February 9, 2015
(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th year where I write and illustrate a blog on each day's gift.)
Stoop Storytelling has become a Baltimore tradition. We were at Center Stage tonight with daughter FL to hear stories. As we walked into the lobby, our friend Joe Challmes, previous five-time storyteller on the stage, was there in his wheelchair and I greeted him with a kiss, his gray beard brushing my cheek. He usually attended the shows to hear seven storytellers and three audience members whose names are drawn during intermission.
The Stoop Storytelling series bases its concept on summer days and nights of long ago, before air conditioning, when neighbors sat outside on their front stoops and talked with one another. This is one of my fond childhood memories from Lyndale Avenue in Baltimore. Although this scene is not so common today with TV and air conditioning pulling people inside, stories remain as the fabric of family life. One of our many family stories goes back to when FL was around eleven years old and one of our cats had disappeared. After two days of searching, we accidentally found her trapped in FL’s closed dresser drawer. Any cat cries had been muffled by clothing heaped in a solidly built This End Up dresser. Stories that repeat themselves become traditions, part of the glue that binds families together. Our daughters remember the “face plates” their father always made for them, breakfast plates served with sliced banana eyes, a strawberry nose and bacon moustache, curly yellow scrambled egg hair.
Our friend Joe always had stories to tell, like when he lived under a shopping center with his son and young friends, some of them homeless, or when he won big at the racetrack, or his strategy in poker tournaments. His voice conveyed enthusiasm as he shared with his friends. Even when he lost his leg several years ago, he continued to shower us with stories and his booming laughter was infectious. “I’m the happiest one-legged man you’ll ever know,” he told us. I told him that he was my role model as I cope with bad knees.
Addendum: An early morning call Tuesday brought us sad news that Joe had died of a heart attack as he left Center Stage last night and became the unofficial last story for the night. For sure, his many friends will continue a tradition of Joe stories. It is so appropriate that Joe will live on in the tradition of storytelling.
> DAY 63 Sometimes Outrageous
You can read my other posts on this project here:
Listen to Joseph Challmes on stage at Stoop Storytelling:
A tale of hitting it big at the Belmont and winning the money to buy a farm took place on Nov. 10, 2008, in a cameo appearance as an audience storyteller for a show titled "Money Changes Everything."
June 1, 2009 - "Good Sport: Stories about winning, losing, and everything in between":
July 25, 2012 - "Scars":
October 4, 2011 - "Scaling the Mountain: Stories of resilience, determination, and battling the odds." Joe spoke about losing a leg to an aneurysm and gangrene complications a year earlier, and how he walked into Camden Yards for an Orioles game the next season.
Feb. 11, 2011 - "Gimme shelter: Stories about finding, creating, and losing a home": http://www.stoopstorytelling.com/storytellers/982
February 11, 2014 - Joe Challmes in SpeakeasyDC's Full House- Kids not Kittens At My Doorstep -http://youtu.be/71047blHMLM
Walking again into Camden Yards to watch the Orioles--a challenge