Clarinetist David Asman and accordionist Steve Keen came to the MobileBooth tell a couple of stories and play a little Klezmer music. Music is what brought these former East Coasters to Salt Lake City so it is fitting that they started their recording with a song from their current repertoire as the KlezBros: Ose Shalom!
“We started the Klezbros] in 1993.” says David. “Being here in Utah it’s an interesting place to be a Jew. You’re really forced to look at your self in that regard in a secular way, in a religious way. Ashkenazid Judaism is what I’m descended from and when I looked into it a little bit, found out what Klezmer music was, I just fell in love with it and wanted to do something with it. Somebody mentioned to me that you played accordion, and I remember calling you one day and saying ‘Would you like to take it out of the closet?’, so to speak.”
“And I literally did take it out of the closet.” says Steve. “In fact my wife said ‘What’s that thing?’
“She was talking about the accordion, I hope?” asks David.
“She didn’t even know it was there,” says Steve. “For 15 years I think it sat in there. She had no idea it was even in there!”
“And speaking of that, let’s play another tune!”
I have never laughed so hard about cancer.
When Dov Siporin was diagnosed at age 33 with stage 4 colon cancer he realized that his life would suddenly consist of lots of time spent bare-bottomed in a sterile hospital, being injected with poison. Interviewed by his father, Steve, Dov explained how instead of joining the masses of depressed patients and somber medical staff, he decided to have some fun. “If you make fun of something, it loses the power to scare you.” On days that Dov had radiation, he would ask his wife, Tara, to write a quote in marker on his behind. Quotes like “Does this radiation make my butt look big?” had nurses in stitches.
On St. Patricks’ Day, Dov asked his wife to write, “Go ahead and pinch me.” When he asked the nurse if she was going to pinch him he received a slap across the face. Shocked, Dov asked for an explanation, and she told him the quote read, “If Dov asks you to pinch him, please slap him.” On another occasion, a doctor told Dov his butt read, “Please remind Dov to take the garbage out.”
The pranks and jokes haven’t eliminated the pain and very real possibility of death. But the laughter between Dov and his wife, his parents, his nurses and doctors, has made everyone enjoy life, appreciate one another, and cope together. Steve told his son, “I wish you didn’t have cancer but it has brought out the best in you.” And Dov has cancer to thank for the realization that, “It’s the fact that we die that makes life sweet.”
This week, MobileBooth West said goodbye to Salinas, CA and headed inland towards the promise of the first-ever StoryCorps stop in Salt Lake City. On our way, we swung south through the desolate Mojave and glittering Las Vegas and then headed up north. By the time we pulled into Salt Lake City, the state’s famous snow was out to greet us.
The sun came out just in time for opening day and we were also greeted by our host station, KCPW, press, SLC mayor Ralph Becker (below) and most importantly, cupcakes. Check out great images of StoryCorps opening day from the local perspective here.
Our booth is parked in Washington Square–the heart of downtown, right across from Salt Lake’s inspiring central public library–much more than a place to house books, it is a real community gathering place where people meet for coffee, language exchange and public readings; kids run in the sun-dappled light under living trees in the children’s section and visitors take in the city’s signature mountain views from the rooftop patio.
Thanks to the library, within our first few days we heard the story of Melvin Grossman as told to his brand-new friend, Laurie Reed (below). They met one another at a recent StoryCorps volunteer gathering hosted by the Library. As Laurie puts it, she and Melvin have little in common–she comes from a long line of Western pioneers and he grew up on the streets of Brooklyn as the child of Polish Jewish immigrants. But as soon as they met, Laurie was eager to learn more so she invited him to make a StoryCorps recording with her to honor his family’s legacy as well as his own experiences.
We look forward to hearing more from family and friends old and new during our six-week stay in SLC.
After spending a month exploring the northern part of the state, facilitator Rachel Falcone was itching to see the landscape of southern Utah that had been recommended by many of the fine folks of Logan. So on the long drive from Logan, UT to Las Cruces, NM, Rachel and co-facilitator Hilary Marshall stopped to stretch their legs at Arches National Park near Moab.
This national park preserves more than 2,000 naturally occurring sandstone arches. It’s also home to some lovely desert plants and even a few animals, some of whom are very good at hiding.
Rachel and Hilary were in awe of the vast, open spaces and the grand scale of the rock formations. The Southwest exists in an entirely different palette of colors than the rest of our United States, and we were happy to get a closer glimpse before going deeper into this beautiful land.
As Rachel took it all in, Hilary encouraged her to pose for the cheesy photo above, which made Hilary smile.
The time has come to say goodbye to both Logan, UT and outgoing facilitator Daniel Littlewood. The ever wide-eyed and always bushy-tailed Hilary Marshall arrived fresh from StoryCorps’ Milwaukee Outpost to replace him. Once she’s recovered from the hazing she received, she and facilitator Rachel Falcone will bid a fond farewell to the beautiful Cache Valley and head south.
Thanks to Daniel for teaching Hilary what facilitating is really about: noogies. We wish him well on his travels. May he survive the western desert’s Burning Man Arts Festival unscathed.
Andy Zimmer (right) and Tod Apedaike (left) had never met before their visit to StoryCorps. What was obvious as they settled in at MobileBooth West was that neither of them walks; they roll. Tod has used a wheelchair his whole life and Andy has used his wheelchair since a bike accident two years ago. Across the StoryCorps table from one another, however, they discovered that they have a lot more than wheels in common. They share a passion for extreme sports, a “similar outlook on life,” and desire to be and remain fully independent. “Something like this doesn’t change who you are,” said Andy, and what these two guys are is strong stuff. Skiing, rugby and sled hockey are some of their favorite pastimes. Andy also works to make local hiking trails accessible to people of all abilities (parents with strollers, visually impaired individuals, anybody and everybody).
A big thank you to the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University for bringing Tod and Andy together for their interview–and for a tremendous partnership while we were in Logan.
Welcome to Logan, Utah. StoryCorps MobileBooth West pulled in and set up beside the lawn of the Logan LDS Tabernacle, just off Main Street. We quickly became accustomed to one of the local traditions here in Logan. We are located directly over an irrigation channel, with a steady stream of water heading into the city, bound for lawns and gardens.
While the Booth enjoyed cool water lapping at its heels for the first time, we had a smashing opening day with Logan Mayor Randy Watts interviewing his father Cal Watts. Afterward, Cathy Ives (center) and Lee Austin (left) from Utah Public Radio spoke to the crowd of reporters, volunteers, and passers-by, welcoming StoryCorps to its first-ever Utah stop. The Mayor (right) added a few words of his own.>
We made the headlines, with Facilitator Rachel Falcone highlighted in a picture and interview.
A hearty thank you to all of our volunteers. Here, hard at work, are Yi Ching Fedkenheuer and Georgiana Banellis. Logan it is!
Advance Coordinator Eliza Bettinger and Facilitators Daniel Littlewood and Rachel Falcone took full advantage of their day off in the beautiful Cache Valley. We rose early and took a hike up the Wind Cave trail on the north side of Logan Canyon. We were blessed with cool morning clouds and a quiet trail as we ascended.
We were slowed by the delicate finds only the way – curious snail shells and woodwork. What are snail shells doing several thousand feet up anyway?
Resting was necessary too. In one of the natural caves, Daniel took in the view.
Eliza thought this was a good idea too.
And 6000ft later?
Ah, we have arrived.