Minstrel Monday #2

I woke up one morning with the lyrics, “Death is there to keep us honest / And constantly remind us we are free.” playing on a loop in my head. This was about 15 years ago. I immediately asked my mom what song/album that was from. She promptly answered, “Ghosts from The Innocent Age”.

I didn’t believe her because at that point The Innocent Age was one of my least favorite albums and I didn’t think I’d heard any song on that album enough to have the lyrics from it running through my head, it had probably been a year since I’d listened to any song on it. But she was right, of course, and for a while, that was my favorite song.

The song starts with a ghostly piano, and then Dan comes in his, voice soft and breathy:

Sometimes in the night I feel it
Near as my next breath and yet untouchable
Silently the past comes stealing
Like the taste of some forbidden sweet

Along the walls; in shadowed rafters
Moving like a thought through haunted atmospheres
Muted cries and echoed laughter
Banished dreams that never sank in sleep

Then we get the same instrumental that the song started out with. The repeating melody is haunting, and the lyrics create murky, creepy images that build. Then we go on with:

Lost in love and found in reason
Questions that the mind can find no answers for
Ghostly eyes conspire treason
As they gather just outside the door

Dan’s voice gets stronger and louder as we move with the lyrics through the same haunting melody. After Dan sings, “door”, we get our first non-piano, and it’s a drum, and then continue on with the same melody:

And every ghost that calls upon us
Brings another measure in the mystery

Another drum and then:

Death is there
To keep us honest
And constantly remind us we are free

The drumming plays over the melody until we hit “freeeeeeeeee”, and Dan elongates the word, and adds oomph to his voice and we hit the drums some more and now an electric guitar comes in as back up but we lose the piano. And now it’s only the guitar with a drum keeping the beat for:

Down the ancient corridors
And through the gates of time
Run the ghosts of days that we’ve left behind
Down the ancient corridors
And through the gates of time
Run the ghosts of dreams that we left behind

At some point, a soft chorus of ghosts come in with the “oohs” to back Dan up as his voice builds on the second “behind” lead into a guitar solo, still with the drums back it up. After the guitar solo fades out, we abruptly move back to the piano melody that played for the first part of the song. We go back to the original lyrics, too:

Sometimes, in the night I feel it
Near as my next breath and yet, untouchable
Silently the past comes stealing
Like the taste of some forbidden sweet

Then we drum guitar (losing the piano again) into:

And every ghost that calls upon us
Brings another measure in the mystery
Death is there to keep us honest
And constantly remind us we are free

Switch from piano to guitar for:

Down the ancient corridors
And through the gates of time
Run the ghosts of days that we’ve left behind

Ghostly chorus jumps in again, softly.

Down the ancient corridors
And through the gates of time
Run the ghosts of dreams that we left behind

Another guitar solo and back into the opening melody, ending with a crescendo of piano and drums backed up with more ghostly “aahs”.

I’m the first to say that I’m not a musical person at all, I haven’t studied it, I don’t know the terms or the chords, I just like it. I love this song for the lyrics and imagery and I find the composition evocative and beautiful. I never really analyzed the song before, so I didn’t even notice before that we switch from piano to guitar or that he was backed up with the ghost chorus, even. I just liked the song.

My favorite part was and still is the acknowledgment that our own limited time on this earth sets us free from societal conventions. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, particularly in regard to writing. I have such terrible social anxiety. As I write this, I’m flashing back and internally shuddering at an awkward exchange I had with someone last night that makes me think that he for sure hates me now. It’s stupid to think that, and I’m 98% sure he doesn’t, but that ass ache of constantly fearing losing someone else’s good opinion of me is pretty debilitating.

I like the theme of this song because of that struggle and because more and more lately, I just have to let myself be hatable. Not that I AM hatable, most people seem to really like me for some reason, but I try to let go of that white-knuckled NEED to be liked. I have no control over how anyone else feels about me. I could throw my best personality at everyone I meet and still have them hate me. On the other side of the spectrum, I’ve definitely had people see the worst parts of myself and had them love me anyway.

But I constantly remind myself that my life, in this form, at least, is finite, and it really does help me to let go of some of that anxiety. I wouldn’t say that this song created my current rebellion against the idea that I need to be liked by everyone, all the time,  but it definitely has let me know that I’m not the only one who has struggled with the same societal boundaries and limitations.

