “Hey, I’m performing too – I tell stories.”  Didn’t work.  Had to pay the $5.  After a couple other musicians performed, it was Lisa’s turn.  As she was setting up, I jumped on stage, grabbed the mic, told the whorehouse story and brought the house down.  The bouncer gave me my five bucks back and asked if I would come tell stories again next week.

Along about the third week the word started getting around and one of the lawyers at the Courthouse came up to me and told me if I really wanted to be a lawyer in this town I’d better quit telling “those kind of stories.”  Since “those kind of stories” were the only ones I knew, I quit telling stories (for awhile).

Ten years later, after being elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives, one of my constituents heard the Florida Rescue Story as part of a campaign speech about domestic violence.  (As you know I think all my stories have some moral value.)  Turns out this constituent managed the Jungle Theatre and asked if I’d tell stories there.  I was so proud of being a professional story teller I never cashed my first check from the Jungle Theatre and instead framed it.  Still have it on my wall.

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Part of my routine included a four foot long scroll of paper rolled up with a small weight at the bottom so it would unfurl when I held it out, revealing a long handwritten list of stories.  I’d say to the audience “These are the stories I can’t tell.”  To this day I keep it a closely guarded secret (like a chef keeps secret recipes) as to which stories I tell, which stories I will take to my grave, and which stories are for select company because you had to be there.

Well, one night I’m telling the Florida Rescue Story – which includes making-out with some girl on the beach whose name I’d long forgotten – and this lady’s voice in the audience pipes up with “That was me!”  After the show she comes up and introduces herself saying she really was the girl at the bonfire outside Skip’s Bar on Madeira Beach.  But by this time I was a married man so I’ll never know for sure whether it was her or not.




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