A glimpse into my storytelling future

“The only way to find that territory is trying to keep your mind constantly open. That’s the only way that you’re ever going to see the sort of signs of where to go.” — Tom Jenkinson, musician

Angela Dice, a friend and former coworker at the Kitsap Sun, and I discussed putting together a storytelling night here in the summer. We put the idea on hold when the Bainbridge Island-based writer’s organization Field’s End hosted one. We both planned to go and participate in that, hoping to learn about what kind of process would work. Then, neither of us could go because we had events to cover for the newspaper.

Yesterday Angela contacted me again about scheduling an event of our own, so I can say that this idea is in the planning stages and I hope we will be announcing something before too long.

Angela’s timing was one of those moments where I begin to believe that some godlike force is giving me a nudge. That nudge started on Sunday as I was driving to church listening to a broadcast of The Moth storytelling program on NPR.

The speaker I heard on my drive was Janna Levin, a professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University. Fortunately for me her story had very little to do with what she teaches, because the most satisfying D grade I ever received was in the Astronomy class I took in college my final semester. That D meant I could graduate, so I was just thrilled to pass. And by the way, it was my only college D.

The story, which included understandable elements of astrophysics, was all about how she met her husband. That’s a story I can relate to.

I was moved, but not to tears. I was moved because it touched on thoughts I’ve had recently about how I believe I am supposed to pursue my career efforts in the near future.

Within the last couple of weeks I posted a link on Facebook to a story about a longtime sports writer who quit journalism and is now teaching English in high school. With the link I wrote, “I want to do this.” I was dead serious.

Journalism is a great love for me most days. One day, probably not anytime soon, I will quit this line of work and when I do I hope I create an opening for someone else to come in and take my place. That has not predictably been the case in our industry for quite some time. People who quit are not necessarily replaced at newspapers. My own paper saw its share of downsizing, a shame, because I know the value journalism has for the community, but also for the journalist.

More people should have the experience I have had over the past 13 years. But like soldiers and sailors there comes a day when it’s time to move on to something else. As I said, my day doesn’t appear to be coming soon. If I don’t hit it big with my side efforts, it might not come until I hit retirement age.

The journalist who is now a teacher is following an enviable path. In reality, though, I’m not sure I’d leave this line of work for that one.

What I do see myself doing is more along the lines of what Levin does in the 17 minutes she shared in the story I heard on my drive. What moved me was not so much the story itself, although that was beautiful. It was how she organized and crafted the story to include the real science with her life experience. I left my car, went into the church building, found Diana and our boys and sat next to them, continuing to consider what Levin had done. And as I continued to think about her story it hit me that she provided me the model for how I want to teach.

Someday soon you’ll see how that plays out.

In the meantime I suggest you take the 17 minutes necessary to give Levin’s story a listen.

Podcast update

What I had planned to be the final episode of “The Narrative Arts Podcast” is delayed indefinitely. I still plan to do it, but am waiting for a particular piece of music to be sent to me and to be authorized.

As for the podcast generally I’m still working out how I will continue with it. I don’t think I’ll be doing it on a regular basis anymore, focusing more on the regular writing and using the podcasts to support that. Plus, I may see about getting my stories told on other shows.

Later this month, at least that is how it is scheduled now, I have a historical story planned for the Kitsap Sun that may merit a larger version. That story could end up being large enough to market it in digital formats, such as for a Kindle. You’ll be able to get the short version free, but the long one will cost a few bucks. It will be so worth it, though, that you’ll wonder how you got it for so little money. (Enter semi-colon and end parenthesis.)

Pony Boy on the podcast

My dad

Most boys, at least through my generation, have a period where cowboy seems like a pretty admirable career choice. The hours might be long but the wardrobe is special, especially the hats.

I watch my dad these days as his quality of life diminishes with each round of an illness that takes a shot at him every few weeks. It makes it harder still to see the images of him as that sweet boy, wearing that cowboy get-up, complete with the chaps.

His aspirations were huge and he had the guts to go after them, especially as a boy. It caused heartburn for his mother, but what boy hasn’t?

This week’s podcast tells of my father, the pony boy.

The gratitude begins

Everyone else is expressing gratitude this month. Why should I be any different?

Actually, this podcast episode on The Narrative Arts podcast is the tale of a single moment in which I found myself feeling especially blessed, despite a lot of evidence to the contrary.

I left a message on the Oregon Coast, one that I remind myself of often, because I’ve become even more so since that day in 1994.

Join me on the podcast. Please forgive the warbled sounding music. It’s another challenge in my bid to learn how to do all this.

Making sense in conspiracy

We’re in the home stretch of our exploration into conspiracy theories and after the weirdness of seeing the podcasts go silent, then re-emerge has been quite a fun development. It seems appropriate, too.

This week University of Washington Professor Ingrid Walker delivers an unsettling opinion about why conspiracy makes more sense to us sometimes than the truth. Faith is involved, faith that the world is logical.

It’s unsettling to me, because it means the truth will often make no sense.

Conspiracy Part 2, or is it?

If for no other reason you might want to come see the latest podcast page just to see what I will be wearing for Halloween this year. Or do you?

This is conspiracy theory month on The Narrative Arts Podcast. This week we bring you Part 2 of four episodes devoted to issues like what really happened when JFK was shot. Or was he?

