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Category Archives: From The Mind of Big Joe

Through the Eyes of a (Very Beautiful) Child

I didn’t have the Christmas spirit.  Granted, finding the Christmas spirit is a lot harder at my age.  As an adult, it is hard to find that sense of magic and wonder, that feeling that everything is perfect.  It is hard because as adults we know that there are bad things out there.  There is evil, war, violence, sadness, and a whole host of other assorted miseries that make things seem very far from perfect.  Knowing all this keeps us from seeing the world as we once did, before we knew what we know now.

Which brings us back to my lack of Christmas spirit.  I am a happy person by nature, but for some reason I didn’t feel that certain cheery spark that comes this time of year.  Maybe it’s all that’s going on in the world, maybe it’s seeing all I’ve seen and reading all I’ve read.  Heck maybe it is the odd weather we have been having (it is hard to get holly or jolly when the weather is 70 degrees!) Whatever it is kept me from being merry and bright.

Then it happened.  Today (December 24th as I write this) my wife and I took our niece and her grandmother (my mother in law), to the mall to see Santa.  Her name is Nia and she is just shy of a year and a half old.  She had no desire to see Santa and quite frankly didn’t know or care who he was.  In fact when we put her on Santa’s lap she cried loud enough to be heard at the North Pole!  She was fine shortly after being removed from Santa’s lap, but I fear I may have tainted her feelings towards jolly old Saint Nick.  However bad I felt about making her cry, I did feel good because that trip put me in the Christmas spirit better than anything had in a long while!

No, it was not seeing her head explode from being put on a stranger’s lap against her will.  In fact my return to Christmas spirtness (yeah I know it’s not a word), had little to do with the Christmas related activities at all.  The reason why I feel so good right now is for the brief time we were there I got to see the world through Nia’s eyes. Having made it to the ripe old age of 17th months, Nia has made great strides in her development. She has graduated from crawling to walking, she can speak a few words, she do some cute things like blow kisses and say “umm” when she wants food, and she realized she doesn’t like rotund men in red coats with white beards (that development is fairly new!)

With every new development, Nia has been more and more able and willing to see all that is out there.  She can walk to things, she can move things, she can throw things (which she does frequently) and she can explore the world around her.  Every step, everything she comes in contact with, everyone she meets (except Santa) is new and exciting and enough to thrill her to no end!  The look on her face as she rambled across the food court in the mall (saying “umm” trying to get someone to feed her) was one of pure joy and wonder.  To everyone there it was just a shabby food court, but to her it was a brave new world.  We took her to the indoor play space next to the food court, and upon seeing all the play things and kids running around, her mind was blown.  She looked as if she saw the heavens and not a plain old play space.

It is that sense of wonder that we as adults have lost.  It is all “been there done that” with us, and we are hardly impressed or amazed by anything.  We slog through life not noticing the wonder and beauty around us and letting all the bad out there weigh us down.  Christmas spirit? We are lucky if we have any spirit at all.  As for me, the lesson I learned today that was taught to me by a Santa fearing one and a half year old is that there is magic, beauty and wonder in the world, it just depends on how you look at it.There are great things all around us, and lots of reasons to smile.  Maybe it is a small kind gesture from a stranger, an amazing sunset on an odd 70 degree December day, or just the look on the face of a little girl who sees nothing but beauty all around her.  There is a lot of bad in this world, of that there can be no doubt, but there is way more good.

In the New Year, may we all see the world through the eyes of a child

Merry Christmas!

Big Joe 🙂

 

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Posted by on December 24, 2015 in From The Mind of Big Joe

 

Long Time Gone

Today’s assignment in my writing course is to talk about someone interesting I have met this year.  Now in my line of work (storytelling and all around charming person) I meet a lot of interesting people and some very interesting people.  I also meet a lot of kids who are interesting for their own reasons 🙂

I could talk about someone new and interesting I met this year.  However I would rather wax poetic about someone I have known for a long time and got to reconnect with this year.  His name is George, and he was one of my first friends. We met in kindergarten and hit it off from day one.  He was shy and kind of nerdy, and I was shy and kind of nerdy (still am – well except for the shy part) so got along famously.