Stand-Up Sunday #2

I had a lot of good moments to choose from this week, and I think I’m hyper-aware of them because of how hard the depression hit this week. Kyra Soltanovich called me a problem solver. I had to pull Cheri off the floor as she seduced me because a server was behind her with a tray of drinks. Dave had an amazing set on the Friday 7:30 show. I hope I never forget that set. Josh was hilarious, I loved my weekend headliner, I got to know my intern and some of my coworkers better.

But here’s what stands out from this week: Scott Myer is a very new comedian but he’s older — even older than Dave. He’s been divorced twice and he moved to California to take care of his mom who had cancer, and he started doing stand-up. He’s been coming around to auditions for the past few months, as regularly as he can manage.

He’s VERY new. So, he doesn’t have a ton of structure. Okay, he has no structure. He mostly rambles and stumbles upon punchlines completely by accident, most of the time. He’s charming as fuck, is what I’m saying.

At the auditions on Wednesday, he mentioned that he was just offered a job that would make him $100,000 a year and he turned it down because it would mean he’d have to be at work instead of coming to auditions on those days.  Dave and I immediately both started shouting at him to take the job, we’re open other days, for a 100k, we’ll move the auditions to Friday, etc.

It resulted in a very funny moment, for a couple of reasons. 1) Dave and I were responding entirely to the money, not to a dislike of Scott. We both like him a lot. 2) Dave and my reactions were spontaneous, in the moment, and genuine, so it ended up being funny rather than mean. 3) Scott had a point that he was trying to get to, but no rhythm or structure, so we didn’t disrupt a moment he was trying to build. 4) Scott, unlike most comics, innately understands that stand-up is a conversation. He wasn’t offended. He wanted to make his point, but he wasn’t butthurt at being interrupted. He responded to us but didn’t let us derail him.

He came back for the Thursday auditions, but by then, I’d realized that he might be hurt that Dave and I so vehemently insisted that he take the job. So I talked to him for a moment in the bar before the show started. I don’t know if he really was okay or if he was hurt by our reaction and kind of relaxed as soon as I apologized, but he basically said that he has been questioning everything in his life for a while and that performing at Flappers is his only source of true joy and he isn’t ready to give it up. He’d rather be poor and happy.

And him saying that took me back to four years ago, when I wandered into Flappers, looking for a glimpse into another world — a world in which people actively pursue their dreams and express themselves freely. I was there for one night and I was addicted and I had to go back again and again to get my fix. I had saved up money and was taking a year off to write. When that year was up and I ran out of money, I started using my credit card because I could not go back to the shitty world of “should” that I had just come from. I knew that I should have gone out and got a job and stayed out of debt, but I didn’t. It was more important to me to be at the only place that had given me a moment’s rest from my grief since my mom died.

I thought, we all came for the same reason, not just to Flappers, but to comedy. Comedy, aside from all of the terrible aspects of it as a business, at its core, is a place that people mentally and physically go to, knowing that they’re going to be able to speak and be told the truth.

It’s been four years for me, and about a hundred for Dave (He’s old. You get it.), and at a certain point, we forget that we came to comedy in pursuit of truth because there is so much bullshit surrounding the business. It’s very sweet to think you’d rather be poor and happy but years of being overworked and undervalued kills that initial impulse. Because the thing that attracted you to comedy in the first place is such a small part of it. It’s like the light on the anglerfish. Truth draws you in and corruption and exploitation eat you alive.

That sounds negative, and it can, honestly, weigh on me to the point where I lose sight of why I wanted to be in this environment in the first place. Still, I often say that I’m glad that I found Flappers instead of any other comedy club, and I find it difficult to articulate, even to myself, why. I think that we do make a distinct effort to treat people as well and as fairly as we can, although I am also always pointing out that we need to do more.  But I think the thing that really saves us is that we are built on trying to create an environment in which newcomers feel safe and welcome to perform.

Although there are people who would point out that us doing so is not entirely altruistic, and I certainly agree with that, new talent is the lifeblood of any artistic community. New comedians remind me that comedy is exciting and fun. I forget that, I really do. I think that any time you take an artform and turn it into a business, you run the risk of removing its soul, and for me at least, watching new people figure it out, watching people who have been doing it for a while get better, watching people who know what they’re doing and should never be doing anything else — all of that is what reminds me of how much I love comedy and how much it has done for me.

