Strangers are Strange

Last night I made the decision to attend a “Strangers” party that had a Valentine’s day theme. Strangers is a podcast I listen to that involves storytelling of strangers and just how interesting our lives really are.

This was a free event at a very nice restaurant in Hollywood. There was a cozy lounge area, discounted mixed drinks at the full bar, and strangers arriving to mingle amongst themselves. Since I recently went on a date with my mother to a live story-slam in Santa Monica, I figured why not keep this storytelling theme going and attend this event.

Recently I had discovered that the riding shoes I had primarily been wearing had been a size too small and they were causing excruciating pain in my left foot. I say this because at the time, I’ve had to barely tie the laces on my left shoes in hopes to give my foot room to breathe and heal when they would swell up from walking. This is all going on the night of the event. I ended up taking the subway there, and made the walk one mile from the station to the event. It was walking through the streets of Hollywood why I was reminded why I don’t come here on the weekends, or when the sun goes down. A bunch of people trying to hustle and market their skill of choice to tourists and anyone willing to listen to them. Sometimes to those like myself who did not wish to listen. This setting reminded me a lot of Vegas. A major metropolitan area where people see an opportunity to prosper through some scheme, densely located side by side from each other, trying to make it.

As I left, I made it there with minimal pains in my foot. The event took place in the lounge area where there were comfy couches, dim lights, rose petals, and a DJ playing tracks you would hear on KCRW late at night. The night progressed on, I ordered a few mixed drinks, and spoke with the head of the radio podcast. A very nice lady with a tall stature, and a face that you could make no mistake about whether she was listening to you or not.

I want to share some photos of the setting to help better paint the picture:

This was the main lounge setting
This was the main lounge setting

IMG_0139IMG_0138

One of the most interesting parts of the night was the writer they had and their role of the night. Given the theme of love, we were encouraged to have a seat with this beautiful writer Frankie Elliot, share a story of love or love lost, and watch her type up a condensed anecdotal version of our stories on her little pink typewriter.

This is her composing my story
This is her composing my story
I kid you not
I kid you not

The twist was that when she had finished her work, she gave you someone else’s story and it was your job to find out who that person was. Either through social media, or face to face socializing to break the ice with your fellow strangers. I shared a story of how in my high school year, the girl I was dating at the time thought it would be a funny practical joke to fake a pregnancy; for an entire month. Long story short, I later realized it was a practical joke (as impractical as possible) and we no longer speak to each other today. When she was done, she gave me another story which read like this:

I call it, "Gemini's and Driving Habits"
I call it, “Gemini’s and Driving Habits”

I know a handful of Gemini women. My mother is a Gemini. My uncle has dated his share of Gemini women and swears that I stay as far away from them as possible. This story made me giggle both inside and outside. I haven’t met the person who shared this story, but I know they’re out there and they’ll eventually stumble upon this and hopefully they too will get a good laugh.

I ended up hearing my condensed story from a man who apparently wrote a book on how to give and receive love. I thought that telling him it was my story would spoil the mystery, so I didn’t tell him that it was my story. I wanted to hear his unbiased opinion on the matter to which he responded by a short, “Sounds like good riddance.” My thoughts the same.

The night went on and I began socializing with fellow strangers. It didn’t take very long to figure out the type of night it was going to be. Since most people who were there had heard about it through the podcast, or other storytelling events, it was clear that these people wanted to hear stories. I have been listening to storytelling either through the radio or the internet for a while. I’ve sat in my car outside my house more times than I can remember, waiting for a story on the radio to end. All this time I had been listening and I haven’t really reflected on stories of my own. This made me feel a little unprepared when other strangers began their question asking.

I would often get asked how I found out about the event, and if I was from the area, but the most common question I remember being asked that I was least prepared for was, “What do you do?” I began to panic inside because I didn’t have anything nearly as impressive to share or show for where I have come from. These people were well off into their careers and most brought their significant others which I felt a little cheated to find out (the name of the event was titled: “Love hurts- but strangers unite!”) later on. Working for an ambulance company isn’t the most glamorous way to open up a conversation with a potential date. It was through sharing this that I began to feel a little embarrassed at what I do for work. Mainly because I don’t consider it work with all the free time it leaves me. I’m in between schools right now, and just ride my bike and drink coffee in my free time. For some reason the words didn’t roll quite as smoothly as I had hoped that night. Maybe I was distracted by the growing pains in my foot by the end of the night. I didn’t feel like I had mentally prepared enough to interact and share myself as much as I ended up doing that night. Almost everyone I met asked me what it was I did and I stumbled around that question so much that I didn’t even think to ask the question back most of the time. I ended up meeting video game designers, history majors, lawyers, and authors who didn’t seem too interested in talking about themselves. So I ended up talking about me and was struggling to mention my love for writing and for coffee. I felt like I goofed that event up.

I continued to mingle for a bit, had another drink, shared my story I had told the writer, found out that I was included in a story by an ex I had that ended up attending the event, and ended up doing my James Dean impression of standing against a pole, alone, looking at the happy couples enjoying themselves and the night progressed on and on.

I decided to finally depart around 9:30 since I had to take the subway back and my foot had about enough of all this attention on my sore spot. I left without saying goodbye to anyone like I always do, and made my way back home. I don’t know if it was the two drinks I had, or the pain in my foot, but I could not walk straight for the life of me. I did not feel coordinated the entire walk back to the subway and eventually back to my car. My head felt fine, and I made sure to drink plenty of water once I got some since I had mixed liquors and normally don’t drink.

Made it home in one piece with a throbbing foot, just happy to be laying down in bed. The night ended as I had expected it to. I could have stayed longer and mingled a bit more. I could have really tried to network and market who I was as a person possibly making some real friends with real connections but the first few interactions took the wind out of my sails and made me decide against it. I could never become a marketer; even if I am marketing myself as a product. I lack the competitive drive in that industry and would gladly pass up a career for something else if given the chance. I’m glad I got myself off the bike and out of the house for a night. I had fun for the most part. I got to hear stories from other people, and learned that I really need to polish myself as a product if I want to continue to do things like this.

Signs have shown me that I should embrace my writing with those I meet. That would have been a great opener and I would feel more esteemed telling someone about that over how I sit behind a series of computer screens, answer phones, and tell people where to go all though the night. Nobody wants to hear about that. I have more things to talk about when it comes to hobbies like writing, cycling, or coffee. I feel like when it comes to work, I’ve beaten that dead horse more times than I care to mention. I can remember the time when I was genuinely proud to share what I did for a living. That spark is no longer within me, and why I have chosen to gravitate more towards new things that spark my interests. Maybe things will show themselves in a clearer way later on down the line. (Books! I didn’t even mention a single god-damned book I had or am currently reading. Everyone loves books, and I find it so hard to have a conversation with someone about a book I have read. I was not very prepared for last night.) Until then….

-dfj

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