I was listening to my son tell a story last night.
It’s the one where he gets arrested in Northwest China, along with a bunch of other young people and his grandparents, my mom and dad.
He loves to start with the line, “Oh, yeah, I got arrested in China.”
“What?” His younger brother asked, skeptically. “Why didn’t I hear this before?”
“Maybe because you run off to spend the weekends with your friends every chance you get,” his mother said, disapprovingly from her end of the dinner table.
That little interruption aside, Cole launched into the story, perhaps the sixth or seventh time I’ve heard it, but more likely approaching the 50th time he’s told it since he traveled to the remote region of China with his missionary grandparents last summer.
Somewhere between my pre-school preacher years and high school, I came down with a bad case of stage fright.
I remember taking my first speech classes in college and being simply terrified of the crowd. I tried every trick in the book, and I even took an acting class to try to learn to be more comfortable with it.
My father is a preacher.
I am most certainly not.
So when CHIRP’s Julie Mueller approached me about doing the CHIRP’s live storytelling and music series called The First Time, I tried to think of every excuse why I shouldn’t do it.
Chicago is, perhaps, the world center for live storytelling right now. There is not a night of the week where you can’t find a themed storytelling event in any part of this city.
The first breasts I remember seeing as an adolescent child belonged to a Finnish woman who was sitting across from my brother and I in a sauna in the bowels of a Swedish ferry that was carrying us across the Gulf of Bothnia.
Though I was raised in Europe until the age of 7, my parents had moved our family back to the United States, where nudity was relegated to hidden colonies and Playboy magazines.
We visited friends in Austria on that same trip, and they invited us down to the local swimming pool for an afternoon in the water.
To our astonishment, the two teenage girls in the group disrobed in front of us, quickly pulling on swimsuits in a practiced and efficient manner.
They were not the least bit ashamed, but my brother and I, red-faced with eyes cast directly at the ground for fear of getting caught looking, took the time to find the bathrooms, where we changed into swimsuits as modestly as we could.
What was natural and normal to me in Europe had become a great mystery to me in the United States.
On Thursday, around our dinner table, I couldn’t help but think that my kids are becoming really great liberals.
If liberals means they espouse a political ideology founded upon ideas of liberty and equality.
We discussed the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the State of the Union address, the economic impact of falling oil prices and, of course, school testing, a topic they are all too familiar with and opinionated about.
As I listened to each of them make a case for or an argument against some aspect of our discussion, it dawned on me that they have become what I had hoped they would.
Thoughtful question askers.
I was fast becoming a Young Republican at their age, bent on making my worldview, the one I had fashioned as a second generation immigrant, work for me.
I spent one summer working in a print shop in Santa Rosa, California.
My cousins owned the shop in partnership with my uncle, and they were gracious enough to host me for the summer and allow me to make a little money while attempting to learn the family trade.
I was a better production assistant than a press operator, which required some mechanical and engineering skills.
So I collated, packaged, invoiced and made deliveries in a beat-up old GMC truck with a hydraulic clutch. Which proved very interesting when I had to make deliveries in downtown San Francisco.
My favorite delivery, by far, was to the house of one Charles M Schulz, who lived and worked in Santa Rosa.
I only ever met the man on a handful of occasions, dealing mostly with his assistant or his wife, but I was as enamored of his celebrity as anyone I had ever met personally at that point in my life. Which I think included the actor Craig T Nelson and Pope John Paul II.
I didn’t start out planning to do a Southeastern United States craft beer tour.
It just happened to turn out that way.
I’ve become a bit disillusioned by craft beer in the two and a half years since I moved to Chicago.
From hoarding to overnight lines for new releases to subpar beer pushed out as aging liquid and everything in between, the craft beer world doesn’t represent the community spirit that I have come to know in places like Oregon, Montana and Alaska. Small breweries bent on craft and who cater to their immediate audience are what represent the trueness of the profession or art form to me.