Support comes from our sponsor, E Y.A. for more than twenty nine years, EIA and its affiliated companies have been developing new modern homes that offer life within walking distance across the Washington metro region. More at EIA dotcom slash PR X. The moth is brought to you by Progressive, one of the country's leading providers of auto insurance, with Progressive's name, your price tool, you say what kind of coverage you're looking for and how much you want to pay. And Progressive will help you find options that fit within your budget.
Use the name your price tool and start an online quote today at progressive dotcom pricing coverage match limited by state law. And keep listening at the end of the show today for a special bonus story made possible by progressive.
Hey, East Coast math listeners join us on Monday, March 22nd for the ultimate storytelling showdown. Our East Coast Grand Slam tellers will face off with stories about tipping points. You won't want to miss it by tickets at the moth mortgage events. This is the Moth Radio Hour from Prick's, and I'm Suzanne Rust. In this hour, stories about big reveals.
We'll be hearing from a young girl who discovers both her fragility and her strength, a reluctant middle school thespian and a woman with a rather curious hobby.
Sometimes it's good to start things at the ending, in this case, someone else's ending. Linda King told the story to slam a New York City when we partner with public radio station WNYC. Here's Linda live at the mall.
Well, good evening, all. You know, it may be hard for some of you to believe, but I love a good week.
Funerals not so much too much standing and kneeling and moaning and mumbling, but a good wake. You walk in, you sign the book at the back, you proceed to the front. You offer your sympathy to those on the first row. You view the deceased for maybe 15 seconds or so. Turn around and proceed to the rear where you get to catch up with all the people you haven't seen since the last week.
Now, I was parked across the street from Meccans funeral home in Island Park there a lot did not have one single space available there, the kind of place that has two, maybe three rooms, and they can have multiple bereavements at the same time. I was here because my friend Hilda's husband had died. Now, notice, I said died, not passed. People die. Kidney stones pass.
If you are lucky now, I didn't know Hilda's husband, I had never met him, I wouldn't have known him had I tripped over him, but I knew her. She was a friend.
And I think that the rituals of death are largely for the comfort of the living. So anyhow, I walk into the lobby and there she is sitting by herself. I walked up to her and we spoke for a couple of minutes. She said that the reason she was out there in the lobby was that his wake was so full of people, particularly his family, and it was getting very emotional and it was getting very warm in there. And she just needed some air to clear her mind a bit.
So we chatted again and she proceeded to move off down the center aisle to join her family. Mourners eye on the in the meantime, wandered around the lobby, picking up the fliers, the business cards. I was one time at a moratorium in Queens where they actually had postcards for you to pick up and send to somebody. What do you write on a postcard from a moratorium?
So so I moved to the rear, also went into the room on the right and signed the book, moved slowly to the front, express my condolences to the folks on the first row, although I didn't know any of them and proceeded to view the deceased. Now, I'm a woman of a certain age, retired, some people might say settled, but they'd be wrong.
Hilda was maybe 10, 15 years my junior and this fellow lying in the casket was 20 years younger than her. I thought to myself, go on, girl. Do you think? I think so. As I'm standing there respectfully for my 10 or 15 seconds, someone approaches me and it's a man about my own age.
And he says to me, Mrs. King, did you know him from the group? And I said, well, to tell the truth, I didn't know him at all. I'm a friend of his wife, Hilda's. The gentleman looked at me, sort of knit his brow, pursed his lips and said, Mrs. King, my son was not married.
And he looked at he said, I think you're in the wrong room.
Well, he looked at me and I looked at him and we started to snicker. Then it turned into giggles. And before it got to a raucous chuckle, I said to him, you know, I think I'd better move to the rear. It doesn't look right for the father of the deceased and some strange woman to be standing over the casket laughing.
So he thanked me for having made it a little the situation a little lighter.
And I did slide right to the back across the hall to Hilda's husband's wake.
That was Linda King since the pandemic hit, Linda has been hunkered down with her son in Long Beach.
I confess to Linda that I had some particular requests for my wake. I'd like the mourners to exit dancing until Sylvester's disco hit Mighty Real. And I'd like spicy margaritas served at the reception. So I asked her if she had any special request.
