First City Toastmasters Proves
Speechmaking Can Be a Breeze! Part II
By Sharon Lint
March 15, 2005
"There is a story about two elderly gentlemen sitting on a bench and one says, 'Oh, for heaven's sake, every bone in my body aches. I just feel awful. . . I feel bad all the time . . . how are you feeling?' And his friend says, 'I feel like a newborn babe!' . . . [the first says] 'WHAT?' . . . 'Sure,' he says, 'no hair, no teeth, and I think I just wet my pants!'"
Gerry laughed with everyone else and then turned back to the business of introductions. "Our next speaker was raised on Gravina Island and he has some . . . stories about his adventures there and of his mother's adventures, particularly when a petite mom shot a bear. . . but now he's going to talk about an adventure of his own. From his Original Speech called, "Sitting Pretty," please help me welcome Mike Salee."
CONTESTANT FIVE: MIKE SALEE
Mike's poem had a subtitle. It was "To Gribbles, an Ode to my Stolen Commode." He prefaced his story by telling everyone a little about Gribbles. "You've probably all heard about Teredos before. . . they're a marine-boring bivalve that starts as a larvae and gets into wood. . ." he said. "Gribbles are also marine animals but they're little isopods about a quarter of an inch long and they make little tiny pinholes in wood and they're very destructive. . ."
Once assured that everyone listening knew what a Gribble was, he began his tale in earnest. As he used to be on the Borough Assembly, he often found himself discussing sewer issues. He appeared to be in a minority, being the only one that admitted that he still used an outhouse.
As a side note, he commented that there were a few things to be mentioned about outhouses. "A frosty outhouse seat is not one of life pleasantries," he quipped. He went on to say that some folks carry their outhouse seat indoors and keep it warm. Others use foam seat liners that they make themselves. Mike also remarked that he had found his hard hat made a great template for such a device.
"Major axis, minor axis, diameter of the derriere. . . should be one of those things they have in the appendices of physics text . . . the elasticity of planetary orbits . . . maybe the mass of the moon."
Amid the laughter, he brought himself back to his main story. "It goes something like this," he began.
Jeff's comment as he stepped back up to the microphone was, "so we've heard humor from both ends!"
As the audience boo-hooed his pun, he grinned and introduced the next speaker. "Our next speaker is a local artist who dabbles and excels in a variety of mediums . . . she is a teacher at the University of Alaska and at Yoga Haven. She's held several art shows and is an enthusiastic arts advocate. Let's welcome her Original Tall Tale, 'Clarence and Me' - M.J. Turek."
CONTESTANT SIX: M.J. TUREK
M.J.'s Tall Tale occurred last year on a nice summery day near Sitka. She began with a preamble stating that although she is used to the island of Ketchikan, having lived here all her life, her friend Clarence still thinks of an island as something like Grenada with palm trees.
"'Hey, Clarence,' she shouted, 'How 'bout we take the Kayaks and set a crab pot?'" As Clarence agreed, they left the sailboat anchored and went off to catch dinner. After leaving the crab pots to fill up, they explored the shoreline for a bit. Taking M.J.'s suggestion, Clarence escorted her to the beach and watched for bears as she picked huckleberries. Before long, she has a quart of ripe berries and they started back.
Near sunset, they rounded the point and the flat, glassy water was just beginning to reflect the pinky sunset colors as they first plucked up the crab pot and found two crabs for their dinner. Then, they continued on to their anchorage. Expecting to see a double image of a white hull mirrored in the bay, instead, M.J. reported, "there's a long stick looming at a precarious angle, forming a 'V' with its reflection."
"Our Boat! Where's our Boat?" M.J. exclaimed, recounting their surprise. Only the top of the mast was visible above water and they could see the decks down below as they gazed stunned through the depths. Of course, Clarence dove overboard immediately to see what had happened. He found a hole - "more than five feet square in the side of the hull, not the bottom," M.J. informed the audience.
"There's never been a recorded case of a whale attacking a boat like this," M.J. mused. "We can't think of any explanation. Maybe it was chased by Orcas? Maybe it went postally psychotic?"
Luckily, M.J. and Clarence were pretty easy-going people, and they soon found a beach, boiled up the crab for dinner and ate the huckleberries for dessert. Later, the Kayaks took them to help and a few days later, the boat was raised for all to wonder at what happened.
