I had the honor of performing in The Moth’s GrandSLAM back in January at the Highline Ballroom here in New York City. The night’s theme was “Into the Wild.” Naturally, I told another story about the brief period of time I spent working as an assistant to a kangaroo shooter in the Australian Outback.
I’ve been to that well before, and I think I’ve about beat that thing to death by now. Still, I’m glad I was able to squeeze another story out of it.
It’s not every day that a giant lizard tries to eat your blood-soaked pants. And the opportunity to talk about having a giant lizard steal my pants on a kangaroo shooting trip doesn’t really come up in conversation at the office all that much either.
So I’m really glad I got to use that little gem for something. I’ve probably forced it a few times too many over the years.
The Moth was awesome enough to include my story in their podcast today, too. I’ve wanted to make their podcast for years, and it’s a pretty huge honor. I feel like running down the hall at work high-fiving people, but I’m pretty sure that opportunity’s not going to present itself either.
Here’s a video of me telling that story from today’s Moth podcast at the January GrandSLAM, in case you’re stumbling in off the Internet and wondering if I am, in fact, a bald-headed white dude with glasses and a suit:
If you want to see more stories, you can do that here, here, and here.
I have a much more noticeable Southern accent in that story than I normally do. That’s because I had more bourbon in me than I usually do, too. The Virginia accent is milder than an Alabama twang but excitement, fun and booze will bring it right on out.
I have two rules for myself when I’m doing a show:
1) No more than two or three drinks max before telling a story
2) If someone buys me a drink, always say yes. They’re wishing well, and it’s a kind gesture
As you can see, there was a bit of a conflict. One sniff of a bartender’s rag and grits would have started shooting out of my pores.
I struggle a little bit, too, with the way that I’ve personified “Craig,” the ‘roo shooter in these stories. I make him sound like a really gruff, caustic jerk. That is not so much an inaccurate description as it is incomplete. There’s a lot more to him than than a five-minute story can really convey.
While he is perfectly capable of cussing a buzzard off a shit-wagon, he also has a huge, generous heart. The way that he talked about his kids, his excitement about having his first grandchild and his tremendous love of the land didn’t really fit into either story, but those are just as important as his sporadic torrents of emasculating verbal abuse.
He took me into his home before we went on the trip, worked around my general cluelessness, kept me alive in some of the most brutal climate on Earth and tipped me out extra for a job well done at the end of the gig. I learned a lot about how to get tough real, real fast from that guy. Pretty much everything I’ve done since has been easier or at least more manageable.
And he was pretty much fine with me telling stories about it, I think.
If you imagine Jeff Bridges’ character in “True Grit” transplanted into Mad Max, you’d pretty much have him, actually. He’s the toughest guy on earth. And you just don’t expect the world’s toughest guys to hug it out with you when you disagree.
I wrote down his address in a notebook after we parted company and promised to mail him any writing I generated from the experience. And then, somewhere in my move back to America I completely lost the notebook. Then the internet caught on, and nobody on earth ever put pen to paper again.
I doubt he’s an avid blog reader, but I’d love him to know these stories are out there. If any of you recognize him in this, please do get in touch and let’s verify it privately.
“Craig,” if you’re out there, I hope you’re happy and healthy and loving being a grandpa. I hope you’ve got your feet up and a cold one in your hand and a whole marathon of “Law and Order” reruns to watch on the telly.
And thank you for everything, so, so much.