She said, I never left the 70s, so I'd like to have some good old Motown playing in the background. I'd like folks to enjoy themselves, maybe do the hokey pokey. I want to leave them laughing. We. I got Simone de Beauvoir once wrote, One is not born, but rather becomes a woman, that road can be beautiful, but it's often tricky to navigate. The world isn't always the safest place for young women. And the moment we first realize that can be Eye-Opening and humbling.
Our next storyteller, Aisha Rodriguez, shared such a revelation at a moth education showcase in New York. Here's Aisha. At 12 years old, being a girl man, being one of the boys, him in the course ahead in the books, you can never catch me thinking. And part of this man having this big group of guy friends to protect me, even though I was a good footballer the most, that I'm a better ballplayer than half of them.
But, you know, we really we stayed together and they have my back. And part of this was we thought we ran the streets, but we ran student council.
We didn't really know nothing more than the school in the schoolyard, but one day things changed. We wanted to expand the horizons, go to another ballpark and, you know, part of this was going out later and farther and being the girl. My family was difficult in this sense because I was always home getting my work together, you know, keep it together because you're the youngest girl. And I told my mom, like, oh, mommy, mommy, can I please go with Madison and Lisa?
Jessica. And really, I was with Justin, Kevin, Jeremy.
And but somehow I got out and I was so happy. And we're at this new park a couple of blocks further than the last one. And we're thinking like, yo, we run these streets, man, but it's starting to get later and later. And I'm realizing like, oh, man, I lied. I'm going to get in trouble. My mom doesn't know who I'm with. Like, there was nothing worse than getting in trouble. So I told my friends the star had at home, you know, Wesley Snipes middle of the night.
And because it's all to they're like, yeah, you said, let's go. So we're walking home. And the way it works is that I live the farthest from the park and each avenue a different friend lives. So we're dropping off one by one and ends of me, Justin and Kevin. And I'm starting really to panic like I'm lying. I'm like, I'm supposed to be home and ready. I'm going to get in trouble. I'm going to die, like I say.
And as I'm starting to have this panic attack, my phone starts to vibrate in my pocket and I take it out and it says, Mom, who I mentioned is my grandma.
And I call her mom and I pick up ready like, oh, mommy, mommy, I'm on my way home. And she stops me and she goes, I don't come home in. The car drops. And I'm really starting to think, man, the road is over as I know it. And little did I know I was right. So I take the phone back out and I dialed my house and I'm ready with the same spiel. And I tell her, like, Mommy, Mommy, I'm on my way home.
She stops me again and goes, Iesha, don't come home. Someone got raped in the elevator. In the coal jobs yet again, and here I'm starting to get real scared and I'm thinking, man, that could have been me if I was home on time doing the right thing. If I was there, that could have been me and my two friends looking at me kind of worried and asking what happened. And when I saw them, they look at me like that's what you're scared of.
And this was when I realized I'm the girl of the group. Like, they can only protect me so much, but they walk me home and my grandma comes down to take over this, protect the role and she's ready to go. How about that, John Glenn? Does he talk?
And she also she's also very like she's just writing and she holds something out and it's a metal succubus and she goes, Iesha, protect yourself.
So I take it not really sure what I'm supposed to do with that.
And we go to the deli, you know, the sassily legal one that's always doing something wrong. But it's your was OK. And when we saw him, what happens? He also looks at me like, man, that could have been you. He reaches down, take something out and he holds it out and it's a switchblade and he tells me, protect yourself. So now I got a switchblade in one hand, turkey based on the other.
And I kind of shoved both of them in my pockets like, yo, it was more subtle than this.
And I'm still really panicking, like, man, I'm get in trouble.
There's cops everywhere. And I didn't want to run the streets like this, but I go home and I'm still thinking like this could have been me. And I'm starting to realize is a world bigger than just getting in trouble. And fast forward, I'm in school and I'm thinking I'm bad. I'm one of my friends like you. I got a switchblade, you know, like I'm boss.
And my teacher starts all over here and she goes, Aissa. Oh, well, does that. And it's like, oh, I have a switchblade.
And she gives me the same look like something's about to happen. I'm scared. I'm going get in trouble.
I always do the right thing, but I get in trouble and she stops me and she goes, Aisha, if you ever had to go for the eyes of the jugular and I'm thinking, damn, I can get my store, my Capri Sun, like, how am I supposed to defend myself?
