Since 2009, How I Learned has featured some of the best live storytelling, comedy, and readings in New York City. It all happens a couple of times a year, and sometimes more than that, which basically means you'll have the best night of you life on those nights, repeatedly.

Straight Shooters

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Hello! We had a great show the other night, whatever night that was. Thanks to everyone who came out to the show. In case you missed it, or were there but just want to re-live the magic, here's Electric Literature's Emma Rock, with photos by Jesse Chan-Norris, to tell you all about it. 

Love, Blaise

Last Wednesday night’s How I Learned showed us how to tell the truth about ourselves—straight, no chaser. This month’s storytellers were quite ready to bare all—unauthorized autobiography style. 

KERRI DOHERTY (I Like You, Maude; Fucked in Park Slope)

First to take Happy Ending’s stage was Kerri Doherty, Park Slope’s cutest illustration manager with a problem. Yes, capital “P” Problems come in more shades than anyone realized was possible (pre-internet, that is) and Kerri was one of the many victims of the latest threat to our youth—secret chapstick addiction. While Kerri started out as an occasional, even “social” user, she soon crossed the line when her need began to interfere with her very livelihood. Popping out of a meeting for a quick fix of c-stick might sound innocent, but coming back unwittingly smeared from nose to chin in the white and powdery trail of Burt’s Bees (extra-strength) Lifeguard’s Choice did not sit well with her coworkers. Imagine that.

ARYN KYLE (Boys and Girls Like You and Me; God of Animals)
Next up, the quiet prophetic vibe of Aryn Kyle and the story of how she made a bunch of money then lost it all. $500,000 as it turned out, was not enough to forestall financial woes for life. Aryn tried to wave the magic wand of money and found that not only did it fail to fix all problems between her and her ex-professor boyfriend (and his kids), but it may even have sped up the inevitable collapse. The piece was insight-heavy (yum!).“That’s the thing about the big mistakes," Aryn read, "you don’t just pay, you pay and pay and pay.” 

DAVID CRABB (Bad Kid; Ask Me Stories)

David Crabb, New York’s own Texan-born performer extraordinaire, told us that when he started hanging with the punks and the goths in high school, it was only a matter of time before the guidance counselor called his father in for a talk. David’s inner life--'80s drum-machine music and constant masturbation to the faceless man (“Rolando”) of his favorite Penthouse spread--had been kept quite far from his father’s consciousness, but was suddenly to be revealed. After a couple of relatively harmless revelations of rebellion and drugs, quoth the guidance counselor: “Would your father understand that you’re gay?” The coming out turned out alright, except for the complete denial part. “It was like gay Groundhog Day.”

RUPINDER GILL (The Onion; On The Outside Looking Indian)

Rupinder Gill, author of On the Outside Looking Indian, regaled us with anecdotes of her Indian-Canadian upbringing--the lies about why she and her siblings were never allowed to hang out or party, the endless TV time, and the reproach from her immigrant parents directed at her perceived life of luxury: “When I was a kid, we made toys out of mud!” Favorite quote: that classic Indian saying, “May you be drenched in cow dung.” Also, hilarious childhood poem musing at length about Christmas, buying things, and “baby Jesus in the hay.”

BARATUNDE THURSTON (How To Be Black; Jack and Jill Politics)

Wrapping up the evening was the effervescent Baratunde Thurston, author of How to Be Black. Like most people who live in New York, "where we get very proud about things that make people leave other cities, like a clown taking a dump on the subway," Baratunde loves efficiency. Sometimes, however, his love of efficiency comes into conflict with his hatred for racism. How easy it is, he said, instead of slowing down in life’s inevitable mire of details, to sum up a person in a few words of snap judgment.

And that's it! A solid night of telling (and doing) it like it is! Look out for next month’s How I Learned on September 26th. The theme is How I Learned That Was Then, This Is Now. Hope to see you there!


Emma Rock is a writer for Electric Literature’s The Outlet and a Brooklyn College student. Her writing has previously appeared on the Labor Arts website and on subway ads and takeout menus across the city.