#GoingGlocal: Rubies the Size of Peas

Image from gratisography.com.
Image from gratisography.com.

Editor’s note: We started this column, for which we encourage contributions from a diverse public, with a series written by Leipzig-based German author Diana Feuerbach. The theme of the column is narrating a transnational or cross-cultural experience that has indelibly shaped one’s life. For our author today, Leipzig-based Ukrainian writer Svetlana Lavochkina, such an experience has been learning English, and the mark left by the fascinating, rambunctious character from back home who instilled that love for the language in her, a love she has carried with her to Germany and nurtured throughout her life so far. Sometimes things come full circle in the most unexpected ways… 

Rubies the Size of Peas**

By Svetlana Lavochkina*

My name is Svetlana. I learn English every day. I am learning English now. I have learnt some English already. I have been learning English for ten years. If I hadn’t been so lucky I would have never had a chance to learn English. Even the gorgeous Present Perfect Progressive have I mastered, and the mysteries of the nebulous Subjunctive Mood, too, as you can well hear, without ever having visited London, which is the capital of Great Britain and stands on the river Thames.

I live in a fuming Eastern-Ukrainian town with dandelions poking through concrete in some places. Grey people swarm into trolley-buses to get to factories in the morning. In the evening they storm groceries to get some sausage for supper.

As for me, I don’t mind an hour’s ride to school in a bursting trolley-bus because I am fortunate to go to the only school in the town where English is taught from the first class. Maria Ivanovna, the town’s premium teacher of English, reigns there. We are all in awe of her. She makes us meek and silky just with the glance of her bespectacled eyes. Maria Ivanovna takes a syringe and injects a dose of success right into our assiduous bottoms. She says, ‘Don’t you dare come to see me in ten years unless you are driving a black Mercedes, working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and own an apartment in Moscow’.

We try to detect Maria Ivanovna’s mood and the degree of her irascibility by her clothes. Experience has shown that Maria Ivanovna is in the worst of her moods when she wears blue Margaret Thatcher suits. It is then that she throws objects around and bangs our heads against the blackboard at even the tiniest mistakes. On the contrary, the nicest queen-like half-smile crosses her face when she wears red. It is usually then that her ears are adorned with rubies the size of peas, and, believe it or not, it is their warm shimmer that melts my brown school uniform and my skin under the uniform and pours the mellow melody of the strange language directly into my veins.

I am jealous of Maria Ivanovna’s jewels, the more so because I know that I myself could get rubies like this by right of inheritance, but I never will. They say my great-grandmother Celia was married to a rich merchant in Odessa. She was an illustrious beauty. She spoke five languages, had relatives in London and never condescended to wearing such vulgar jewels as rubies. Even to the market place, accompanied by her kitchen-maid and a drunkard hired for a kopeck to carry the heavy baskets, she chose the best vegetables and chicken for a Sabbath meal wearing no less than diamonds the size of cherries.

But then the Revolution swept the wealth of the family away together with the diamonds torn directly from her earlobes by a waif on the streets of hungry Odessa. It was only in the thirties that Celia’s surviving children were able to afford to give their mother earrings albeit only rubies the size of peas, so she had to condescend to the red.

The earrings were inherited through the female line. When Celia died, my grandmother wore them, and after that, my mother. Unfortunately, my mother lost them shortly before I went to school. Not once was she reprimanded for that.

I gaze at Maria Ivanovna in scarlet glow and imagine myself not in a black Mercedes, not in the ministry of foreign affairs and not in a flat facing the Kremlin. In my dreams I go to London, step on to a boat on the river Thames and meet a whiskered young lord whose accent is the finest RP. We fall in love and marry and live in his castle with a ghost. To the ghost I also speak in my own finest RP.

I gaze at Maria Ivanovna in scarlet, she is gleaming. I think how lucky I am to be sitting here. Everybody says that it is impossible without connections or heavy bribes, customary and going without saying nowadays, but my parents are ordinary clerks, they have neither money nor connections. English equals freedom and wealth, though nobody dares to say that in our concrete town. So parents tacitly gamble all they possess on their children’s future, because English is a spaceship, a password, a catapult to a different, perilous, much railed against and forbidden world, a world teeming with bright colours and ingenious people.

