Explorations in Storytelling


Stories mostly

The Deer

We zig-zagged up the steep trail early in the morning, too close to the edge in my mind. The sun was not yet up and our pace was steady and solid. Finally we reached the top, the mesa. It was filled with holly bushes and bright light and a monstrously gorgeous view of the canyon and river below. …

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My favorite time to call my Mom was at night when I was doing the dishes. I hate washing the dishes and to me, checking in with her was the best possible diversion. So, phone crooked between my neck and shoulder, I got a chore done and, well, listened.

My Mom was a talker. People say that about me, but I'm not even in the same league as my Mom. My Mom could talk about any subject whatsoever. And what was amazing about her, is that in the course of her conversation -- particularly with a stranger -- she could find out their entire life history yet you'd swear the other person never got a word in edgewise.

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Frank Glazer (b. Feb. 19, 1915) was a most remarkable man. A revered pianist — who studied under Schnabel and Schoenberg, gave the first Carnegie performance of Igor Stravinsky’s Piano Concerto, played with many of the world’s greatest orchestras and gave his last solo concert at the age of 99 — was my uncle. This story — with two audio excerpts — was written when he was still alive. He died January 13, 2015.

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This is Ruth, Frank Glazer's life friend. Ruth Gevalt Glazer was my father's sister. This picture was taken in 1927 when she was 16 years old. She is resetting the pins on a sunny, cold day of ice bowling on a pond in Boston. 

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December 24, 1947

This piece of fiction represents a continuation of a story I began last year and am now turning into a novel. It was presented on stage by Vermont Stage Company Dec. 12–16, 2018. This piece represents a big shift from “Ten Days of Winter, 1892” — I decided to move the whole story up 55 years in order to incorporate some of my own life experiences into the larger tale. As a friend told me when I was debating the decision, “All your old characters can be ancestors.” Perfect. I also changed the name of the town to Pinkham, a fictionalized location. The 17-year-old Carrie in Ten Days is now the 72-year-old patient in this story. I’d love reactions, advice, suggestions. This is one of many character sketches I have done, am doing. I begin the novel in earnest in the spring.

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The Rings

As a journalist, some of the best ideas came from the oddest places: an obituary with an unanswered question, a phone call from a "whacko" needing to unload a secret, a misfiled court document. This story grew from a classified ad with only these words: "Found: wedding ring, with date, word and initials engraved inside. Call ..." 

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The Typewriter

All of us have things, material things, that help define us. Mine is the typewriter. I knew this one as a kid. It was my Aunt Ruth's. I used to climb up on the chair of her desk and press down the letters one at a time. It was thrilling. As I got older, I actually made words. And then sentences.

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I once helped Jimmy Carter park his car. Really. It was late 1975 and the little-known governor of Georgia was making a stop in Biddeford, a mill town in southern Maine, and a quick swing over from New Hampshire. I was a reporter at the Portland Press Herald. Al, my editor, told me not to cover him. "He's coming in to meet with the editorial board tomorrow. Besides, he doesn't stand a chance. Go to the Old Orchard Beach Select Board meeting instead."

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Ten Days of Winter, 1892

I wrote this piece of fiction for Vermont Stage Company and its 7-performance show, Winter Tales, Dec. 6-10, 2017 at FlynnSpace in Burlington, VT.  It consists of a small glimpse of the life of a young woman living in rural Vermont in 1892.

The story grew out of a real journal I was given in 1999 and subsequent research I conducted on life and conditions in 1892 in Northeast Kingdom, Vermont, which is, to this day, one of the most rural locations on the East Coast. This 3,100 word piece represents a small slice of a large novel that has been growing in my brain.

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The Day -- Wind

A day in sound, image and story. The beginning:

“It was a gray wind. The bell you hear has a story. My Aunt Ruth, who died in 2006 at the age of 95, was a force. She knew what she wanted. Every day. And she did it. One day she was shopping in Portland, Me., and she went by this wind chime store and heard a chime that sounded like a bell buoy. She loved it. She walked right in and bought it and had it shipped to me with a note that said: "Geoffrey, I bought this for you because I knew you missed the sea.’”

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Dr. Christ

To know him was to see his smile / feel his warmth, his thick / soft hands, his keen blue eyes / watching, welcoming, /as you spoke, as you answered his / "How are you?" Because, / He really did want you to answer.

He was my doctor. / He was my Dad's doctor.

Dr. Christ.

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The Journey(I) -- Train

Part 1 of a canoe journey to the Quebec sub-Arctic in 1983. It begins:

“Flip back in time to July 5, 1983. Five other men and I are about to begin what will become a 50-day, 800-mile canoe trip into the center of Quebec wilderness, then north to the sub-arctic region of Ungava Bay. We intend to follow the route NOT taken by a Hudson Bay Company explorer in 1620. He did not take our route because the passage was considered too dangerous -- almost constant rapids and drops.”

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The Journey (II) -- Bear

Part II of a canoe journey to the Quebec sub-Arctic in 1983. First night:

“With the last blare of the train whistle a memory, we set about pitching three tents, making a cook area and getting the canoes down by the water. It is fairly flat, scrub alders and a few tall tamaracks.”

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June 6, 1944 -- Fred

It seemed an impossible coincidence. Ghostly even.

It was June 5, 1994. For several days I had been sick and banished to the attic room in our house in Akron, Ohio; quarantined, as it were. The world was approaching the 50th anniversary of D-Day and the TV was filled with stories and remembrances and old grainy footage and images. By Saturday, June 4, my mind was overtaken with a fever-induced fantasy of seeing my father amongst the black and white images of the beaches, of the French towns, the visages of pain and fear and hardship of that day.

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Sarah Gibson Blanding, a native of Kentucky, was the first woman president of Vassar College. She was a visionary. In 1946 she admitted male GIs to the school, she strengthened the arts departments, built new buildings and in the early 1960s picketed a Woolworth's because they wouldn't let blacks eat at their lunch counters. In college, during the summers, I worked in her gardens and learned about Faulkner and Welty, weeding and lilacs. Mostly I learned about friendship.

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This story, of my youngest daughter when she was a little over two years old went viral, as they say, when it was first posted on cowbird.com, a wonderful photo story site created by Jonathan Harris. The story brought me some heartfelt and unusual responses including a letter from one woman who said that she named her daughter after mine hoping that her daughter “will have the same life energy as yours.”

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