Teeter Talk is a website dedicated to the premise that people enjoy
the back-and-forth of authentic conversations, especially when they're grounded in content that is local to some community.
So the vision of Teeter Talk is to let folks across the web eavesdrop on some good conversations with an inherently local angle. Karl Pohrt, owner of the Shaman Drum Bookshop in Ann Arbor, Michigan, says, "This is hometown Dada media at its best."
The built-in local perspective of Teeter Talk is Ann Arbor's. That's because the content published on Teeter Talk stems from actual conversations with actual people who are actually riding the teeter totter in a backyard on Ann Arbor, Michigan's Old West Side. If Teeter Talk can contribute to the corpus of community conversations, without letting anyone fall on their head, then it will have accomplished its mission.
Teeter Talk has documented the rides of around 100 guests over the last 15 months. Most of the totterees live somewhere in the greater Washtenaw County area. But along with the natives, there are other folks represented as well. Some were on their way out of town. And some are just passing through. What they all have in common is they've straddled the wolmanized wooden board mounted between two posts in my backyard.
The whole concept depends on a willingness of people to participate. There's some people who'd never hop on a teeter totter with me if their life depended on it. There's some people who are only too eager to teeter on the Totter of Truth and need to be hosed down to make'em leave. And then there's some people who need a little nudge to tilt them towards participating. That's where you come in. If there's someone you think would make a good guest, tell me who they are. Or better yet, tell them to get themselves a totter time scheduled. Even better, schedule a totter time for your own self. Use the Contact Form. Or send it to homelessdave##at##homelessdave##dot##com
Thank you to those brave pioneers who've already taken their turn on the totter. For the rest of you, it's time to totter.
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I host the talk in my own backyard ... because I'm not the sort of person who says, "Not in my backyard."
I park myself on one
end of the backyard totter with the guest on the other end. (Guests used to be afforded the courtesy of totter-end choice.
But no one really seemed to view this as a value-add to the experience, and generally everyone chose the up end, anyway.)
Talking and tottering ensue. As with any conversation, there could be ups and downs, but I guarantee that the summary of the
session will be balanced.
Backyard Specs: secluded corner of Old West Side Ann Arbor neighborhood backyard surrounded by privacy fence.
Totter Specs: 12' long x 1' wide; wolmanized lumber and galvanized steel pipe construction; stainless steel fasteners; designed and constructed by Homeless Dave.
NB: The Totter has no handles, but the board itself is quite grippable.
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Places I've lived (chrono): Prestonsburg, Kentucky; Columbus, Indiana; St. Louis, Missouri; Goettingen, Germany; Bloomington, Indiana; Xi'an, China; Rochester, New York; Ann Arbor, Michigan
Photo: Mark Bialek
Jobs I've had: teacher, data jock, writer, web coder/designer, frozen food stocker, dog crap scooper
Marital Status: married 1989
Struggles: the 5K, the D chord on a 5-string banjo, painted trim, walnuts
Human-powered tools I use: washing machine, clothes wringer, blender, coffee grinder, radio, bread slicer, ice-cream freezer, bicycle
Why is your nickname 'Homeless' Dave?
One day a guy I used to be friends with disparaged the taste of Powerbars and other
similar designer foods for athletes. When he revealed he had never sampled one
of the 'Harvest Bar' series of Power Bars, I went to Busch's ValuLand, purchased
a variety of such bars, put them in a plain cardboard box and dropped them by
the reception desk of his workplace and asked that the box be passed along to
A few hours later, my friend called me laughing, saying that the woman who had handed over the box to him had warned him that he might want to think twice about opening it, as it had been dropped off by what looked to be a homeless guy.
As my first name is actually Dave, I've embraced the nickname Homeless Dave ever since. People who know me well abbreviate this variously as HD or just plain Homeless.
"I once caught a fish that was this big."
Photo: Mark Bialek
Why is there a teeter totter in your backyard?
I built the teeter totter as a 15th wedding anniversary gift
for me and my wife. I figured it'd be something fun to do together, and also suggests
the spirit of what relationships are about.
Did you build the teeter totter yourself?
Why aren't there any handles on the teeter totter?
