My being inspired to write a story on cowbird is a likely correlation with spending last week visiting Barbara Ganley. Because I urge my students to share the story behind a story, the one I wrote last night A Stranger Rummaged Through My Suitcase came from my unpacking experience.

It was hardly the first time I found the TSA paper in my suitcase

cc licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Like usually I shrugged it off, tossed the paper, and put the pile of dirty clothes in the basket to be washed. That’s when “it” happened- that diffifult to describe itch when an idea bubbles up.

Part of it is how normal this seems, how matter of fact. We just accept the fact that when traveling by airplane, our checked baggage is inspected for Things That Do Not Belong in the Air. Less then that odd realization that someone opened and looked around my bag of dirty clothes– was more that a person was doing this. A person I would never know, nor would I know what their story is.

So I decided to make a character, so I tried to cast what the experience might be like on the side of someone who has taken on this kind of work. What its like to spend all day inspecting the inner secrets of luggage.

I ended up actually putting the clothes back in the suitcase, finding the note in my recycle bin, and reconstructing so I could get the photo.

Not that it is anything of critical acclaim, for me it is the practice of looking at a situation from perhaps a slightly different angle. THAT is what we can do with story, not always find out how the world really works, but imagine alternatives. To write a world, not necessarily right a world.

Anyhow, the story is below, but is always better tasted on the full cowbird. I enjoy the cowbird way, yet as I hear people rave about medium, I always come back to the idea that I could cast my story almost anywhere. The tools are interesting, and they can shape some of the story, but never all of it.

That’s mine.

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. Alan,
    Most excellent story! I think it’s funny that people have variable reactions about strangers touching their previously worn undergarments. You know the unfortunate inspectors have gloves and probably masks on, but still, it creeps one out; like stranger rape or a house break-in, it’s a violation of a personal boundary; it implies an unsolicited intimacy.

    I see you made creative use of your Vermont material–way to mash up!

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