But. But after this moment, I started to realize being a girl meant taking that psyche based, they're taking a switchblade, taking literally anything in front of you to protect yourself because the world won't do it for you.
Thank you. That was Aisha Rodriguez, a college junior who lives in Harlem to see photos of Aisha and her mom go to the mall, dawg. Coming up after the break, reluctant thespians when the Moth Radio Hour continues. The Moth Radio Hour is produced by Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and presented by PUREX, The Moth is supported by Monday.
Dotcom here at the Moth are podcast team is working on a lot of new and exciting things. And Monday, Dotcom is helping us stay organized. Monday Dotcom Work Ossy is a customizable platform that makes it easy to plan projects, give feedback and decide next steps all in one place. Whether you're a small operation or a global organization, create the perfect workflow for your team. With Monday dotcom work ossy to start your free 14 day trial, go to Monday Dotcom.
You're listening to the Moth Radio Hour from Prick's, I'm Suzanne Rust. In this hour, Big reveals all the world's a stage, especially when you're middle school. Our next storyteller, Meredith Morrison, shared this story at an open mic slam in New York City, where we partner with public radio station WNYC. Here's Meredith.
So the day that I was born ended my sister's four year one woman show and unknown to me at the time, it also began my very lengthy audition for the important role of supporting actress in her show.
The trouble was, I was not what she envisioned for this very important role in her life. She had Tea Parties. I played tea ball.
She liked to arrive late to parties to, you know, have a grand entrance. I like to arrive early so that I could know where the exits and the bathrooms were at all times.
For Halloween. She was Cinderella. I was the pumpkin.
And she very much was a performer and was comfortable on the stage. And I preferred to be in the audience.
That was until one fateful day in eighth grade of all the grades middle school. It's a time to really go out on a limb.
My two best friends, Megan, Kristen Hagans, the twins, they were in fact, twins. That wasn't like a weird thing. I just called them, came over to my house and they rang the doorbell and I opened it and they're like. We're trying out for the musical, and I was like, that is great for you guys. That sounds really awesome. Like I'll be there. Let me know what it is.
And they're like, no, no, we are trying out for the musical, the three of us. And I was like, no, that's not actually going to happen, but thank you for thinking of me. And they kindly reminded me that I owed them one because I made them join the bowling team with me. And so they were like, listen, as a fellow pinhead, you have to commit to this.
And I was like, all right, I'll do you guys a solid like I'll be your third.
That way you can audition and get in and all that good stuff. So we practice, we go to the audition. It happens, you know, the next day at school, we're waiting for the list to be posted, whether or not we get called back for it for a larger part.
So we run to the list and we see all three of our names are on it. And unfortunately, my overachieving self is like, well, I can't quit, my name's on the thing, I need to show up, I have to do it.
So we go the next day to know I'm sorry.
First I go and talk to my sister. So I open the door to my sister's room and it's almost like she's set up like a in her own bedroom, like one of those where you had the lights, like she's backstage on Broadway.
It's just like her. It's already there.
And every time I entered, I feel like she was always like, yes.
And so I enter and, you know, I'm standing in the doorway waiting for her permission and her acknowledgment and I was like, Jen, like I got I got a callback for the musical.
And she's like, Really? All right, you'll be fine.
Don't worry. I'm sure they bring a lot of people back. It's middle school.
You know, I was like, OK, thanks, appreciate it. So I read over the script and I found this character. It was The Pajama Game. And so I found this character.
I was like, Poopsie, this is who I want to play. She has 15 lines, like enough to be like a part of it. So I might be memorable, but not enough where there's a large amount of responsibility. So it's like, all right, I'm going for Poopsie. She's my girl. She's a good time. That's what I'm going for. So we go to the the lead callbacks and they give me the script and like we want you to read for Babe Williams.
I was like, I know that role. She has over 200 lines and she's a part of eight out of the 12 musical numbers, two of which are solos. And I'm like, this is my nightmare.
This is not who I want. I read as babe.
And then I go home again, going to my sister's room and she's on her bed, had to go and I was like, Jen, I don't know what to do. They had me read for Babe. And she's like, Who is this babe?
