A few weeks back, I had the great pleasure of being included in Eat My Heart Out, which is a storytelling supper club, originally conceived in New York, and now brought West by its founder Eugene Ashton-Gonzalez, who is secretly from this coast, though I when I met him, I thought he was from the other. I think it was the tie that confused me.
EMHO is like the marriage of two things I've done in San Francisco before: Sunday Suppers, a multicourse dinner in a stranger's garage with a bunch of people I didn't know and, well, basically any storytelling event I've ever done. Other than that horrific story slam with a bunch of ex-con junkies from Chicago. It was nothing like that. (I realize that sounds like a joke, but it isn't. I actually did a story slam thing on behalf of Porchlight once where the other team seemed to be comprised of formerly incarcerated drug addicts. It was not delightful.)
Oh golly. I got all rambly up there. Let's try a new paragraph. EMHO takes those concepts and elevates them one step higher by having each course of the meal reflect the story that had just been told. This seems impossible to me, but then, I am not a chef. To weave this magic, the chef called each of the storytellers personally and discussed our stories with us so she could develop something delicious and thematically relevant. If you have the chance to go to one of these evenings, you should do it, because how cool does that sound?
Eugene and I had met last winter and I had said, "Oh, me! me! I want to do that!" and he kindly remembered. He got in touch with me a couple of weeks before the event and asked if I'd step in to tell my hula-hooping story (the original recording of which is can be found on the On Stage page of this very site). I happily agreed.
And then the details started coming in. And I started to get worried.
- The event would be outside. Originally it was meant to be in an empty barn, but--surprise!--the barn proved to be not so much empty as it was the home of some endangered bats.
- It was to be held in Berkeley.
- Though I did not know it at the time I agreed to tell my tale, the evening's stories were meant to be on the theme of "Good Vibrations"
- The performer ahead of me in the line-up was a professional energy healer.
- When I spoke to the chef, she was a very earnest, respectful woman who concluded our conversation by saying "I feel complete. How about you? Do you feel heard?"
To me, these five things meant that I would be freezing in some random field, surrounded by people who had deep spiritual practices and limited patience for irony, and that, when I told a story brimming with disdain for things like Burning Man and "marinating objects in intentionality," I would be drummed out of Berkeley--probably literally. How hard would it be to find a nearby drum circle, after all? And probably some additional sage burners to follow behind.
I sent worried emails to Eugene. He promised I would not be despised. I didn't really believe him, but a commitment is a commitment.
And then, guess what? He was totally right. Not in a field at all, this elegant dinner party of strangers was held in what proved to be Eugene's grandmother's garage and patio, which had been delightfully transformed with long, white-clothed tables constructed for the occasion. The charming woman across the table from me unexpectedly extolled the virtues of karaoke (I'm hoping she'll invite me. Are you out there, Heather?), which was strangely reassuring. Also, the olive bread was the most delicious I've ever eaten.
Everyone had a sense of humor, including Chef Ikeena, who listed my course on the menu as "Spicy Bruised Tomato Soup with Garlic Crouton and Sarcastic Chi." This would have enough to endear her to me forever but I also love spicy tomato soup and hers was excellent.
When it was my turn to get up on the little makeshift stage to tell my tale, those lovely people laughed in all the right places, just as I'd been assured they would. I wasn't even cold. Phew. Thanks, Berkeley. I underestimated you.