Sadness Saturday #2

It’s odd, this morning, I knew I’d be writing this blog post when I got home and I was certain that I was going to be writing with my neck still under God’s boot. I was talking to someone about this the other day: we always think that the situation we’re in now is going to last forever. Any time I feel sad, I know that I will never be okay again. And when I feel okay, even though I know that the darkness will come back, based on experience, it doesn’t feel true. It feels like maybe I won that last bout and it’s the last one I’ll ever have to fight.

I woke up this morning to a lunch invitation because I forgot to put my phone on Airplane Mode last night. I went back to bed immediately but not before having a panic attack about the idea of sitting across a table from a person that I like and want to get to know better. I ended up texting her back and telling her I was having a rough time. We texted back and forth a bit, and by the time we were done, I felt a little better, but still not anything close to okay.

I have a new intern and he wasn’t supposed to come in today but found himself at loose ends, and we had an amazing conversation, just about what life is supposed to be about and stuff. I felt almost okay after that. The intern I was supposed to train today never showed up (I JUST remembered that he wasn’t supposed to), so this other intern stuck around and ran the shows for me. I would usually go up to the office and do some work if I know the shows would run okay, but the lineups were packed so I stuck around to fail to run the shows on time, myself.

I had a second to talk to two of my coworkers about writing, while the second show was happening. Another came by and I named his rescue plant. At some point, a drunk chick came out of the Main Room show for a cigarette and I walked her down the street a bit so she could smoke. It wasn’t legal to smoke there but I didn’t think she’d made it safely across the street, so I just kept her company.

The shows went well. The room was full, the comics were happy, they all had great sets. My headliner was amazing. I even got to see my best friend — twice! There were a thousand little conversations and interactions that were good. It was a good night. I work at a comedy club, which you know if you a) know me or b) have read any of my other posts in this blog. I found Flappers a little over four years ago. I could write a book about the impact Flappers has had on my life (I am, actually. It’s a story about a girl and her best friend, a unicorn) but right now, I’ll just say that I spent the first 35 years of my life, essentially as a mute. I could say words, of course, but I so rarely expressed myself honestly.

Over the past four years, I’ve found my voice, figured out who I am (to some degree), the impact that I have on the people around me, and found so many reasons to live that it really pisses me off that I’m not allowed to kill myself when I feel suicidal. I used to think that I would get depressed because I hated my life, and that was partly true. But now, I have a really cool job, I love my bosses and coworkers, I love the comedians (like 90% of them), and still, some days, I can’t feel any of the good things.

Unfortunately, my depression is clinical and it seems to be here to stay. But now, I recognize it when it’s happening, and I have ways to deal with it. All week, all I’ve wanted to do is isolate myself, and today, I finally reached out and opened up to people and it helped. I think my last Sadness Saturday was about how hard it is to be honest about being depressed because of the reaction I invariably get. Talking about being sad can be even more upsetting when the very idea of it is rejected or disallowed. But today, nobody shut me down, and I was able to open up, not just about sad things, but about nice things. And I got people to open up to me, too. I got to know two of my coworkers better in one night than in the year-plus I’ve been working with them. Amazing.

Face-Blindness Fridays #1

I figured out that I have face blindness a few years ago. I always knew something was wrong but I just thought I was stupid or self-absorbed when I couldn’t recognize people that I had met multiple times. When I was eight, in foster care, my mom came to visit and I thought she was a kidnapper. Over time, having a kidnapper mother came to be my new normal (that sounds weird but my life hadn’t exactly been going smoothly before that) and I stopped thinking about it.

Eventually, from time to time, I’d remember that odd, short period in my life in which I didn’t think my mom was my mom. Probably about a decade ago, my mom and I were watching 20/20 and there was a story about a young man who was convinced that his parents had been replaced by pod people. He’d been in a bad car accident and the connection between the visual memory of his parents and his affection for them was severed. When he’d talk to them on the phone or picture them in his mind, he knew that he loved them. When he saw them in person, no longer felt that rush of affection and therefore thought that his parents were imposters.

When I saw this story, I remember telling my mom that that was similar to my experience when she visited my brother and I at Mrs. Lewis’. I know what you’re thinking — why didn’t you Google it before that? Here’s why: I was born in 1978. I remember when the internet was basically useless. The “information superhighway” was built fairly quickly but it did take a decade or so for it to be close to what it is today. I did eventually track down that 20/20 story. That kid was diagnosed with Capgras delusion, but a lot of his symptoms didn’t apply to me, so I kept looking and found out about Prosopagnosia.