And I said, Well, she is the lead. She was like like the lead of as a yes. And she's like, well, they just do that, Meredith.
OK, Jen, she's like, though they'll have you read for these larger characters, but you could end up getting cast for smaller role. It's fine. Relax, Whoopi. I was like, OK, good. I was like, I want Poopsie.
She's like, I'm sure you'll be Poopsie if you even just sounds like a perfect role for your first venture into this, you know, because she's a seasoned thespian at 14.
So it is the fateful day where they're going to post that final cast list.
We all gather we're waiting for the director who's the band teacher to post the cast list on the auditorium doors and me, Megan, Kristen, the twins are eagerly waiting and the crowd sort of starts to start.
And I see people starting to like, look at me, which was not normal. I was kind of awkward. Like, I like to blend in. So I start obviously at the bottom of the cast list because that's me. I'm like Poopsie, my girl. She's down here and I see Poopsie, Lauren Wilkinson. I'm like, well, that's not me. Who's this? And I continue looking at the list. And then I finally get to the very top.
Babe Williams next to it is Meredith Morrison and I start sobbing.
The band director thought I was so overwhelmed with just like how excited I was. She comes over, she's like, Oh, you're babe, how do you feel? And want me? They want to poopsie.
And she's like, This is the reaction I was thinking you were going to have. And she's like, you know what? Go home, think about it, and then come back tomorrow and let me know if this is something you really want to do.
So I go, of course, to my sister's room. I open the door and she's like, she's waiting for me every single time. And she's like, so was it posted? And I said, it was. And then I start crying and she's like, oh, you didn't make it, you didn't get in. I go, No, John, I got the lead.
She's like, what, the lead, babe? And I was like, Yes, I'm going to be playing Babe.
And she is like, OK. All right, she's like, well, where's your script? And I was like, I don't know if I want to do it. And she was like. Think about it. And I did and I looked at I like, you know what, I don't want to do it, but I think I have to. And so on opening night, I had my Britney Spears mike I'm very excited about and the curtain opens and I walk out to start the play and I look out into the audience and I see Jen, my toughest critic, sitting front row with a bouquet of flowers, ready to congratulate me.
Thank you. That was Meredith Morrison, an educator who lives in Maine with her girlfriend and their growing menagerie of cats, the role of Bay was her first and last foray onto the middle school stage. I asked her how her off off off Broadway debut of Pajama Game went, and she said about as well as you might think, an eighth grade musical at peak puberty and middle school awkwardness could go.
Her sister, Jen, on the other hand, went on to become an actress and casting director. I was curious if getting the lead role made Meredith want to play less of a supporting role in real life.
Playing Baby Williams helped me to realize the importance of putting myself out there, which is something that I've spent the last decade or so hoping to instill in the students that I've had the honor of serving as either a teacher or their school principal. Babe also provided me a glimpse into my sister's world and an opportunity to connect with her and understand her more through doing something that she loved so much.
To see photos of Meredith in The Pajama Game, go to the mall, dawg. We like our women wise at The Moth. And our next storyteller, Betty Reid Soskin, a 99 year old phenomenon, more than fits that bill. Betty's story takes place when she was a young wife and mother in California, and it was recorded a live performance at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. Here's Betty Reid Soskin.
Thank you very much. The year was 1953. And my young husband and I now by then.
Were parents of three, children of two and one on the way, we'd reached the place where we were about to make the decision, a building, a home.
Where we were going to locate that home had some problems every Sunday afternoon, we would drive out to Mel's father's parents place that was about 30 miles out from the San Francisco Bay Area into the suburbs where they had a little truck garden where they kept two horses.
The children would ride, but we would pass through, separate out a small suburban area between two cities, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, California.
There we found a lot. There was an old concrete swimming pool in the middle of it. I think it had been a recreation area at some point, but there were orchards, there were oak trees. It was bordered by creek. It was just exactly what we wanted. Except for the fact that we were African-American. And we were contemplating building a home in the segregated white suburbs. We did that. We did it feeling that we were entitled to do this.
We got a white person. Who is married to my friends to make the purchase? A Quaker, the Smith who's an architect who's willing to design her home. And we proceeded to do that. But being African-Americans. In a restricted area. We were going to be subject to death threats for five years. During the period. Of the construction, we had to make decisions. We had an eight year old, a third grader. Who had to be enrolled in school?