"We framed the newspaper articles and photos. . . and here's where you come in. . ," M.J. informed all those listening as she finished up. "We're soliciting donations . . . I can even supply envelopes, oh, and do come and visit us for the grand opening of our museum of Marine Curiosities of the Caribbean."
After Gerry jokingly gave a dollar as the first donation, she introduced Keith Smith as the next speaker. "He's often seen around town with his most notable achievement perched on his shoulders," Gerry told everyone. ". . .and that would be Phillip. . . his topic is Original and it is titled, "Americans Say the Darnest Things."
CONTESTANT SEVEN: KEITH SMITH
Keith's opening remark referred to Gerry's introduction about his son, admitting, "Phillip is my most notable accomplishment. Isn't it amazing that our most notable accomplishments are done without even trying?"
Then, without further ado, Keith plunged into his topic of Travel, saying that while earlier, Jeff had spoken about the funny things that Tourists ask us, his own speech would be about the flip side of that, and the funny things he had said when traveling in South America and Brazil.
He said that he had learned Portuguese and it was good enough to go to the market, so he went there and was walking around. "And everyone was so nice to me," he declared. "Smiling . . . so warm and wonderful everywhere . . . and I said [to my friend] . . . I'm just having the greatest time here, the people are so nice. . . and he said, 'Well, Sebastian, you might want to uh. . .' and I looked down and I had tucked my shirt in okay, but my shirt was kinda sticking out down there . . . like a transcontinental truce flag of some sort to the great hilarity of everyone who was at the meat market."
Another time he said he was living in Bolivia, and was hanging out with some Mayors and officials. As he had learned Portuguese earlier, he figured certain sounds would change over so caixa goes to caja, and he would just take Portuguese and squeeze it through this filter, and come out with Spanish.
"I still picture myself . . . because Velhos is Portuguese for old, and in Spanish [Vellos] it means hairy. So, [I'd say] 'Can you tell me where I can put these hairy bottles' or I was . . . collecting fossils . . . and ossos in Portuguese is bones, but in Spanish it is bears. . . So, I thought I was saying, 'Yeah, I was out there looking for old bones' . . . but I'd say, 'Yeah, I was out there looking for hairy bears.' "and this guy [said]. . . 'Oh, no, my son. You're not going to find any hairy bears out here.' And I'd say, 'Oh, no, really? I've already found lots of them.'"
"But," Keith confided, "the worst thing that happened was [that] in Portuguese, year is ano, so Feliz Ano! Happy New Year! And in Spanish . . . it is best described as that compound word . . . I won't actually say the word, but I'll say, 'brass pole.'"
"So anyway," Keith continued as giggles erupted. "I was at these dinners with the Mayor and I was . . . saying things like, 'Yeah, I have thirty-seven brass poles' and, 'she wouldn't want me to tell you this, but my wife, she has thirty-three' and about my book I was working on, I'd say, 'Yeah, I've been working very hard and in three more brass poles, I should be done' and probably the worst thing that I said was, 'You know so many wonderful things have happened to me in my last brass pole here' and so thankfully I met a ten-year-old . . ." Keith laughed, as he remembered how he found out about his mistakes.
"My good, good, good friend, Diego . . . he was falling on the floor laughing as I was talking to him about how old I was and what I was going to do next year. . . and he was pounding the floor . . . he finally told me and after that point . . . we still had nice dinners, but it wasn't quite so jovial anymore."
Jeff's next introduction was for the last speaker. "A former Mayor and current Borough Assembly Member, he never sits still when he can stand up . . . a song and dance man, has an astonishing assortment of jokes, one-liners and at a drop of the hat or trousers, will give you any number of limericks, clean or bawdy. He's one of the founding members of First City Players and the star of countless productions. He's giving a compendium of Original and Adapted Material layered on top of each other called, 'The Onion.' Let's welcome Jack Shea."
CONTESTANT EIGHT: JACK SHEA
"The scene now shifts to spring of 1941 . . ." Jack's dramatic voice transitioned the audience as he spoke. "at Cooper's School in Minneapolis, Minnesota. An aspiring young actor-singer was auditioning for a part in a local production. . . I sang a song entitled 'Fifty Cents' and I was quite proud of it . . . and they said, 'I'm sorry, but you can't do the second verse . . . because it refers to alcoholic beverages. . .'"
