Read about the misadventures of a sped high school teacher in Savannah, GA as he sails through the exciting seas of committment, marriage with step-kids, some tour guiding while he attempts to break into the world of professional storytelling and the occasional act of piracy.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
The Night I met an Influence, Re-ignited a fire, and Learned a Lesson
Living in Savannah has
afforded me many opportunities that I somehow was missed back in the Atlanta
days. I actually get to teach in the same county where I reside, I met my soul mate
who also had to move to Savannah too for this happen, and I have gotten to meet
three of my top five authors. Last was number two, Neil Gaiman.
I first mentioned Mr. Gaiman's impact waaaay back in a previous blog. A very old friend who would quite
literally run away and join the circus first introduced me to him back in 1989
with a comic called The Sandman. The
well paced story telling combined with smart writing quickly made this my
favorite read every month. Soon, Mr. Gaiman would expand to writing books which
I read voraciously. Neverwhere, American
Gods, and Stardust are just a few
of his works that I was willing to shell out 20 bucks or so which was a lot for
just graduated college student. Needless to say, big fan here.
Last night, Gaiman was here in Savannah performing on a
story telling tour called Unchained with several other very interesting people. Kim and I bought
our tickets last month for the chance to see Gaiman. He was amazing. I even go
to meet him and shake his hand. We spoke for a few brief moments. It’s always nice
to see someone whom I admire turn out to be a nice guy.
We had tweeted back and forth a few times over the week.
I am teaching Brit Lit with my esteemed colleague, Paul Sidney. (Check out Paul’s blog. It rocks) Gaiman wrote the screenplay to Beowulf and we had hoped to get
him in to speak to the kids. Gaiman tried but his schedule just didn’t match
At one point, Gaiman even tweeted back when I mentioned
several kids in my class wanted to come but were underage. He replied that I was
18 and over advisory. I am proud to say three of my students were front row and
to the right. Melissa, a huge Gaiman fan, even sat about five feet from the Brit
author at one point but she never knew because she was mesmerized by all the other
storytellers who performed.
is how the night went for us. Several of us where there because Gaiman was
speaking. About every fourth or fifth person in the rows was holding a Sandman
comic or Neil Gaiman related item. Gaiman did well. He is a skillful
storyteller or raconteur as they liked to be called. Yet, I found myself
enjoying the other raconteurs just as much and in some ways, even a little
much in fact, I was moved to start writing this blog at three in the AM when
all of this came together. See way back before Kim and the kids, I started
writing The Tide to work on storytelling skills. It’s my dream to be a
published author and professional storyteller but life keeps happening and I put
this dream to the side.
sat mesmerized by hearing these performers spin their craft and was a little
jealous too. They were good. Really good. Dawn Frasier told a story about her
twin with Down syndrome and how he displayed the ultimate act of sportsmanship and
kindness at the Special Olympics. It made me cry, dammit.
Edgar Oliver, a Savannah native but now Ney York transplant, had the most unique
voice I have heard while he shared a hilarious account of his days as an
officer at Benedictine Military School.
It started out as a tale about getting down
and dirty with his girlfriend, yet somehow Peter Aquero masterfully made it a
beautiful account of what love is.
was all put together by another Savannah native, George Dawes Green. He has
authored several books and started up NPR’s The Moth which promotes the art of
storytelling. He changed it up a bit and actually preached a sermon about the
evils of the internet which I hate to admit was right on target. “Switch it off
he said, and open a book especially one bought from a local book store.” I ‘m
paraphrasing but you get the idea which is quite a valid one in a time where
kindles and I-pads rule.
Neil took the stage. Peter Aquero Emceed the event and I loved his introduction.
Mr. Aquero simply stated how Neil Gaiman is “just a guy.” Oh, and he wrote a
book about some sand.” The audience erupted with laughter. But he was right.
Mr. Gaiman came out quite unassuming then shared a beautiful story linking how
circus elephants are taught to embrace their chains rather realizing they can
fight them and how he carried his own chains which prevented him from being
came for Neil but somehow found so much more last night. It is my honest belief
in which everyone has a story to share. Last night I watched five people not
only do that but also openly express to the audience something very personal,
at times humorous, and even a little dangerous. It was a pretty brave thing to
do and I walked away hungry to figure out this art form.
I am already scheduled to some storytelling at
Oatland Island for their Harvest Fest on Nov 10th. Please mark on
your calendars and come out to this. It’s awesome but more about in a later post. I
think I am ready to get back to working on my craft, if I may steal line from Robbie
Rankin, my old theatre director. And I will.
was also a powerful night in another respect. I knew I’d be writing about this
night before it even happened. My assumption was I’d be talking about the
lovely chat Neil Gaiman and I had. (We did and it was AWESOME!) Something else
happened and I have to share because it moved as much as the raconteur fire
which was lit inside of me.
know all about the tweets between Neil where I invited him to teach Beowulf.