Decision to enter into school was made simply because had we gone into the fall, he would have his education would be interrupted in the local school where he was attending as a third grader. But if he rode out with his father.
Every day onto the site above the house had been constructed to drop him off into the lion's den of the school. Where he would be the only black child, we were the only family, the only family of color in the entire valley at the time. We had no idea. That Rick would be subject. The target. Of those. Dinnertime conversations that were unmitigated bigotry in the presence of white children by their parents.
And that they would act out that hatred on the school grounds against my child. We wouldn't know that until much later. We did make some friends, a couple of friends, one was Mary Ann Paulsen, who had bought a lot with her psychiatrist husband because we were there. She was progressive. And Betsy Gilbert, a Mormon, six foot tall pioneer woman across the street. These are our friends. As the house was under construction. A strange thing began to happen, I would be sitting in my car at the end of the day.
Just about dusk. Sitting in the garden in the summer heat, watching the street, listening to the frogs, listening to the crickets, trying to get used to being in this area, and each day, almost without question, some neighbor would walk down the street with stop at the car, would say. I am, and they get me their names. I hope you'll be happy here. At the same time, the improvement association was meeting and we were getting vicious letters threatening to burn the lumber as fast as we could stack it to do the construction on the house.
There's a very, very strange thing, because it seemed to me that what people could do collectively, few could do individually. Because almost every one of those neighbors stopped by at some point. One day, Marion Paulsen, who had been to Sam's market down by the creek. Came home, pounded on my door. I read she was holding a poster in her hand announcing a minstrel show at the school. A minstrel show. Any of you can remember or are aware was a form of Indochine entertainment that took place during reconstruction.
It was always white folks pretending to be black folks.
And they were always created in ridicule of African-Americans or people of color. But this minstrel show. Was being put on by the PGA is a fundraiser at the school that my child was a single black student.
Marion. In Fury said, you must do something. I hadn't a clue. Of how we confront this, I lived with it for about 24 hours. I didn't know how to explain it to my children. It was something that was alien to my lifetime, I had grown up in California. And the day before, that minstrel show was to be held. One day after Marion's announcement. I got into my car, drove me to school, not having a clue as to what I was going to say.
My breath was being. Yes, doubt. The lump in my throat threatened to smother me. And as I neared the school, panic set in. But I got out, parked my car, walked into the principal's office down the hall. He was present. He was out on the playground, I suppose, but his costume was hanging over the doorway.
Big blousy black pants, a white shirt. I suppose it was a bandana, a tie with red polka dots, a kinky wig. Those on his desk. I sat and wondered what I would say. And suddenly. There he was coming down the hallway. And is he caught sight of me? He turned on his heel to walk away. And to his credit, he turned back after about five feet. And he came into the office, he proceeded.
And then the words begin to flow. And I said, you know, this is wrong. And there was a pause and then he said, But not until I saw you there. But I don't know why. A very clear. That he really didn't know why. Then he said, you know, Mrs. Reed, we love colored people.
In fact, we are only showing how happy go lucky they are.
And I said, But do I look happy? Go lucky.
And he said no. And I can see the pain in his face. And suddenly the words begin to flow and I said, you cannot do this because as educators.
As educators, you have no right. But I'll tell you what. It's too late now. Your show is only 24 hours away, and I will insist that tonight at your dress rehearsal. You explain my visit to your staff. Tell them what I've told you. And I said, and I will be in the audience tomorrow evening. I went home next day, Bessie Gilbert and I went over. Early. SAT front row center. And made them perform the entire ugly show in our presence with tears streaming.
It was a miserable evening, I'm not sure what we accomplished. I've never known. But I do know that that was when I came into my being. As a resident of that community. And I don't know what we accomplish because within a week. At Sam's Market, there was a poster announcing the Aunt Jemima pancake feed coming up within three weeks. Thank you very much. That was the one and only Betty Reid, Suskin Betty lives in Richmond, California, you may have noticed that Betty tells us that a white friend had to handle the transaction for the purchase of her home.
Betty's story takes place in the mid 1950s prior to the California Fair Housing Act of 1966 and the Federal Fair Housing Act. Those were laws which prohibited discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of housing.
