Published on April 9th, 2015 | by M. Morford


What story would a drunken telegraph tell?

Overhead the drunken telegraph, telephone, and electric-light wires tangled on tottering posts whose butts were half whittled through by the knife of the loafer.“

In his book Coast to Coast, the 24 year old Rudyard Kipling perfectly captured Tacoma’s turn of the century, steampunk lumbersexual essence with its hills, trees, and mountains all framed by the soot, smoke and sounds of the railroads.

I felt an immediate resonance with the term “Drunken Telegraph,” and so did Megan Sukys and Tad Monroe, the founders and producers of Tacoma’s own live storytelling event known as Drunken Telegraph.

Nora Leider by S Haydon

“Nora Leider found her tribe, but had a hard time telling her straight-laced parents that she joined the urban missionary Catholic Workers.” photograph by Scott Haydon from the Drunken Telegraph facebook page

Throughout the United States of the 19th Century, the telegraph was the primary means of distance communications. In Tacoma, the lines crossed hills and valleys, mountain passes and waterways, on trees and haphazard poles. These wild, connective lines capture who we were then and who we are now: solid and rooted yet wobbly and reaching; proud of home yet ready to join the next gold rush.

The Drunken Telegraph storytelling sessions are not so different from Tacoma’s first precarious telegraph wires.

These ain’t TED Talks. Don’t expect to hear glowing reports from Nobel Prize winning, super-achiever, entrepreneur ultra-marathoners.

At the most recent Drunken Telegraph titled Members Only, I heard stories of discovery, recovery, bad decisions, horrible jobs, glorious misunderstandings and disastrous relationships.

These are stories of people you might have worked or gone to school with, they’re your neighbors, in-laws, or clerks at your local grocery store.

These stories are often the scraped and carefully hoarded fragments that make the crucial difference between survival and hurtling catastrophe. We rarely acknowledge how many of us are barely hanging on.

It is good to hear these voices (and in case you missed the show, you can catch up on the Drunken Telegraph blog).

Justin Wadland by S Haydon

“Justin Wadland endured a painful but writerly attack of full-body psoriasis while joining the published author’s club.” photograph by Scott Haydon from the Drunken Telegraph facebook page.

I love TED Talks, but I love even more the lessons learned from everyday disasters and rolling catastrophes. Abstractions like ‘good’ or ‘evil’ mean little until they are blow-torched, melted down and hammered into individual human existence. Their stories are fierce, erratic, and hopeful, stories of foolishness and discovery, stories that remind us how unique – yet similar – we all are.

The Drunken Telegraph storytellers show us that we will never stop learning and we will never get life exactly right. They immerse us in stories that remind us that our muddling is sometimes beautiful, often precarious and even transcendent.

We discover, or even define, ourselves by the stories we take in and share. And our listening can be as powerful as the telling.

If you want proof of the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction, be sure to catch these stories online  or in person. You just might find your own long lost story finally emerging.

Come and hear them – or better yet – bring your own story.

Follow Drunken Telegraph on twitter and facebook.

Featured image: “Ayme Art-Bergamot won the Story Slam with her tale of leaving a 25 year marriage and embracing her own unique identity.” Photograph by Scott Haydon from the Drunken Telegraph facebook page.

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About the Author

Writer, teacher, community story-teller, poet, advocate of the oddities of earthly existence. Scavenger of the unlikely.

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