When my turn in line came this was the approach I took.
man, I am the teacher who has been tweeting you all week. Thanks for
considering visiting us even though it didn’t work. We all got a kick out it., “I
said with a shaky voice.
Gaiman smiled and said in a lovely British accent, “Ahhh yes, the teacher doing
Beowulf. Sorry about that but wish you luck.” We shook hands. Coolness for me.
had a moment and seized it. “Mr. Gaiman, I want to introduce you to my
students. This is Melissa, Jordan, and Holiday. Also very big fans and thank
you again for coming to Savannah. It’s been amazing to hear you and your fellow
Gaiman continued being a delightful individual and spent a few moments with my
students. All three looked like those girls form the news footage of the teeny
boppers watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show.
moment was over and Mr. Gaiman moved on to the throng of fans waiting for their
moment too. I was on Cloud Nine and even spent a few moments with that Peter
Aquero fellow asking ways to get into racontuering. He hugged me when I
complimented on his velvet burgundy jacket. He was a big guy but I can respect
when a large man like me is willing to show emotion so I happily hugged back.
Neat guy. He talked like the northern version of my good friend and mentor, Tony
Daniels. Just that alone, makes Mr. Aquero cool in my book.
and I mingled. We said some hellos to our various friends from all our circles.
Kim even got in line to have Mr. Gaiman sign my old copy of Stardust which I gave Roni back in the
early dating days. I watched the proceedings from a far and wasn’t the least
bit jealous when Neil Gaiman gave Kim a big smooch on the cheek. Ok, maybe a
and I walked out into a one of those evenings in downtown Savannah where the
humidity was fighting with the oncoming Fall chill. We were passing Mellow
Mushroom as I got lost in my thoughts about those days of being a ghost tour
guide when we came up on Holiday and Melissa. I asked if they needed a ride but
they said they were fine.
of fact, Holiday had to come over and show me the Neil Gaiman book she bought
from the Blue bus (Please click onthis link. Gaiman talks about their bus and it's very cool) which transports the Unchained players and a Salvador Dali
book she bought for one of my school’s art teachers. They started talking to
Kim and I got distracted by a group of SCAD kids.
was a pack of about five-six students and they definitely had that “I’m here
for Gaiman Punkish Goth look. One of the guys who sported a variety of face
piercings came up to and asked very politely,” Excuse me, sir, are you a
almost burst out laughing. Robby the professor? I visualized myself in front of
an Oxford style classroom wearing that fancy corduroy jacket with the little patches
on the elbows. More stifles of laugher. Then the notion of getting some round
gold glasses where I’d look like Professor Indiana Jones. I began to realize I
could get used to that notion. Whip crack!
shook hands as I replied, “Sorry to disappoint, guys. Just a high school sped
young lady with alternating shaved designs and dyed teal places on her head
spoke up. “It doesn’t matter. Either way what you did was an inspiration.”
It was the only word in my head. Rather than vocalize, my face said it for me.
first guy goes on. “We watched you take the time to make sure your kids got to
meet Neil Gaiman. It’s not many teachers who’d bring their students to something
like this and make sure they met their hero. Man, we need more teachers like
you out there.”
am always amazed at our abilities at how we humans can be so destructive to
each other yet so uplifting at the same time. This pack of crazy looking Punk
rock Goth kids said the very words I needed to hear to remind what it is that I
do and why I put up with the fucking bullshit to to do it.
I have fallen out of love with teaching. It has become mired down in the
stupidity our elected officials have instituted to get re-elected (This is not
a conservative v. liberal issue. They are all guilty) piled with some many jobs
that I rarely get to actually have the opportunity to connect with a student in
an academic manner. I could give examples but it would just take away from the
point these wild looking SCAD students reminded me.
love teaching and I love my students. It’s OK to hate the outside forces that
reign down on me to make my job all the harder. This is where I am supposed to
be right now. I helped three very awesome and unique kids have an experience
that might be the catalyst which gives the world the next great author, artist,
or something great. I did what a teacher is supposed to do. I showed those kids the world was little bit
bigger last night the same way Mrs. Clark and Mr. Oliver did for me back at
Union County High School in 1986.
dream daily of being in front of an audience where I regale all with my anecdotes of being that hopelessly dorky
kid growing up in the mountains of North Georgia the marshes of Savannah with
his unique family. I’ve had some amazing shit happen to me in my lifetime and
the best part is I am finally finding my voice where it all ties together to
make a good story. I dream of putting all this on paper and this is also slowly
"You've got big dreams......"
the same time, I recognize I may have hit a point where I can respect and
appreciate the moment I am living in. It may not consist on hearing the
applause I dream of but, thanks to a motley group of SCAD kids, I have been
reminded that I did take a stand made a mark. I believe this is the best thing we
can achieve as human beings.
get there. I am hungry for it but at the same time I have a responsibility to
some kids over at Jenkins High School.