Two years ago today (April 15, 2013) I took my first step out the door as a story collector with a cardboard sign around my neck & an audio recorder in hand.
I still travel with the same cardboard sign, though it now says “tell me a story about water” on one side and “tell me a story about climate change” on the other.
The first version said “open call for stories” (and some people asked me if I was selling telephones, so I decided to be a bit more direct).
Here’s what I wrote on day one:
i just got back from spending all afternoon walking around somerville & downtown boston will a sign around my neck and a voice recorder (only turned on when people were comfortable with it). people have the most amazing stories to tell. i need to spend some time transcribing all this — i met homeless vietnam vets, a woman who lost everyone on her block to the earthquake in haiti and now works in a lady liberty costume holding parking signs near park street, a T employee who swears that his mother was dead for 48 hours and came back to life after he prayed that he could just have one more coffee with her, a woman who had very strong feelings about a dog, a twenty-something on his way to a bar who busted out a rap dedicated to me and my sign right there on the street with his friend backing him up with beatboxing, a v. inquisitive psychologist, a man whose best friend is a clown, a guy who was worried about his friend who was trying to choose between grad school in one city and a girlfriend in another, a woman who had written a poem that morning and pulled it out of her purse to read it to me, and a retired spanish teacher who swore that the statue of liberty was modeled after marie antoinette.
You know those tiny, beautiful moments where everything, for a moment, feels in line––vibrating with life & light? Where you feel you have found your thing? I brushed up against that the moment I stepped out of the door with my sign. Suddenly the world was new and full of stories, if only I had the courage to ask.
It’s been a wild and wonderful journey––me and my cardboard sign––in four countries, down countless rivers, and in and out of many human voices and ways of thinking.
There is nothing else I would rather be doing right now.
In subsequent outings I ditched the balloons and added a bicycle.
I can’t wait to see where the stories lead me next.
Thanks for being a part of this journey.