The functional reason is that I opted for a design with a fixed (i.e., not adjustable)
pivot, which requires that totterers of different weights be able to scoot freely up and down the
board to find a balancing point, unconstrained by the fixed position of a handle. The aesthetic reason
is that a design without handles is more elegant.
We called these 'see-saws' when I was a kid. Why do you call it a 'teeter totter'?
I heard both 'see-saw' and 'teeter totter' growing up. To my ear, 'teeter totter'
is more euphonious. The word 'teeter' also alliterates better with 'talk' than anything similar
combination I could think of for 'see-saw'.
Has anyone ever fallen off the teeter totter?
My wife took a tumble backwards off the end one time.
And, while attempting a standing totter with the second guest of Teeter Talk, Steve Glauberman, the ice-coated board
caused me to slip and I wound up clinging to the underside of the
teeter totter and was technically 'off the totter' inasmuch as I was also lying on the ground. However, I
believe I can claim in good conscience that the safety record of the totter is unblemished.
How do you decide who gets to ride the teeter totter?
First, it's worth noting that there's currently an open totter policy. That is, anyone who volunteers
to teeter and totter and talk to me is welcome. I don't imagine that changing, unless there's a huge spike in tottering
demand, or if there's a high incidence of rogue tottering behavior. To date, a handful of totterees fit the category
Second, my strategy in issuing explicit invitations to people is driven by a desire to represent the community in, around, and through Ann Arbor as broadly as possible. In some ways, the group of totterees to date is fairly diverse. In other ways, it's fairly homogenous. It's always nice when folks send suggestions for guests who I haven't heard of or whose affiliations I'm not familiar with, because that promotes a more interesting mix than would appear if I had to rely solely on my own devices.
Has anyone ever turned you down for a totter ride? Like who for example?
Most people I've explicitly invited for some specific time
have accepted the invitation. But plenty of people
have not. Some of these rejections take
the following kind of form: "I must inform you that I'm not available for your suggested appointment
time and am not interested in rescheduling at any time in the future." As blunt as that might seem, I vastly
prefer it to a complete lack of response, which is the most frequent way that people decline. I try to limit my
comments on the fact that someone has rejected an invitation to private grousing, or responses to the question, Why don't
you invite X to ride? (Well, I have, but they seem like they'd prefer not to.)
Do you clean up the conversations? How do you decide what to publish?
I begin with a verbatim transcript. I then redact for readability, but not for the
rhythms and cadences and structures intrinsic to spoken English. So the end result would be judged in many
cases 'ungrammatical' when measured by a usual written standard of style. Sometimes there's material that I personally
find tedious to read back through (e.g., the verbal transactions associated with picture-taking) and on the theory that readers will likely
find it tedious as well, I might eliminate most or all of those sections. So far no one has complained that the
Talks aren't long enough. I adhere to the basic rule: What's said off the
totter stays off Teeter Talk.
Why don't you allow comments on your blog? It's like it's not even a real blog.
I can't imagine a discussion of what counts as a 'real' blog leading anywhere interesting, but
it's a fair point that most websites commonly called 'blogs' include some straightforward mechanism for readers to
publish their own comments along with the material published by the 'blog' owner. So why doesn't Teeter Talk offer readers
Some brief background. My initial goal was to foreground the Talks while keeping any additional non-Talk commentary (by me or by others) completely in the background. And although the onscreen layout of Teeter Talk has evolved vertically so that it has a very bloggy look-and-feel to it and includes a dated posting section, these dated posts are mainly supposed to represent occasions to jump the reader to new Talks as they appear. But they also now tend to include updates on the adventures of Totterees after their rides. And occasionally the posts there are simply self-indulgent creative flourishes.
So homebrewing the HTML with a simple text editor (as opposed to using one of the various blogging software packages, e.g., WordPress) is one hedge against the possibility that my unchecked enthusiasm for posting material there would erode the prominence of the Teeter Talks themselves. And by not having a software platform in place to facilitate reader comments, the risk that reader comments would distract from the Talks is eliminated. That said, it's not a moral or philosphical question, and I'm open to the possibility that the whole operation could eventually be WordPress-ified, complete with readers' comments.
For the time being though, I would suggest that any reader is already, in fact, welcome to comment on any of the material published on Teeter Talk ... in the form of volunteering to take a ride.