It is widely known that a healthy bribe is a passport into Maria Ivanovna’s classroom. They say she receives several eager mothers in her flat simultaneously, and she has them all wait in different rooms and holds her audience with them separately so that they can’t see each other. There is even a wild story passed on in a whisper that Maria Ivanovna once locked a mother in the bathroom because all the other rooms had been occupied.

When asked how I had obtained a place, my mother always said, ‘it was your fortune, there was that one last place left’. I finished school and tried to catapult myself into the longed-for perilous world. The concrete curtain fell and the cord of fate connecting me with Maria Ivanovna was cut.

I must confess I’m neither exactly in London nor exactly married to an English lord, neither exactly living in a castle nor exactly speaking RP. I haven’t fulfilled Maria Ivanovna’s black Mercedes precepts either, but I am trying to teach the English I learned from her to German children, who are not in the least fascinated by London, which is the capital of Great Britain and stands on the river Thames. They are not in the least in awe of me either, and if anything, it is I who would need to bribe them to listen.

Last Sunday I was marking the exercise-books and cursing loudly when the doorbell rang. A man with a concrete-like greyness about him was standing at my doorstep. I had never seen him before. ‘Is your name Svetlana?’ he asked me in my home town vernacular. ‘Yes it is,’ I answered, surprised. ‘I was asked to hand you this,’ he said, and gave me a plastic bag. Before I could open my mouth he vanished into the dusk of the hallway.

Inside the bag there was a folded letter and a small tightly cellotaped box.

‘Dearest Svetlana,’ the letter said, ‘you forgot me, who taught you the Subjunctive Mood and told you all about London, the capital of Great Britain, and this is a shame. You were my most diligent pupil and I still remember your charmed face. It was a pity to bang it against the blackboard. So for you to remember me I bequeath to you the contents of this box.’

I undid the cellotape and opened the box. The rubies the size of peas shone up on me, unwinding a caravan of scenes and memories, jewels of the vanished world.

I learn English every day. I am learning English now. I have learnt some English already. I have been learning English for thirty years. Even the gorgeous Present Perfect Continuous have I mastered and the mysteries of the nebulous Subjunctive Mood as well. Had it not been for my mother, who had spent the spookiest hour in her life in my teacher’s bathroom locked from outside to offer her the only family treasure, I wouldn’t be struggling for words to tell you this story now, wearing ruby earrings the size of peas.

Svetlana Lavochkina. Photo courtesy of the author.
Svetlana Lavochkina. Photo courtesy of the author.

* Svetlana Lavochkina is a Ukrainian-born writer of fiction and translator of poetry. She has lived in Leipzig for 16 years, having come to Germany as a Jewish refugee. Her fiction and poetry translations appeared in numerous literary magazines in the US, UK and Europe. In 2013, she was one of the three prize winners of the Paris Literary Prize, an international novella contest run by Shakespeare and Company and the De Groot Foundation. In 2015, her novel “Zap” was chosen finalist in the Tibor&Jones Pageturner Prize, London. Svetlana is co-founder and former president of Leipzig Writers e.V. Find out more about her via her Facebook page and Web site.

** A word from the author about her piece: “I wrote it 10 years ago, actually to be performed at an international Waldorf teacher’s conference, The English Week. Then I submitted it to a British literary magazine, ‘Textualities’, and it got published at once, my very first publication; that made me very happy, the start of my literary journey. In the US, the story was reprinted in ‘In Our own Words’, an international writers’ anthology. This teacher is probably the cause of why I chose English as my literary language – the passion she had kindled in me is still very, very hot.”

Guest post: Cordoba-inspired #travel poetry, prose and guide rolled into a beautiful package

Robert Christijan Boerse, by artist Ave Kägo, Estonia
Robert Christijan Broerse, by artist Ave Kägo, Estonia

Maybe you’ve read his poem and movie review already posted on this blog. The guy can write. The good news is that he writes prolifically, and I keep getting material from him to share with you here. So today I present to you Leipzig-based writer Robert Christijan Broerse‘s journey through Córdoba, Spain – an ancient city that has stayed close to his heart in its hybridity, faded glory and simple pleasures. His time there and deep reflections have yielded a very illustrative – and historically and culturally informative – prose/poetry melange with some travel guide aspects. 


