This is the latest in a series of profiles from Carapace, a free event of true personal stories told without notes to a pre-chosen theme at Manuel’s Tavern, 602 N. Highland Ave., on the fourth Tuesday of every month at 7:30 p.m.
“I just quit another job today,” Laura Lockie says, in almost the same tone of voice as she says, a few minutes later, that she was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.
Her mother died of the disease at age 55.
“When I hit 50 and I got cancer, it was like, look, if I’m going to have five years left, I want them to be good years,” she says. “I’m not going to spend all my time in a doctor’s office taking poison. I’m going to do what I want to do.”
Maybe this impatience is why Lockie, of Alpharetta, has “a very difficult time dealing with stupid people.” But, she adds quickly, she finds most human beings “infinitely more complex, nuanced and sophisticated – and better – than they get credit for.”
Lockie’s stories at Carapace combine shrewd mercy with humor and, sometimes, an overlay of spirituality, as in the tale she told during the Carapace show at the Decatur Book Festival on Labor Day weekend.
She and her husband, Ken, are the parents of three boys, ages 15, 22 and 25. Their family began when Mom and Dad were still rock and rollers in New York, a heady time not long past.
Bringing her word-music south
“I did just about everything you could do in that genre,” Lockie says of the New York era. “I worked at record companies and clubs, managed artists, and was an artist myself,” as part of a band.
Ken and Lydon lived “in a loft situation,” Lockie recalls. “It was everything you think it would be like and more.”
But Lockie’s musical career did not take wing until she and Ken, whose job transferred him, came to Atlanta 10 years ago.
She performed in a blues band with Charles King. “We played the Peachtree Road Race, we did benefits and clubs, some television appearances,” Lockie says. “We made a CD.”
Lockie entertained children at parties in Atlanta, and has written songs for other musicians.
“I’m lyrically strong,” she says, as if talking about someone else. Lockie's deftness with words fits nicely the Carapace style.
How the Indians must have lived
A friend told her about Carapace, Lockie says. "I hadn't really been to anything like it before," she says, using words such as "moving," "real," and "engrossing."
She likes the "safe environment, where people can share without judgment. They don’t have to get up and wow the crowd, per se, in order to touch people."
“It really appeals to younger audiences,” Lockie says of true personal storytelling. “There’s a hunger for the real. They grew up with video games, CGI, simulation. Even tutelage in school – you’re not [seeing] the ‘sage on stage’ anymore. They don’t have teachers who are role models.”
Almost every exchange is “surface, it’s short, it’s text, bereft of meaning,” Lockie says. “Any resonance of human emotion is glossed over.”
Not so with her own stories on such subjects as her cancer, and foraging for food as a nearly broke person in a semi-urban environment.
The latter tale raised some eyebrows.
“I was definitely pinched, but it’s not like [foraging] was my only food source,” Lockie explains. “This is kind of a macrobiotic idea: We’re supposed to eat the food that’s around us. What did the Indians eat? How did they subsist? It doesn’t look like there’s anything here they lived on, but surely they did.”
Lockie taught herself to do the same, at least somewhat.
“Even if I supplement my food supply with 20 percent of foraged food, that’s 20 percent less that goes to Monsanto,” she says.
Victory over “all bad options”
“Just recently, I’ve gone a little bit further ,” she says, with rare sheepishness. “I’m into mycology. I hunt mushrooms.”
She eats them – a practice that Lockie doesn’t mind comparing to roulette.
“I picked them and I ate them and I didn’t die,” she laughs. “That’s extreme, and I know it’s extreme, but people think nothing of eating a McNugget, which is no part of the chicken, wrapped in god knows what, and fried in god knows what, yet they’re skeptical about eating an apple that grew on a tree if it’s not in an orchard. It’s just insane.”
So is most cancer therapy, in Lockie’s view. The conversation turns serious.
“It was my feeling that my mother died from the treatment, not the cancer,” says Lockie, left behind with her twin brother, who lives in Boston. “What they offered me in terms of treatment was no different. All the options are bad.”
After surgery, she turned down chemo and radiation. Fresh fruits and vegetables are full of beneficial nutrients and enzymes, Lockie notes. Research is discovering anticancer properties in certain fungi, too.
What grows uncultivated from dirt and decay might be what’s best for physical well-being – just as a good story, raw and newly sprouting, told in first person to strangers, might help mend a soul.
“I treat myself with food,” Lockie says quietly. “I’m a healthy person. I beat cancer on my own.”