We grew up together, and shared all the ups and downs that came along with it.  We did things together, we talked about things together, we had adventures together, and we got in trouble together (and never threw the other one under the bus to escape trouble – well mostly never).  We fought, made up, and then fought and made up again.  We were like brothers and went through all the things brothers go through.

He had a very interesting personality, that at times complimented my own personality and other times challenged it.  No matter what wavelength we were on however we always got each other.  We were as close as friends could be, and had the vision of us being together forever.

Of course like all things, life sometimes gets in the way.  George and I went to different high schools, and while we still saw each other quite a bit, we weren’t joined at the hip as we were in our elementary school days.  After that came college and soon after the real world. As we tended to our career paths, the paths that usually led us to each other started to diverge.

George was married in 1996, and his wedding would be the last time I would see him for a long stretch.  Soon after marriage, he moved away to Florida.  With the internet still in its formative years and Facebook and Skype being years away from creation, there were very limited ways for us to stay in touch. It would have been tough had we not both had lives, but we did which made things more difficult.

The person I used to talk to every day to hear about what was going on, now became someone I only heard about secondhand.  His mom would tell my mom something that happened and I would get the information.  I learned things both mundane and important, but learned them all from a distance.  I learned he had a medical condition, and that he was trying to find his birth parents (George was adopted which had a profound affect on him as we grew up.)

I could have reached out more and he could have as well, but he had things going on and I had things going on and we both let time and space drift on by. This January marked the 19th year we hadn’t seen each other in person.  I was taking my wife to Florida for her birthday, and decided to use the opportunity to stage a reunion.

He was as excited as I was, and anxious to see me.  Finally the night arrived and we got to go out to dinner with our wives. It was strange being out to dinner as “adults”, but it was also kind of fun.  It was amazing how quickly we slipped back into a rhythm and were talking and joking like we always had.  It was 19 years gone by, but together at that table it was like no time had passed at all.

George did indeed find his birth parents, and the tale he told that night was more fascinating than anything I heard in a while. It was interesting to hear about his life, but kind of sad that I wasn’t a part of it. He had a different life and different friends and so did I.  The thing I realized however is that no matter how much distance is put between us or how separate our lives become, we will forever be connected, because true friends always are!

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2015 in From The Mind of Big Joe

 

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Writing 101

I  suffer from what some would call arrested development, Peter Pan syndrome, or pretty much an unwillingness to grow up.  In some ways this condition is a hindrance, like when I am in serious situations, or having to deal with the lovely woman who was lucky / unlucky enough to marry me.  On the plus side, how I am works very well in my job as a storyteller.  I am able to connect with audiences filled with young children mostly because I am on the same wavelength as them. I think like a kid so I am very good at giving them what they want.  This goes not only for the way I perform but also the stories I tell.

When I find stories to perform, I look for ones that will thrill me and entertain me.  If a story makes me smile or get excited, I know that it will make my audience happy as well.  I love a good story and those are the only kind I will tell. I do this mostly because I want to entertain my audience but also because I want to entertain myself.  I have to tell these stories, and if it is not fun for me to tell them, it will not be fun for kids to hear them.

The same goes for writing stories.  When I write, I want to create something that is just as fun for me to tell as it is for others to listen.  I have been blessed with a very vivid (and slightly out there) imagination so I try to come up with tales that take full advantage of it.  I let my mind wander and sometimes the places it arrives at are quite interesting.  I don’t write as an adult writing for kids, I write as a kid trapped in the body of an adult.  This is another area where the whole “unwillingness to grow up” aspect of my personality serves me well. I can write for kids because I can write like a kid.

Of course as much as I have the mind of a kid, I am an adult saddled with all the responsibilities, and duties that come with it (by the way to prove the “mind of a kid” part I just giggled typing the word “duties”!)  I have a job that entails making kids happy, but it is still a job.  I have to book shows, deal with paperwork, pay bills, and market myself to the storytelling loving world.  That takes a lot of work and a lot of times takes me away from what I love to do best which is finding and writing stories.