By Robert Christijan Broerse


Lejana y sola (distant and lonely)

Federico García Lorca

I believe there are some cities in which you must dream yourself before you arrive.

Years ago I had seen the film Lawrence of Arabia and in a melancholic moment, the late Sir Alec Guiness in the role of Prince Feisal reflects on the lost glory of Córdoba. He tells the titular character that once there were “two miles of public lighting in the streets when London was a village.”

The Prince reflects on the war with the Turks and tells Lawrence that he longs for the “vanished gardens of Córdoba.”

Today, Córdoba is still beautiful but when I arrived years ago, it was like visiting the house of a famed but long-dead composer. You walk amongst the relics, see the scraps, the letters, the composition sheets but everything is under glass, everything cannot be touched, history left behind.

Coming to such a place, a city, if you become too cynical, you stop seeing the beauty. You try not to fall for the fabrication, the city on display in post cards and in “Made in China” souvenirs; you want to feel closer to something that brought you there.

So often you have to look harder and maybe, you’re not quite successful.

"Puente romano y mezquita" by shaorang - Flickr: Puente romano y mezquita. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/
“Puente romano y mezquita” by shaorang – Flickr: Puente romano y mezquita. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/

Puento Romano (la reflexión)

Flocks wander into sunset
church bells sonorous, orderly
amidst the thunder of centuries
                                                            as it always has been

Questions or ringing songs bellow
and drown calls from the high tower while
ghostly banners flutter high above
                                                            as it always has been

Over the river’s green,
writhing in resignation
but look below,   above,   placid
parapet, no soldiers nor shields
nor shush of arrows,
ghosts adorn olive-hued hills       and distances

Arriving late in history, tourists’
babble in brooks of conversation
meandering through museums of swords,
tucked in scabbards and there
the red and white arches, courtyards, patios
returning for the wine in the evening

Hands reach in pockets to pay Euros
for the guitar chords, to keep the giddy
Flamenco man alive and this gypsy
tinkling trinkets, amber, bezels, the carnelian box
sitting atop a blanket of faded embroidery

 and more of the same scattered about

                               just scattered about

                               further on, and further on

"Córdoba - 497" by Masherrador - Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/
“Córdoba – 497” by Masherrador – Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/

In its time this place was a centre of innovation, learning. It was the Arabs of al-Andalus who rescued the great Greek Philosophers from the ravages and backwardness of Medieval Europe, preserving the works of Plato and Aristotle, continuing the philosophical dialogues by writing their own commentaries and treatises.

And science. The genius of Arabic engineers had turned the former Roman Province of Hispana, (a backwater in the time of the Caesars) into an agricultural wonder with innovative irrigation systems. We should remember it was the Moors who first introduced rice and citrus fruits into the arid landscape.

Whether in the libraries, in the great palaces or in the countryside, the mind and heart were devoted to beautifying life.

Libraries (III)

By the candle, there are
              Sheets of polemics, treatises, Ibn Rusd, Aristotle, refutations,
              al-Qu’ran and poetry…

and libraries with that one echoing crack,
my steps around the table, and in the pages, I lean down, inhale

one of the books               she once held

stare awhile, and try to read on, but then I see now, yes, how the letter         Waaw (و)
resembles hair over neck and shoulder,

how it falls as if like a wave when she was dancing; my lips coupled to this

‘and’(و)              and there in all these pages, rereading simple verse,
to see it,

how it
forms black hair

my lids sink,

and this, my sighing breath which once wandered over almond shoulders

as she slept

as she slept

"Ibn Khaldun" by Waqas Ahmed - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/
“Ibn Khaldun” by Waqas Ahmed – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/

But beauty and wonder brings its own corruption and warring factions within the Western Muslim society of al-Andalus, leading to the beginning of a greater loss. The Muslims who made the city great, a dynasty going back to Abd al-Rahman I (731-788) could no longer hold on to the reins. Perhaps they had been too tolerant, too in love with the luxury they feverishly fostered and generously cultivated. One philosopher, Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) suggested that a civilization that had time to plant orange trees was doomed; the “Orange Grove” theory of history.

