Stages on the Road

My past beckoned.

To the beach I returned.

Shooter & talent near the beach. Working, not looking for it.

From wet, windy, and cold Galveston Island, I said, “Reporting live from Virginia Beach.”

A longtime client had called. Their upcoming oil spill drill needed our team of roleplayers and camera crews.

The money was right. I was available. The road summoned.

A year ago, I left what I’d practiced for 30 years: providing crisis communications expertise to companies in trouble. We trained clients in all 50 U.S. states and 18 foreign countries.

Sometimes they had a big, immediate problem. Others worried about one occurring. Smart companies called proactively. Stubborn bosses crossed their fingers. I bit my tongue. 

Our clients included people mostly trying to do the right thing. They failed sometimes because humans are good at that. Companies mix up their priorities, forget who they work for, and leave the lasting damage for others to clean up.

At the beach, I learned nothing has changed. Storytelling in the business world remains the same: risk exists, problems occur. The only crisis is who’s in trouble today.

“Love Hurts” storytelling: on-stage @ The Moth — Houston

An opposite sort of storytelling shows up on stage during Houston’s recent “Moth” night.

Simple rules: share a true story from your life. No notes. No props. 

Easy for an experienced crisis communicator. What’s a story but a tale seeded in crisis?

The night’s theme, “Love Hurts,” revives a Wyoming road trip — Trooper stops DH for speeding. I get the ticket. 

Twenty-two storytellers sign up; ten names will be drawn. 

Then I hear my name and remember the emcee’s earlier crow, “500-plus of you came out tonight! We’re SRO!” 

I walk to the stage. 

Remember lines. Remember gestures. Remember emphasis points. Remember eye contact. 

I begin. Sea of stranger eyes looking up, a long, wide, deep rectangle of black chairs. Primal Texas twang replaces broadcast voice. Knees wiggle, legs twitch.

Hands move, on their own, in all the right places. Eyes find friendly faces. Applause erupts in unexpected places.

I finish. Every line remembered.

I can do this. 

The emcee walks over, applauding; whispers, confirming: “YOU are a storyteller.”

Future and past merge onto a stage I never imagined.

Note to Reader: The words ‘shooter’ and ‘talent’ in the TV news business refer to 1) the camera person recording the story and 2) the reporter delivering it. Imprecise terms, one of which is less used nowadays. For obvious reasons.

Through The Wormhole

I wasn’t going to write anything else about the holidays. I had done that topic. However, I had such a surreal experience, I just have to share.

This RoadBroad hit the road again. It has always been my tradition to go out of town over Christmas to avoid all of the holiday doings. I go somewhere where I can escape, relax, read, write, and contemplate.

This year I decided to go to Galveston. At least I think I went to Galveston. However, while driving down the freeway I must have turned left into a wormhole somewhere and landed in a parallel universe that pretended to be Earth, but couldn’t have been. Instead of avoiding all the trappings of Christmas, I fell into what looked like a hotel that had been taken over by alien elves and other assorted holly jolly critters. It was an assault on every one of my senses. Christmas music filled every inch of the hotel lobby and outside by the pool and the usually quiet observation deck.

This was the entry way. It looked incredibly festive and harmless at first glance. Lots and lots of trees. But look closer. Look again. To enter the hotel, I had to walk through a literal “Elfin Gauntlet”. Not only were there many elves, but they were all either hanging from the trees or flying through the air. They looked at me as I passed. I tried not to make eye contact. I did not actually see any of them move, but just as I walked past, I thought I saw movement. Quick shadowy movements. They all looked so happy, but in an impish mischievous kind of way.

What they do with you if they should catch you? Fortunately I did not find that out. I can move fast for an old broad.

Once outside the hotel, I found other alien beings pretending to be humans. But, I had my doubts and suspicions. It was 60 degrees outside and these creatures were walking around in bathing suits and bikinis. They floated in steamy water. Were they relaxing or were they being cooked for some future holiday feast?

Escaping the hotel, I ran to the beach. Here I apparently found the winged Overlords who are in charge of this strange planet. They impose strict rules regarding who can access the natural resources. There they stand guard. I did not try to cross into forbidden territory.

Luckily for me, I was able to escape the parallel universe and returned to Houston located on Planet Earth. As always, I thank the nice earthlings who assisted me with house and cat sitting.

Next year I will be more careful in selecting my destination for peace and tranquility. I will be more careful about turning left into wormholes.

After such an adventure, this RoadBroad is home for a while. I hope the alien elves didn’t follow me home!

Until next week!