Before that, all bets were off.
Betty says that even after over six decades, she is still dealing with the traumatic effects from the years of death threats that her family received for choosing to live in their dream home.
While on stage, minstrel shows basically died out somewhere, the 1920s blackface lived on in the movies and beyond. Regrettably, to the present day where whites in blackface still resurface. I checked in with Betty via email.
She told me that she had a stroke last year and that since then she's just trying to live life one day at a time. But that life has been very rich.
Betty became a park ranger in Richmond at the age of 85, making her the oldest active ranger with the National Park Service. Prior to that, Detroit born Betty has been a songwriter and author and a civil rights activist. Betty's great grandmother was born into slavery in 1846. Betty actually knew her, and at one time, Betty, her mother, her grandmother and her great grandmother all lived together under one roof for generations of powerful women. When Betty was a guest at the Obama White House, she held her photo of her great great grandmother tucked into her breast pocket to see photos of Betty, her family and their California home go to the morgue.
Coming up next, spinning wheels and busting moves when the moth radio hour continues. The Moth Radio Hour is produced by Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and presented by PRICK'S.
In twenty 21, it's finally OK to talk about our mental health, but what is therapy? It's whatever you want it to be. Maybe you're feeling insecure in relationships or at work or not very motivated right now. Whatever you need, it's time to stop being ashamed of normal human struggles and start feeling better because you deserve to be happy. Better help is customized online therapy that offers video phone and even live chat sessions. Plus, it's more affordable than in-person therapy, but just as effective.
See if it's for you. This podcast is sponsored by Better Help and the listeners get 10 percent off their first month at better help. Dotcom mothe. That's better h e l.p. Dotcom mothe. This is the Moth Radio Hour from Prick's. I'm Suzanne Rust and this episode we're featuring stories about big reveals those moments with an element of surprise. Jason Nunez told this next story at a Moth High School showcase in Brooklyn. Here's Jason. All right, all right, all right, all right.
Yeah, OK, so it was two weeks before my birthday and I'm sitting in my room thinking of what I wanted as a gift. And this wasn't going to be no ordinary gift because I was turning seven. And, you know, turning seven is a really big deal for me because seven is basically ten times basically a teenager, teenagers, basically an adult. So, you know, like adults do. I wanted to get that one expensive present that was going to last me a long time, not like a toy set that I would play with for two months.
And then next thing you know, it's collecting dust in my closet. So I go up to my parents and I'm like, hey, can go to Toys R US. So the next day we go to Toys R US and, you know, they're showing me all these toys. It's like these jigsaw puzzles, action figures and like everything and nothing was really catching my eye. So, you know, I kind of wandered away. And when I wandered away, I found myself in the bike aisle and it was just like immediate.
I look up at least 20, 30 feet and I see the beautiful bumblebee yellow Hummer bike with Matlack tire seat and handlebars.
And it was like those scenes in the movies where it's like you in that one thing in a dark room and a light shining on it, you know, kind of like right now. And like my feet were gravitating towards it, but my legs weren't moving. And there was even like this angelic music in the background, like all I heard was.
And I've had my sister's bike, I've had my brother's bike, I've even had my dad's bike, which is like falling to bits and pieces at this point. So I run straight to my parents and I'm like, hey, hey, hey. Like, this is the bike that I want.
And I show them I'm like pointing straight up. And then they're looking up, looking at me, looking at each other, look back up like and we'll think about it. And I was like, I'm just telling them, like, this has to be it. Even though I knew it was expensive because it was on the high, high shelf and like it was one of those bikes you had to, like, contact the front desk for.
So, yeah, they're like, sure, we'll think about it. And I go home. And finally my birthday comes. And on my birthday, unfortunately, it was on a Monday, so I had to go to school. So I went to school, came back home, and we're doing all the normal birthday things like they're singing Happy Birthday. Like I'm opening gifts from my brother and my sister. And then we eat dinner. And then my dad finally comes up to me and he's like, Hey, we have a surprise for you.
And I'm like a surprise for me. Like, what's the occasion? You know, he nods off my sarcasm and he's like, he brings me to the backyard. And the funny thing about our backyard is we have this, like, really heavy metal door and it has like five locks on it.
