Easy as pie*

The other day, I was trying to go on a little run in the neighborhood, the one I do when I’m too lazy to run in the woods, or it’s too wet, or it just sounds too hard. So I jogged about a hundred feet or so and came upon my neighbor and her dog.  “I’ll walk with you a little bit,” she announced.

Which was good for me, because I didn’t feel much like running anyway.  I was only out there because I had made a really beautiful apple pie, and it seemed like I should get some exercise before eating it. 

 We walked along for a bit and she updated me on her life in tiny snippets.  “CR is spending a lot of time at her boyfriend’s house because she says he has a nice comfy chair that she can study in.  Does that sound true?” and then she abruptly turned around and said it was time for me to run.

My son, R. and I are perhaps the biggest Ira Glass fans ever.  Since I introduced him to This American Life about 4 years ago, he’s listened to every episode several times, we’ve seen Ira in person, we’ve gone to the live movie simulcast twice, and it’s one of our main points of reference in conversation.

“What are you saying, mom?  Is this like that episode where they didn’t tell the kid he had mosaic downs until he was pretty old?”

“Um, no, it’s not like that.”

“So, Bobby Dunbar? Is that it?”

“No, you weren’t kidnapped as a baby.”

"Mom, you're eyes are red.  Fan of the reefer?" he asks, referring to an episode where a guy gets interrogated by a cop as a result of a Facebook status update he posted.

I continued on my jog, and came upon another neighbor, who was standing at the edge of her driveway with a cup full of corn and seeds, feeding the squirrels.  I suppressed a horrified shudder, because I have such an infestation of Douglas squirrels in my attic that it’s not even funny. I had an overnight guest this summer who thought people were moving furniture in the attic, that’s how loud they are. 

I’ve realized that there’s not just one area to plug up to prevent their entering, but a huge design flaw in the roof that is almost impossible to fix.  I’ve tried various deterrents, and the one that seems to make a difference involves me climbing into the attic crawl space when they start moving about at 4 in the morning, lighting incense to smoke them out, and then crawling back in bed to worry about burning the house.

So I’m a little shudder-y when I see her feeding these rodents, but I stop to chat anyway. This neighbor is the definition of aging gracefully – she’s about 70 and looks vaguely like Katharine Hepburn.  She tells me about the latest man she’s dating.  “It’s just another practice relationship.  There’s really no chemistry there, but this will keep me busy until Mr. Right comes along.”

I tell her about my pie, and jog another few hundred feet when a car pulls up alongside me.

“Do you know where the nearest gas station is,” the well-dressed man driving asks. 

This is an odd question, because anyone who’s driving a car knows that we’re in the middle of nowhere, the nearest town is almost 10 miles away.  I ask where he’s ultimately trying to go, and how much gas he has.

He does some thing with his odometer.  “I can go 18 miles.  Oh, and here’s where I’m going.”  He hands me a sheaf of MLS sheets describing real estate for sale. It seems odd, like he expects me to be google or something, and organize his route and locate the gas stations. I glance through the stack of sheets, trying to make sense of it all, and I feel like I’m at work, and should be explaining aspects of the zoning code to him.  Then I remember about the pie.  “I’d just go into town to get gas first.  You can definitely make it there.”

But he wants to ask more questions, like which route he should take, and would he be able to also look at one of the places along the way, so I just give the friendly wave and jog off. 

It’s taken me about an hour to go just under two miles.  I let R. assume that maybe I ran farther than I did, and put dinner on the table.

When R and I went to the movie simulcast of This American Life the first time, he was about 13, and as we approached the theater, joining a middle-aged, NPR-ish looking crowd, he looked around. “Um, I guess these are the other fans?”  Commenting, without saying anything, on how out of the demographic he is.

Lately, we’ve been comparing who likes Ira Glass more. 

“I want to hang out with Ira and hear some stories.”

“Oh yeah?  Well I want Ira to come over for dinner.”

“Yeah?  Well, I want Ira to go to my school.”

“Yeah?  Well I made this pie for Ira.”

And so on, like seven-year-olds.  So I’m writing this post, the way I try to most days, and it really isn’t coming together, which is happening far too often.

I read it aloud to R.

“Wow, who reads your blog?  Seriously, is your point to announce that you’re a freak?  I’d cut out that whole part about the pie and the stroll through the neighborhood, and just keep it about Ira Glass.”

Even though I know he’s right, I keep wondering why I’m trying to weave our adoration for Ira Glass into the dull story about the jog, so I turn to the source.  I watch a few youtube videos about storytelling by the master, and he harps on the two points of a story:  the anecdote, and the reflection.  The anecdote makes it interesting, and the reflection makes it worthwhile. 

He talks about stories that have a decent anecdote, but no point, and conversely, boring stories that have an interesting reflection, and both of those stories should be killed.

“R., I think this is an okay anecdote, but no reflection.”

“Um, no, Mom. It’s a boring anecdote with no point.  You’ve got neither.”

I read it again, and think he’s sort of right.  I re-listen to Ira, explaining that you must be merciless in killing stories that don’t work.  I wonder why I’m drawn to the story about the jog through the neighborhood, and come up with this: it’s about how all these tiny, mundane, relatively unconnected little lives have interesting details that I intersect with in only the sparest of ways. 

Does CR really like the chair?  Is the senior Ms. Lovely likely to find Mr. Right?  Why does the well-put-together guy in the late model SUV rely on a random jogger for navigation?  These questions aren't fascinating, but they bring up that tender connected feeling of, huh, that’s what’s going on out there?  I had no idea.

In Part 4 of Ira Glass’s storytelling video, he talks about how for years, you’ll make crap, but you have to be patient, and keep working.  You’ll know it’s missing the mark, but you need to just keep at it, and not give up.  Yeah, what he said.


  1. Are you sure that well dressed guy in the SUV wasn't hitting on you, and you just missed it because of the pie?

  2. Maybe you and "R" can start an Ira Glass fan club... or just keep mentioning him in your blog so that if he googles his name (like I google mine all the time) he'll read your stuff. Then he'll want to hire you for NPR which would be awesome. Ira Glass... Ira Glass...Ira Glass...

  3. My head is spinning thinking about you reading a draft of a post about you reading a draft about a post to R...

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. http://tinyurl.com/betsy-no-cats

    here you go ......

  6. First of all I just want to say I'd join the Ira Glass club, I may just be the 3rd largest Ira Glass fan...but also maybe Barb has a point - have you ever heard that Birbiglia bit about how he has google notify him every time his name is blogged about? Maybe Ira has that going on, too...and now he'll see that his three largest fans are right here, under his nose!


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