Yet, the dynasty that deigned to urge the orange trees to grow had also built the great Mosque in the centre of Córdoba with each generation adding another ample addition.

The Mezquita, the famed Mosque still stands proudly albeit with a Catholic chapel like a knife wound in its centre. Amidst what feels like an endless row of columns and red and white arches, a place bathed in a subdued, sepulchral light like that of dusk or dawn, there is this intrusive symbol of the conqueror. The way a prisoner must feel in the presence of a prison guard, such is this chapel to the mosque. It is a dark reminder that a greater culture, one where Jews, Christians and Muslims for many centuries co-existed, was no more.

And maybe had never truly been.

"Mosque Cordoba" by Timor Espallargas - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/
“Mosque Cordoba” by Timor Espallargas – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/

I will admit, then and now, I am constantly on guard against my own romanticism. While visiting Córdoba I knew that while the irrigation canals were being dug, while philosophers gathered in gardens, while poets recited by fountains, men were still killing men in the north of the Iberian Peninsula. Wars raged on beyond the idyllic, dove-warbling backdrop. There was still slavery and injustice. It wasn’t all just orange groves and roses, nightingales in gardens.

Yes, to glorify the past is to wade into nostalgias we hopelessly borrow from our own defeated, often adolescent ideas of Utopia. But there is something to counter my own wayward vision; for even to this day, the Catholics of present-day Spain still regard the Moorish legacy as an abomination. They don’t see their own heritage as a result of a Muslim culture. No, they remember their ancestors fought valiantly against it. Yet why praise their version of the ‘facts’?

After the fall of Córdoba and neighboring Seville and Granada, we had the Spanish Inquisition, auto de fes, the Conquistadors in the New World, the suppression of the Netherlands for some 80 years. Thus tides and ebbs of domination and suppression, domination and suppression. Alongside the British and the present-day Americans, the Spanish were absolutely brutal in their domestic and foreign policy. Truly, since Isabella sat on the throne and Columbus went out into the New World, Spain and its people have suffered. Moreover, they have spread suffering throughout the Americas.

One might argue that had the Moors of al-Andalus sustained their power, would they have set sail across the ocean? Would they have enslaved indigenous tribes? Would they have weighed down their ships with bloodied gold to beautify the Motherland?

Most likely, I can cynically say. Maybe it is better to believe that Córdoba flowered once, that it was cut down along with its neighboring cities, with the greater al-Andalus before it could do more harm than good.

"Mezquita de Córdoba" by Dolores María Macías Naranjo - Taken by Dolores María Macías Naranjo. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/
“Mezquita de Córdoba” by Dolores María Macías Naranjo – Taken by Dolores María Macías Naranjo. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/

Still, I haplessly wrote this poem while in Córdoba:

Desde tu salida… (Una alegoría para ella)

Bare feet trickles like a brook over stone, hand carrying shoes
                             unfurled black hair, a shawl, shadow, she
softly departs

and the overturned lamp,             and the book cracked open
stuccoed rooms, truly are they mine?

Warmth seeps up through my soles on the tiles
I take down from the shelf, a resolution of bread,
oranges, I break open the skin, and it is fresh, a breeze of
Citrus, and for a moment I smile,

But this fruit, from her gardens  , so too the lemons and rice,

I reach for a bottle then, as if her the red liquid for this
Ache, she who wouldn’t drink, and I,

clap the worn knife against the wood


fruit split                the crumbs of bread as if tiny stones from a battle, a battered

the one I took down with my wrinkled fingers,

my wrinkled hands, her
drying blood,
knuckles I sweetly suck, her fruit in my mouth.

Spontaneous poem about my Friday night at Finding Home event in #Leipzig and a glocal writer’s short story

I think someone else at Finding Home did this too? Was inspired and wrote a poem about a literary concert?


Or did the wine go to my head, and I heard it wrong when one of the emcees said it? Anyway, that’s what I ended up doing too when contemplating how to write about the Finding Home event.