So he's like unlocking the top lock in the middle, lock in the other middle lock.
And then he finally swings the huge door open.
And there it is, the beautiful bumblebee yellow Hummer bike with Matt Black Tire Seat and handlebars. And I was in complete all like, I'm going straight to the bike.
I'm like adjusting the seat for when I was going to ride it, I was touching the tires, making sure there's enough air, adjusting the gears. And I was just, you know, feeling all over the frame. And I literally picked up the bike and I was about to leave. And my dad looks at me. He's like, where are you going? I'm like, going to bike ride. And he's like, no, it's like eight p.m..
You're seven years old, not going to happen. And, you know, I was crushed, but of course, I could wait and I did wait. So the next day is Tuesday, the day after. That's Wednesday and Thursday. And each single day I'm like opening the curtains to our backyard. And I'm looking at that bike and I'm like, oh, coming Friday.
I mean, you're going to have a really good experience. Like, we're going to go everywhere. I was planning on, like going on the highway. I was going to go to Central Park. I was going to, you know, do everything. And the reason I kind of thought about that was because in my neighborhood, Washington Heights, it's really common for a lot of kids to bike around and like a group and they would do wheelies and all kinds of tricks.
And I want it to be one of those kids. I thought that was so cool. But of course, I was seven and I definitely didn't know how to do any wheelies.
But that's why I wanted to ride the bike so much. And, you know, Friday finally came and I had to go to school and I came home like a man on a mission. And I threw my bags down and I went straight to the backyard, top, lock, middle, like other metal lock, swing the door open.
And when I swing the door open, it wasn't there. And I was really confused. I was like, well, what's going on? Like, what kind of joke is this? And I look around for a little bit and then I go to my dad and I'm like, So where's the bike? And he's like, it should be out there. It's been there all week. And when he said that, I was like, it's not there right now.
Like, we should go look for it. And, you know, my mom and dad are really well known in the neighborhood. So they asked around and they talked to people and they were saying if like anybody knew or had seen the bike and we even like hop in our car and we're driving around for like two hours and like so, you know, two weeks pass. And it was really starting to settle that like my bike was going to be gone forever.
And it it hurt me. But it really brought me back to a time when my dad at first teach had for first taught me how to ride a bike. I was around four or five years old and he took me to the park on a summer evening and he was pushing me along for a little bit. And then he finally decides to let go. Of course, I didn't notice and I'm paddling for a little bit. And then he says, like from a distance, from a distance, he's like, you're doing it like this is you like you're doing it by yourself.
And I look down, I'm like, oh, this is so much better than walking.
Like, I'm going so fast. And then, you know, I proceed to like, faceplant and everything, like cuts on my knees and stuff. And my dad's really big on metaphors. So he's like, you know, what just happened? You just fell in life is going to do that to you a lot. So no matter how many times life knocks you down, you got to just get right back up. And that's what I did. A couple of days later, I called up a couple of my friends, grabbed one of my hand-me-down bikes, and we went bike riding together.
We went throughout the city.
I didn't pop any wheelies because I still don't have that kind of skill. Fast forward to about two years ago, I actually ended up getting my own bike, which my dad bought me. It's not yellow. It's black, it's electric and it does a job.
And I still fall off that bike, but I get right back up.
Thank you. That was Jason Nunez and no, he never saw his beloved birthday bike again. Jason is currently a student at Ithaca College. He loves playing basketball and, yes, riding his bike. And he has finally mastered the art of handsfree biking. Our final story takes place in Mumbai, but it was told at a Moth Grandslam in Chicago where we partner with public radio station would be easy, Piers, to test jugging live at the mall. The first time my mother saw me break dancing, she almost threw up to make it less humiliating.
I mean, this incident in reverse. My mother runs into my room, there's a left foot shaped hole in my glass window, my body's upside down, I say to myself, this should be easy.
I watch a hip hop dance video.
She did not see a pretty sight, this was in 2009 in India, where there was no break dancing. This modern American art was practiced there by puberty, hit early adopters of Internet. I remember staying up late, late in the night to chat with dances in America to learn some techniques.
Then back to practicing in my living room amidst a small audience of broken furniture and a horrified mother, this soon led me to connect with other eccentric losers in my city.
