Fray Day 8!
By Cindy Bailey 11.13.04
Photos by Charlene Wright

I first heard about Fray Day ( ) through our own Wayman Barnes, who featured at the annual event just last month in Los Angeles. When I learned there would be a Fray Day in San Francisco on Saturday, November 13 at the Swedish American Hall (above the popular Café du Nord), and in fact that was the original one, I had to go.

As the website explains, “The fray organization is devoted to the art of the personal story.” So Fray Day is not about performing or reading poetry, necessarily, it's about telling your own true stories in your own way, ideally, without memorization or notes. “This is not an elitist event,” Fray founder, Derek Powazek explains. “It's just story-telling. Be authentic. “ He feels it's better if you mess up than look at your notes.

I like that attitude. Indeed the whole evening had a comfortable, intimate, in-your-living-room feel to it, even though the place was packed.

Derek Powazek did a fabulous job organizing and emceeing the whole event. Blending ten open mic storytellers in with the four featured performers and two musical guests, he gave us an evening of balanced variety and engaging entertainment.

Powazek himself kicked off Fray Day 8 with his own two-part story of becoming a vegetarian. At this year's event, he also introduced the “Boa of Shame,” a friendly, but not-so-subtle method of letting a storyteller know his/her time was up. It worked, because no one ended up having to wear the embarrassing, bright, red feathery boa.

First up was musician/singer-songwriter, Goh Nakamura, telling his own stories on acoustic guitar, “Embarcadero Blues” among them. Beautiful. Sweet without being sentimental. He set the tone for the evening.

Afterwards, open mic'er, Jish Mukerji, a regular fray storyteller, started the stories by telling about an Internet date that went very, very, very, very – well. After all the self-deprecations (“she must not know how to say no”), the story ends in a proposal, and guess what? Jish will be married two weeks after Fray Day!

Feature, Kevin Smokler, spoke of helping to marry gay couples at City Hall; Emily Ostendorf talked about beauty pageants and feminism; Susan McNeece told of having drifted out to sea during Shark Rodeo Week; and feature, Jack Boulware, co-founder of Litquake, shared a “holiday” story about his normally restrained mother having too many Cutty Sharks and vomiting over the restaurant table. Really, Jack, did you have to go into all that detail about the actual vomit? No wonder he leaves such lasting impressions at Fray Day.

The hilarious Kirk Read, also a feature, entertained with a story of a sex trick turned religious experience at the Fairmont Hotel, and still, there were more stories from open mic'ers.

But by far the most hilarious, entertaining story of the evening (in my opinion, anyway) was Beth Lisick's tale of donning a banana suit for money. Lisick, co-founder of the Porch Light storytelling series and also a Fray Day feature, told us, “I had a good week. I sold some coats … about $30… went to CoinStar … more money… was in a cheap check cashing movie …$150!, and now I was going to be a banana for $45.“ She went on to say, “I'm 35. I'm a mom. I'm embarrassed for the people seeing me.” Lisick expressed herself in animated gestures, demonstrating the enthusiasm that took hold, once the banana suit was on, and showing us what a banana looks like drinking a beer in a bar while a guy hits on her.

Another outstanding performance tucked between storytellers came from Kid Beyond ( ), a Beatboxer with an unusual talent. He makes incredible hip-hop style music using only his voice. I had never seen anything like it – and I don't think the crowd had either. We gave him a standing ovation.

Powazek ended the evening with part two of his story, and sadly, it was over.

Earlier, Powazek told me, “Each year, I think this is the year no one will show up, and the opposite happens.” Of course! People love stories, telling them and hearing them. And now Fray Day happens in cities around the globe. Next year, try to catch one in your city.

Over and out for now. Cindy