The Magic of Storytelling

I live in a village of maybe 2000 people in the mountains of central California, seventy miles beyond the Los Angeles sprawl in the Los Padres National Forest. There’s a few restaurants, no movie theater, no mall, or much organized entertainment. It’s called Pine Mountain Club.

In a village, after a while, you know who makes up your “peeps,” your “tribe.” You share interests and see them place you go and the events you show up for: the Artworks gallery openings, the Town Hall forums, Free Speech Theater, plays in the gazebo, the library talks, and so on. Much of our social interaction takes place at Basecamp Café and Info lounge smack in the center of downtown Pine Mountain Club.

Those of us in the artsy community entertain ourselves and each other. Bobbie Ladin, the café’s manager, greets you with high spirits and offers up good food and coffee. There’s usually somebody already there to share a table and spirited conversation. The café space is small, offering dining space to only 22 people when we set it up for theater performances. Basecamp Café is half the space of the downstairs of Pine Mountain Club’s wooden buildings that ring the center of town.  The other half of Basecamp is All Seasons Realty.

Friday night Basecamp began a new tradition to add to Free Speech Theater, the camera club, the Word Art Group, open mic, and movie night: Storytelling.

I went, not really expecting much, and because I had nothing else to do on Friday and needed some company. So expectations were pretty low. Every one of the mismatched chairs and stools were full. I felt the buzz immediately. My peeps were there and we were all looking for a good time.

Joe Ladin started the story telling off, as was fitting, because Joe and Bobbie Ladin had the idea of storytelling at Basecamp for a long time. Over the space of the next hour or two we visited the childhood of Mike Dullea and Mel Weinstein. Anna Bradley, of course, was rollicking funny. Candy Posson told a story about her nephews. We heard a story about a dark night in Japan, being shot by a BB gun.  Judith Cassis recounted how she landed up in Pine Mountain Club. I told a story about the most frightening night of my life on a mesa above Albuquerque. Some people came just to listen.

It was fun. We laughed a lot. It seemed to me that all the stories were great. But that can’t possibly be.

Hearing a story about the life of someone you thought you know, or someone from a different culture, helps us feel connected in a way that stimulates compassion, tolerance, respect and even responsibility. What was so interesting and exciting was each of the stories opened a window into the lives of many people I know well. Those glimpses connect us as a “tribe” and a community. A listener can feel with the storyteller fear and heroism, love and hate, compassion, sorrow, grief and joy —the range of human emotions–in a controlled and safe environment. And be entertained at the same time.

We live in an overstimulated society. I caught myself one day looking something up on my phone, the radio playing, the TV on some Sirius channel, the computer doing a search, and my IPod charging. And I’m not even the “connected” Millennial generation.

But we don’t listen to each other. We’re too impatient to talk. We interrupt. We ride over others who want to tell a long story, just bubbling inside to tell our own story that will top that. Storytelling at Basecamp changes that up wonderfully.

Won’t you join us April 22, 2015 at 7 pm for the next evening of storytelling at Basecamp in sunny downtown Pine Mountain Club. For more info call 661-242-2709.

Perhaps you have a story? I’d like to hear it. We all would.

 

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