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“If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”
—Barry Lopez
(as Badger, in Crow and Weasel)


To be nobody but yourself -- in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else -- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.
- e. e. cummings


Show Stoppers

-------As a teacher I have often experienced the reality that enthusiasm is contagious. One of my earliest experiences with this concept didn’t occur in the traditional classroom. When I was in college, I worked part time in a roller skate factory. As a full-time student, I was definitely not the typical worker in that environment. The crew included very young and unfocused drifters, and a couple of “older” guys who seemed to want little more out of life than Friday’s small paycheck and the weekend’s freedom. This story centers on the attitudes of one worker from each of those categories.
-------The young worker was a very energetic, though entirely misguided 17-year-old boy. His whole existence in life boiled down to getting high and listening to the loudest and most aggressive rock music you could find. His music rating system appeared to have only two criteria - loudness and lewdness. At one point he exclaimed, “I will never get mellow,” a reference to my insistence that one day, as he got older, he would grow to appreciate music of a less aggressive nature. I never suggested he would come to love Mozart, but I did express that he’d inevitably mellow a bit, at least to an occasional rock ballad. This suggestion only got him more agitated and insistent on his position. “I will never mellow!”
-------The older worker was an enigma to say the least. He seemed to have no discernible direction in life, no goals, no dreams, no hobbies – except one. As evidenced by his knowledge of all things trivial, I couldn’t envision him doing anything other than sitting on the couch watching television. He knew about every show, every actor, every actress, every episode, every news story – it seemed like every thing.
-------As one might imagine, the job of building roller skates could get pretty boring. One of our diversions was to challenge our elder’s knowledge of these trivial things. He never disappointed. The work area was divided into three stations. He, the experienced one, always held the position at the final station where he had to put the finishing touches on the skates, fine tuning the wheels and making sure everything was just right. The second station was within earshot of his, making for easy conversation. The first station was at the drill press, almost entirely out of range, and continuously interrupted by the noisy task at hand. It was with me at the second post and our young “head-banger” at the drill that our story unfolds.
-------I had been engaged in rehearsals for a summer musical for which I was playing in the orchestra. I mentioned this to our elder workmate and he began to sing a song from the musical in question. I laughed along with him and decided to challenge him with a little Broadway trivia. I’d sing or hum a song and he was to tell me the musical from which it came.
-------I sang, “There’s a bright golden haze on the mead…..”
-------“Chim, chimin…”
-------“MARY POPPINS.”
-------It went on for several minutes with him naming almost every tune I could reproduce. I noticed our young acid rock connoisseur passively watching in the distance with a somewhat astonished look on his face. At one point I glanced his direction and he lightly shook his head as if to say “you guys are ridiculous.”
-------As the game went on, our enthusiasm and laughter grew. It culminated in the grand duet. I began “Some enchanted evening…”
-------Together in perfect unison “you may see a stranger, across a crowded floor. We moved closer together “And somehow you know.” Closer still. “You know even then.”
We moved side by side and belted out the finale “That you’ll see that stranger again and again… never let her gooooooooooooooooooooo!”
-------I looked over at our rocker. He was in total disbelief.
-------A few minutes went by and the warehouse returned to normalcy. As things quieted down, the rock and roll enthusiast strolled over to me very slowly and deliberately as if he had something heavy on his heart. With an embarrassed look on his face he took the opportunity to make a confession.
-------“Do you remember the other day when I told you I’d never mellow out?”
-------I glanced and nodded a silent “yes.”
-------"Well, I’ve decided I probably will mellow out a little some day.”
-------I guess passion has the power to moves the most stationary soul!


© 2004 - The Trill House