The more popular I get, the busier I get and the less time I have to do that thing I love.  I would love to find an assistant to take care of the business side of things (and by the way if you are reading this and are interested in such a role please contact me – I’m serious!), but until that happens, I need to find a way to balance work and creativity. Recently I realized that I hadn’t written or found a new story in months.  Yes I have a ton of tales in my collection, and the audience I tell them to probably never heard them before so it is okay for them.  The thing is I have heard the stories (a lot) and the thrill in telling them starts to fade.  I need new material to keep things fresh and fun so my thrill and excitement can be passed on to my audience.

I say all that to say this.  A few weeks ago I got an email about a writing program from WordPress (the wonderful hosts of my blog) called “Writing 101” it is a way to develop a better writing habit and to tap into the creative process.  I decided to join the program because I need to get back into the habit of writing and creating and finding and producing stories I know everyone will love.  Like exercising after a long layoff, I know it will be tough to get back to where I need to be.  The thing is getting there is very important because being a storyteller and telling stories is very important to me.

If you are a reader of this blog (and if you are please encourage others because I can always use more readers and fans), you will get a chance to see me in action as I try to be all that I can be and become a better writer and hopefully a better more creative storyteller!

So my “Writing 101” journey begins now…..

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2015 in From The Mind of Big Joe

 

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G-Man

As a storyteller I am a lover of the classics, three pigs, three bears etc.  Stories we all know, stories we all love, and stories I grew up with.  One of my favorites is the story of the Gingerbread Man.  Loved that story when I was a kid and love it even more as a storyteller.  I tell the original version, not any of the newer ones that have been written like “The Gingerbread Boy”,  “The Gingerbread Girl”, The Gingerbread Certified Public Accountant” (might have made that last one up!)

Of course while I do tell the original version, I do make one slight change to the ending.  As you may remember,  at the end of “The Gingerbread Man”  (SPOILER ALERT) he gets eaten by a fox.  Now I have nothing wrong with the ending because after all he was only a cookie, so no real harm was done.  However I made the change after an incident that happened early on on my storytelling career.

When I started out, I would tell “The Gingerbread Man” with the original death by fox ending.  No one seemed to mind and no one complained so I kept telling it that way.  Then one day I was in a preschool in Andover telling tales and I decided to end with “The Gingerbread Man”.  It was going very well and the kids were enjoying it until I got to the end.  After the fox ate G-Man, the happy looks on the faces of the kids turned to shock and horror.  Hands covered mouths, eyes bugged out and some kids started to cry.

Now I was used to individual kids having bad reactions to parts of stories, but never had I witnessed mass hysteria.  I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was going on.  Then one of the kids who was crying started to point at the wall behind me.  I turned around and there across the back wall was a mural depicting the adventures of the Gingerbread man who was very much alive.  I also noticed that hanging on a hook at the end of the mural was a Gingerbread man puppet.  I found out later that he was the classroom mascot and the teachers used the puppet during transition time and to tell stories before nap.  So I had pretty much just killed their hero and ruined their tiny little lives. I felt really bad and tried to explain my way out of things but no one was buying it.  I left feeling horrible with a group of sad kids in my wake.  Needless to say I was never invited back to that preschool.

That was a bout 12 years ago and all should be forgotten. However if there are any kids out there who were at that show and are still traumatized from my tale I sincerely apologize. Rest assured the Gingerbread Man did NOT get eaten.  He kept on running and is now retired and living in a nice condo in Tampa.  You can also rest assured that from that day on my version of the story has been amended so in the end the Gingerbread man and everyone else lives happily ever after!

– Big Joe

 

Sign of the Times

I was doing a show at a daycare the other day and was talking to one of the infant teachers.  As we were talking she was feeding one of the babies.  As we chatted, the baby began to tap his hands together kind of like one of those wind up cymbal playing monkeys.  I thought it was odd and asked why he was doing that.  The teacher told me he was telling her he wanted more food using baby sign language. Having never heard of such a thing I was shocked and amazed that a baby could learn sign language. I also realized I was kind of jealous.

After all here was a child who a few months before could only be seen with the use of an ultrasound and now could express his feelings through sign language and here I was a full grown man who didn’t know sign language at all (unless you count the ones I express to those who cut me off in traffic). I was told by the teacher the baby knew at least 7 signs and as if to prove the point the baby started to make the sign for milk.