You could have listened to the podcast early. I accidentally posted the episode on Wednesday and didn’t know how to unpost it without erasing the entire page. Or was it an accident?

In this episode I interview University of Washington Professor Ingrid Walker, who for some time studied conspiracy theories. Or did she?

October is conspiracy month. Alert the media.

I’m not lying about this. Today a man called our office and said John Kennedy has been held at the Pentagon since 1963. The caller also said he was the legal prime minister of Canada. That’s two major conspiracies in one short phone call. I didn’t take the call. I wish I had.

Because I like to keep the podcasts to between 10 and 20 minutes, I’ve decided to just throw up my hands and concede that the whole month is going to be about conspiracy theories.

Last week I told you about those dots on mailboxes. This week and next I’ll mostly be playing an interview I did with a University of Washington professor who once specialized in studying conspiracy theories. Then, in the final week of October I’ll tell you about a conspiracy theory I might be inclined to believe.

There is nothing like Halloween to put you in the right spirit for conspiracies, and nothing like conspiracy theories to give juice to your imagination as the holiday we will all be banished to Hell for celebrating approaches.

Just ask First Baptist Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress. Halloween celebrators, Muslims, Buddhists and Mormons will all be in Hell together. I hope there’s good Italian food.

Part two in the conspiracy airs Friday. Aloha.

Part 1 in the conspiracy is live

You need to listen to my reassuring, sensitive yet credible voice telling you that you could be bound for execution or into a concentration camp. It doesn’t sound so bad when I say it.

The conspiracy theory podcast I warned you about is now live. It is also only part one. There is more coming to convince you of your doom.

In all seriousness this two- or three-part series looks at conspiracy theories and why they are too stubborn to go away.

Go to TheNarrativeArts.com to hear it all.

The last Bank of America post for now

Oh I will continue to dig into what happened with Diana’s credit card account, but I will be taking a new tack. To catch up on what this is about, go here and then here. Or just click on the “Home” button and go to the bottom entry on Bank of America and work your way up.

I have plans for how I will address this. Before I explain that, here is the bank’s latest response, followed by mine:

Thank you for your inquiry dated 09/01/2011 regarding your America Gold Visa – 7031 and fees on your account. We are happy to assist you.

Please note that the late fee on your account was adjusted on 08/09/2011 by one of our agents. Please be assure that your automatic payments are correctly scheduled and any late fee on your account will be adjusted automatically once the payment posts our on the following closing date.

Our records shows that our system is not charging you any extra money so please reply this e-mail including more details about your last question.

We value you as a customer and appreciate your business. If we may be of further assistance, please contact us again by e-mail. Thank you for choosing Bank of America.

David Moya, Bank of America.

I realized I was asking questions the bank was not going to answer, so I decided to ask one more set of questions. This is it for me. When the bank responds I’ll post that here and then be done with it publicly, until what comes later, which I will explain.

OK, I need to acknowledge that my last question did not really get to the heart of what I want to know. Let me lay out what happened and then ask you questions.

My wife discovered on her billing statement that we were going to be charged a late fee in August. We were puzzled. We have automatic payment. We set it up specifically so we would never, ever be late.

We called you. Your customer service representative explained that because the payment was scheduled for a Saturday, the due date, it did not post until Monday. She explained that we would be credited. Your records indicate that this happened on Aug. 9. That was probably the day or shortly after we called. On Aug. 16 you did take $21 more from our account than normal, reflecting the late fee. The statement we received showed that you did credit our account. In the end we got our money back, because it was applied to our principle.

By crediting our account the next month you made good on your customer service agent’s promise. I still find so much about this weird. And to be frank, so many people I shared this story with tell me that your bank, and other banks, do this knowing that some people will sleep right through it and not notice. In other words, if we had not called, you would have kept the late fee and refunded nothing.

Also, I checked the statements going back 18 months, and the four other times the 16th fell on a weekend we did not have the same problem. There was no late fee.

So here are my questions;

1. Why was the late fee charged at all for the July payment, when four times in the last 18 months under similar circumstances (the 16th falling on a weekend) the late fee was not charged?
2. When we called you well before the late fee was actually taken, why couldn’t you adjust the account to not take the extra $21?
3. If we had never called you, would the same adjustments have been made, or would we have been assessed the late fee with no credit the next month?

Thank you.

Other than posting the information here, I have been pretty much responding to Bank of America as a customer and nothing more.

In my day job, though, I’m a member of the mainstream media, a local version to be sure, but mainstream nonetheless. On the blog and on the podcast, I’m part of the pajamas media group. It’s from there that I will continue this.

I contacted a lawyer. There doesn’t seem to be much to do in our case, because the bank did refund the money. I don’t like that it took the extra $21 for the one month, but in the long run that’s to my benefit.

From this point on I’m treating this as a story, even though I am involved. I believe this is podcast fodder. The lawyer has agreed to be interviewed. I will be contacting Bank of America media officials to get comment. I will also contact other experts. My overall question will be whether this is what some of you have suggested this is, a designed scheme to get extra money from people who are not paying attention. Is Bank of America a pickpocket? If so, I think that deserves whatever sunlight I can deliver.