In a chaise longue indoors listening to writers, by Ana Ribeiro

So Friday night rolled
around and I
went to the joint where we
have all our Christmas parties
and where writers and other
artists now convene
regularly –
lots can be done at
besides drinking vodka
but that too
is worth a try
or two.

My artsy friend and I
sat comfortably
in a chaise longue
drinking wine
joking around
talking about good
talkers until the first lady
poet took over the mic
with her dark Victorian-style
garb and told us about
in Ukraine
where she comes from.

We were touched and the
limelight changed
colors again and
then my pierogi came
and a guy wearing a hat
took over the mic and
told us about
a sad old woman
and an Australian lady
took us back
to a happy road trip and a
compatriot could relate
and the mood changed
and I finished
my pierogi and licked
the plate.

A British lady sang
a capella a song that
almost everyone but me
seemed to know and
sang along with
and by the end of
the literary concert
the audience was sounding
cheerful and drunk
and I think perhaps
at least some of these
glocal folks felt closer to
“finding home”
through their fellow writers’
or dreamers’

Now, for the good part, I “pass the mic” to Leipzig Writers’ Stewart Tunnicliff, one of the event’s performers and emcees. (Ah! And for pictures of the Finding Home event, visit its Facebook page.)

Stewart Tunnicliff performing at "Finding Home"
Stewart Tunnicliff performing at “Finding Home” (photo I took myself, trying to be artistic)

From Stew: “At the moment with all the notions of nationhood, Pegida/Legida, anti-European, anti-Islam, anti-this, anti-that, anti-whatever you think you’re not, I thought it was a perfect time to frame an event about the notion of home, and flip our normally English orientated and successful Leipzig Liest event to both German and English. Again it was a great success, competing against an ever fuller 4 day programme of Buchmesse events. We had both a German section and an English section, we had 7 distinct cultural voices (DE, ENG, AUS,UKR, IRE, BRIT, AME) and amonst them a couple of “double-bürgers” (dual citizens). The venue, the Poniat was a perfect place to find home and give me yet another opportunity to try out new challenges. I do see myself as more a poet than a short story writer and certainly not a MC (host). For the latter people say that I am not like I normally am, whatever the normal Stew is. But I know at heart I am more a natural performance poet than a host. Likewise it gave me my another chance to air my third text in a series of ‘shorts’”.

“’Comes in 3s’, is semi-autobiographical and dedicated to Jim, my grandfather, who despite passing away when I was quite young made a lasting impression on me. It also may form part of a project that is a collection of texts that are being co-written by myself and Fiona Pattison, of thefactoryline (our NPOs partner in the UK), who is also a graduate of MMU in 1999. The compendium which has a working title of “Finding home” will be my first attempt to get prose published, having only previously been published through my core creative passion of poetry.”

*Comes in threes, by Stewart Tunnicliff

Everyone said Jim was a great guy. With his large back garden that was a bee-hive of activity. He had a converted coal house and a tool shed that was used by local kids for electrical and mechanical tinkering. Full of parts, components, bits-and-bobs of used or in-repair gadgets, bikes and the like. Kids would come round to learn how to use the array of tools, or take them out to those in need of DIY, maintenance, quick fixes or odd jobs in the neighbourhood. At intervals in the year, except in winter when the soil suffered from its very own frostbite, kids could be seen sowing or picking their own fruit and veg in his, typical for the village, large family garden. Right down the back of the garden Peter Pan, Elven or Goblin like dens and tree houses had been built around and in the two fruitless trees. The kids knew to leave the others alone for better scrumping from August to mid-september for Bramley and Cox apples, likewise Williams pears scrumped from mid-august to October. Simon found the Coxes and Bramleys a bit bitter, but the juicy speckled green pears had moorish pale insides with a fleshy feel to them when you bit down hard and the sappy, pulpy, yummy juices dribbled onto your chin. One late Indian summer under the heat of weighted thoughts he wondered just why fruit insides were called flesh. He could only just about imagine what it would be like to be a cannibal, but as he fathomed it human flesh must be a bit tougher than the soft fruit flesh, especially if the person was well built or plump as a plum.