Jack shrugged. "Okay, so I'll do the first and third," he agreed. "but, 'well, you can't do the third verse either. . . because it speaks of violence and punishment. Totally unacceptable here at Cooper's School. . . and wait, wait . . . you can't do the first verse either. It refers to gluttony and overeating.' So now what was I supposed to do? . . . so I tried out for the part of an Onion in the Irish Stew - this is Irish Stew - it does not contain badgers or other animals . . . so I got the role of an Onion."
"Needless to say," Jack confided, "the applause that I got was minimal. However, that was my very first performing role. . . now for tonight, and tonight only, you are going to be able to hear ALL THREE VERSES of . . . that song."
"It goes something like this," he said.
Amid great applause, Jack retired to his table and Jeff commented, "and to think that was done in the fourth grade. He's come a short way since then."
Then it was time for the judging period. The judges began their deliberation for the top three speakers and the audience was asked to hand in their choice for the People's Choice Award.
As they did so, a special award was given out for the Lifetime Service Award for a lifetime of service devoted to excellence in the spoken word and speech-craft in all public and private venues and presenting the highest standards of communicating with clarity and intention. The surprised recipient was Gerry Knasiak.
As the award was given, Toastmasters honored Gerry with the words, "Not only has she been involved in Toastmasters for . . . years, she has guided us for fifteen years in Ketchikan and allowed our club always to be available if anyone needed an answer, help, direction, in being a public speaker. Without Gerry, our club would not be able to do what it does every week."
Gerry's response was, "You will never believe this, but I'm speechless."
As Gerry left the podium, Jeff related a little more about Toastmasters. "If you have a fear of speaking in front of people - in fact, that's the number one fear . . . it's not the fear of dying, it's the fear of . . . public speaking . . . Toastmasters will help you overcome that," he explained.
Adding an invitation, he said, "And so, we'd like to invite you to come by and participate in the local chapter of Toastmasters. We meet every Tuesday from noon to one o'clock at the Youth Court, which is upstairs in the Plaza. And we would love to have you, everyone is invited to come in and see what we do and enjoy the experience for yourself."
As the judges were still not ready, Jack Shea rose to Gerry's call for anyone interested in filling in the time by speaking.
"I need to tell you about what happened, when three Norwegian fishermen from Petersburg perished all at the same time," Jack began narrating.
The audience leaned forward as Jack explained how the fishermen, arriving at the pearly gates, was told by St. Peter that they had to correctly describe the observance of a religious holiday before entering paradise. The holiday was Easter.
"Ya, ya. That's when Jesus went on the mountain there, ya know, and . . ." the first fisherman answered, describing the Sermon on the Mount.
"No! No!" St. Peter yelled.
Then the second fisherman was summoned and asked the same question. He said, "Oh, ya, ya. That's when Joseph and Mary was riding on that donkey-thing and Joseph forgot to make reservations and they had to go to the back of the Inn then and little baby Jesus was born and the three wise guys from the East came and . . ."
No! No!" St. Peter yelled again and summoned the third fisherman.
"Ya. That's when them naughty Romans grabbed Jesus."
"And they were not nice at all. They hung him up on a big plus sign . . . and they put him in a tomb . . . and they put big rocks in front of the tomb. . ."
"Oh, yes, yes."
". . .and then the third day come along . . .and an angel come and roll the rock away. . . and then Jesus comes out . . ."
"Oh, yes, yes, yes!"
". . . and then if he sees his shadow, there's six more weeks of winter!"
After more applause for Jack's joke and a few more comments and jokes from others, the judges were ready and as related in Part I of this series, Gerry Knasiak won First Place in the competition. She received a blue t-shirt and a Blue Ribbon for her entry entitled "Undercover." Mike Salee won Second Place for "Sitting Pretty" and took home a red ribbon and a 'Speakers' coffee mug. Third Place was shared between M.J. Turek for "Clarence and Me" and David Wiechelman for "One of Those Days." A Lucite paperweight with the Toastmaster logo and a Silver Tongue Award pencil were the Third Place prizes. Additionally, Jack Shea won the "People's Choice" award for "The Onion" and took home a t-shirt for his trophy. Last, but not least, the appropriately attired Judges received their letter openers with the Toastmasters logo as a thank you.
And suddenly, the evening of giggles and guffaws was over. Here and there, people stood talking with friends or congratulating winners, not wanting to leave while the faint echo of mirth still lingered in the corners of the room. But, finally, everyone did go, taking home the memory of a wonderful evening and leaving behind a ghost of laughter holding both its sides.