It is a very odd feeling to be outwitted by a baby.  In my life I’ve been outwitted by a lot of things.  In fact one time in Las Vegas I lost at tic-tac-toe to a chicken and I was stone cold sober.  Of course of all the things that outwitted me, human poultry or otherwise the baby one was hard to take.  After all, it was a baby and not one of those genius babies that can do algebra, just your average run of the mill baby.

On my way home I tried to find a way to spin things so I wouldn’t feel so bad about being outwitted (it didn’t help that while trying to spin things I couldn’t find my sunglasses that ended up being on my head).  I could have gone the obvious route and remembered that there were a lot of things I could do that a baby couldn’t, but that seemed sad and pathetic.

In the end I came to the conclusion that instead of feeling jealous or inferior I should feel proud and hopeful for this next generation.  Every generation reaches greater heights than the one that came before it, it is the way things are supposed to go. There is a lovely line from Louie Armstrong’s song “What a Wonderful World” that says “They’ll learn much more than I’ll even know” referring to babies (Louie would have been very impressed with the sign language baby!)  So while I myself do not know sign language I am very happy for that baby .  I wonder what amazing things that baby will learn, I wonder what discoveries and advancements he will see, I wonder what his future world will be like and I wonder if  that chicken in Las Vegas would give me a rematch!

– Big Joe

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2012 in From The Mind of Big Joe

 

Once Upon a Time…

Seeing as I am here in the blogging world starting something new I thought I might give me (hopefully tons) of readers some insight as to how I became “Big Joe” the storyteller.  As for the storytelling part, I was telling stories ever since I could talk.  I was the embodiment of the classic joke that when I was 2 my parents thought I would never talk and when I was 3 they thought I would never shut up.  I loved telling things to anyone who would listen even if most of the time I wasn’t making much sense (a characteristic that still holds true today!) As my vocabulary and imagination grew so did my storytelling abilities. I loved telling stories as much as I loved hearing them,  My mom was a big influence on me because she read to me all the time, listened patiently to all of my tales and even took me to see my very first storyteller Brother Blue (who sadly passed away recently).

I carried my love for stories and storytelling into my career as a  teacher.  It was during my first job as an assistant in a Kindergarten classroom that I discovered the power of storytelling. I would always tell the kids stories some I made up, and some that were my favorites. One day we had an early release and one little girls’ parent was running late.  The teacher told me to take her down to the main office and sit with her till her mother arrived.  As I was sitting with her among the various office staff members she became upset and started crying. I decided to console her by telling her a story. I started telling the tale, making it up as I went along and it calmed her down. About midway through my story I paused for a breath and realized it was very quiet in the office.  I looked up and all of the staff that had been milling around were now stopped and listening to the story. One woman looked at me and said “Well what happened next?”  It was then that I realized how powerful storytelling really was.

From that point on, at every stop on my preschool teaching journey I became the classroom storyteller.  It is what I loved to do and every once in a while I thought of becoming a full time storyteller like Brother Blue who I saw so many years earlier. Of course I never thought one could make a living being a storyteller so I started to do it on the side while I taught.  As time passed my storytelling job kept getting bigger and bigger and it became clear that I actually could make a living being a storyteller.  So in April of 1996 I left my job as a preschool teacher and became Big Joe the Storyteller.

Now about that “Big Joe” part. You see my name is Joseph Pagliuca which doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. When I decided to become a storyteller I wanted a catchy name like Brother Blue.  Fortunately for me, the last preschool teaching job I had at John Hancock childcare provided me with the perfect name. My first year there we had a child named Joe.  People kept getting confused as to which Joe was being referred to so they designated him Little Joe and me Big Joe.  The name just sort of stuck and for 3 years there I was Big Joe.  When I decided to become a storyteller, I thought Big Joe would be the perfect name. It was short and sweet and easy to remember.

So now I am Big Joe the Storyteller, and as of this post I am Big Joe with a blog.  I hope you stop on by and read what I write because I am definitely never at a lack for words!

– Joe

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2011 in From The Mind of Big Joe