Number 1; flicking fresh peas from pods. Simon had delicate hands that he did not mind getting dirty in amongst the weeds and roots of the garden, but the excitement built when pea-picking time came around. Pinching the pods from the vine, tracing his thumb nail down the middle of the pods and splitting, spreading the pods ready for the pick. For him nothing beat holding the edge of the pod in a thumbs-up shaped hand, then taking that thumb and running it along the length of the pod to flick the peas into the metal colander. The bonus encore was a tenner pod; full of small, succulent fresh peas, that ended up chasing each other round and round the metal wide funnel like outer rim until they settled in a heap with their pod-buddies. He even trimmed and manicured his nail to be the best tool for the job, and this would serve him well when he used it later in life to pluck guitar strings. Most of the young kids loved to get dirty, digging the spuds out of the ground, or fishing out the grubs from the full-headed broccolis, caulis and cabbages. But for Simon nothing beat picking peas. Jim showed him how to sneakily hide from beady eyes the smaller ones in the cup of his hand to snack on later.

Jim explaining –

“Keep tha fresh uns, get rid o tha shrivelled up, bitter, bad an stale uns, kiddo”.

For Simon the garden was not only an educational playground, but one for the rough and tumble of battles fought out with his toi soldiers, his action force figures and even between the smaller more expensive transformer armies of the Autobots and the Decepticons his family could barely afford and which he saved up his paper and milk round money for.There was a no mans land near the back wall, where the hose pipe tap was, an upturned crate and the seasonal, varying in size, soap bars. Only as he got older and his smurf world turned into garden staged battles did he wonder just why the soap was there, even at the cold snap and thaw end of winter.

In his Uni years Steve his estranged Uncle told him “Jim, now he is a proud man, probably washed and scrubbed up at back o house after a hard graft down mines, so no speck of grime and dirt could be seen on him when he entered the house“.

This ticked off one of the many open questions that were left unanswered and cut short by Jim’s cancer.

Number 2; catching snowflakes on the tip of your tongue during the powder dusting of a second or third snowfall. In his childhood it seemed that there was more and ever more snow around, deeper, thicker and whiter, but maybe it was cause he was smaller, more easily impressed by a thick white carpeting . Running out of snow for his snowman was never a problem, even when he needed a stool assist for his short round legs so he could top off the head with his makeshift stuffed carrier bag hat. Coal for eyes and a three button jacket, a mangled carrot for the nose, and pebbles for the grinning teeth of the mouth. In his later teens he would build from snow the same kind of castles on Orchard Avenue hill that he built in sand at the beach on the East Coast, trying to out do each by a larger scale every time and then go all the way back down to miniature. Using cardboard, wood, lollipop sticks and his Uncle Jed’s windscreen wiper scraper as tools to sculpt the turrets, moats, drawbridges, fortifications and towers.

In Autumn the top of Orchard Avenue was used for a kids version of parachuting. A bunch of the kids would get the anoraks or such like winter coats off their larger relatives, unzip them and opening them arms-length chute-wide perch on the edge of where the road met the hill on the curb. Toe teetering, waiting for the wind to pick up enough gust to lift them off their feet, topple them over or if they were well lucky carry them off and drift their fall down the hill.

But in winter the hill was used for sledging and for Simon something completely different. He would hold his arms out, exposed palms so his body formed an arrow pointing towards where the snow came from, his head tilted back and with his tongue stuck out wait for a flake or two. Once when doing this he nearly bit the end of his tongue off. A heavy adult hand tapped him on his left shoulder, but no one was there. Automatically his first thought was fear of being in the wrong, but as Simon turned his head to the right he saw Jim playfully mirroring his stance. They stood there for fleeting moments waiting for the tingle on their tongue tips, to Simon it seemed like those precious few minutes elongated into an eon, time like the Granddaughter clock in their house stuck hands at quarter past nine.

As Jim brought him under his wing and taking him back up Orchard Avenue he rounded off with,

“Ya know, each an ever flake is different an unique, but just liek us each an every ones made e tha same stuff son”.

(*This short story is still a work in progress; it actually has three parts, as the title suggests.  You can hear Stew perform the rest of his story, and even perform your own, at Poniatowski’s next open mic, on March 27.)