And together, we started making a fool of ourselves in full public view, contorting our bodies and suffering juvenile bald patches from head spins.
True to tradition, we would practice on the sidewalks startling morning joggers with James Brown screaming, get up off of that thing on the boombox.
But I lacked the deep cultural understanding that American breakdancers had. I wanted to swim and all that was given to me was a petri dish.
A friend suggested that the best way to learn something new is to teach it to someone else. So I landed volunteer work at this obscure little village called Bangun Wadi.
The little village was Mumbai's largest dumping ground. I did not expect to even smile for the rest of the day, but 30 children. They're waiting eagerly to impress their new dance instructor in the class. There was laughter and tumbling and flip flops flying across the room. It was like I was witnessing the world congealing here are kids from the streets of Mumbai emulating kids from the streets of Brooklyn, they would build their hearts to the side and ask me if they were hip hop enough.
And I told them, you have more street cred than my middle class ass could ever dream of achieving.
I stayed on and after two years decided to organize dontcha choreographed on a nice rap song. And a week before the show, 12 year old Samir came up to me and said, Teacher. We are memorizing the dance sequence. Not on the words of the song, but the sound of the words. And I thought, of course you are see, the kids understood some English, but it was too much for them, they couldn't distinguish one word from another.
And then he made a suggestion that blew me away. He said, how about we break dance? On a Bollywood song. The purists in me said, no, that is disrespectful. But the pragmatic choreographer in me, who had six days left for the show said what?
And I think that we changed everything and that was the most underpressure fun we have ever had. Day of the performance, the audience has no clue that what they're about to witness has simply never existed before.
Breakdance on Bollywood music, also in Bollywood costumes.
The crowd was stunned. They whistled and clapped and sang along in the audience. I thought to myself, this is either blasphemy. Or the genius of children. They. Took what was given to mean to them, and instead of adapting to the art, we made the art adapt to our existing lifestyle and in doing so, made it our own.
This is what was missing in my own practice. And the kids put it neatly in perspective for me. From then on, we had regular practices and Bollywood songs, we wore whatever we were comfortable in. Today here in America, when I see kids breakdowns, I think of the connection that they have with children across the world.
In the slums of Mumbai. And invisible solidarity through street art. Thank you. But Gitesh Jogi is a recent immigrant from India and a two time moth story slam winner. He currently resides in Chicago.
Gitesh ended his career in finance one day when he lost all the data that he forgot to save on an Excel sheet and realized that he just didn't care. That tipping point led him to becoming a writer, and he is currently working on a book of essays. Gitesh can still do most of his moves, but confesses that he has grown a little rusty. He says that his house has creaky wood floors, so there's always the chance of his downstairs neighbors thinking that there are six kids wrestling upstairs, even though it's just him break dancing by himself.
To see photos of Gitesh breakdancing, go to the morgue.
That's it for this episode of The Moth Radio Hour. We hope you'll join us next time.
Your host this hour with Suzanne Rust, the most senior curatorial producer, Mark Bowles, directed the stories in the show with additional coaching from Vera Carruthers, Catherine McCarthy, Lauren Gonzalez and Michelle Tulowitzki.
The rest of the most directorial staff includes Kathryn Burns, Sara Haberman, Sara Los Angeles and Jennifer Hudson. Production support from Emily Couch. Most stories are true, is remembered and affirmed by the storytellers. Our theme music is by the drift. Other music in this hour from Sister Sledge, Julie in Large Blue Dots sessions, Keith Jarrett and Punjabi emcee. You can find links to all the music we use at our Web site. The Moth Radio Hour is produced by me, Jay Allison with Viki Merrick at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
This hour was produced with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. Moth Radio Hour is presented by PUREX for more about our podcast. For information on pitching us your own story and everything else, go to our Web site, The Moth Dog.
Would you like to spend the day listening to stories that celebrate the radiance of women and girls, then join us at Jump at the Sun, the Moth Mainstage on March 20th, live from Kenya. Watch and listen as Kenyan storytellers share stories of bringing their true selves to life in celebration of International Women's Day and Women's History Month. The evening is hosted by activist and moth storyteller Adele Onyango. Buy tickets now at the Mofongo International Mainstage.