I shared the definition in a previous post but here it is again: “Prosopagnosia is a neurological disorder characterized by the inability to recognize faces. Prosopagnosia is also known as face blindness or facial agnosia. The term prosopagnosia comes from the Greek words for “face” and “lack of knowledge.”” (Wikipedia)

Prosopagnosia is a disorder that affects people to varying degrees. I’ve taken online tests that suggest that I have mild prosopagnosia but I think that that’s partly because I’ve taken the tests multiple times, but also because I trained myself to look and make mental notes of prominent or interesting facial features. I can actually draw decent portraits of people if I have good reference images and spend a lot of time on them. Here’s a portrait of my mom I drew from one of her favorite photos of herself:

I’d classify my face blindness as moderate because I can learn to recognize people based on their facial features, it just takes way longer than it takes most people. I also easily confuse similar-looking people with each other. If I haven’t seen someone in a long time (2-3 months), they may have to tell me their name before I can recognize them. Ditto if I run into someone I’m not expecting to see, particularly in an environment in which I’m not accustomed to seeing them.

When I didn’t recognize my mom at Mrs. Lewis’ house, I hadn’t seen her in at least a month. Also, in the blurry image I had of her in my mind, she looked basically like the photo above. When she visited at Mrs. Lewis’, she’d gained weight, her skin was gray, and most of the blonde had grown out of her hair. Also, this was the first time she’d ever visited in foster care in which she wasn’t identified by someone who I knew knew her. I remember walking past her in the courthouse when we met for the custody hearing but at the time, I put it down to there being so many people in the hallway that my gaze just bounced off of her too quickly.

People with face blindness tend to identify people by other physical traits; weight, height, voice, gestures, walk, etc. When my mom walked into Mrs. Lewis’, she carried herself differently than I remembered, and even her voice sounded defeated. I really thought she was a new social worker at first, before realizing that she was trying to pass herself off as my mother. And as far as I knew, Mrs. Lewis had never met my mother before, so how was she supposed to know? My brother wasn’t much help because he didn’t reject this woman, but he also didn’t run over and hug her. In fact, he would barely look at her.

Okay, I think that’s enough on face blindness for now. In the future, I’ll get into social anxiety, potential racism and the bland, daily terror of living with face blindness.

Drawing Thursdays #1

Yeah, I really need a better title for Thursdays. Drawing! I draw! A comedian friend of mine works at FIDM and I was telling her that I started out drawing fashion designs, and that I actually applied for a scholarship to FIDM. When I went back to school in 2008, I had three possible majors; English/Writing, Drawing, or Fashion Design. Glendale Community College offered zero Fashion Design classes, so that eliminated that. My first semester, I took a Creative Writing class and the Design prerequisite for all of the drawing classes. I loved the writing class and hated the design class, so there you go.

I don’t really draw fashion designs anymore, but I still love fashion. I was a fat teenager and knew that fashion was for skinny chicks, so I never told anyone of my interest in fashion design, except for my mom, who was my biggest fan in everything I did. I remember expressing my shame that I was interested in such a superficial thing. My mom was offended. She said, “Do you know how amazing it feels to try on a dress that looks and feels like it was made for you?” I didn’t, but I got her point. Aesthetic beauty does something to our insides. Still, I didn’t really tell anyone that I drew clothes.

When I entered to win the scholarship to FIDM, I did get called in for an interview. The interviewer seemed surprised that I’d been offered a $5,000 scholarship, I guess she wasn’t the one who called me. But I couldn’t afford tuition even with the scholarship. Maybe if I believed in myself more, I would have applied for more scholarships or chosen a community college that did offer fashion design classes, but I was pretty heavily into agoraphobia at the time and the idea of any of that stuff would immediately make me need a nap. I spent the next 10 years napping, watching Oprah, and drawing.

Toward the end of my 5 years of community college, I took another drawing class, this time with David Attyah, and I name him by name because he changed, and possibly saved, my life. David John Attyah is a renowned artist, check out his stuff, he is amazing. I took Drawing 1 pretty much exactly a year after my mom died, and I was flailing (not failing, I graduated with a 4.0, thank you very much). I basically took a drawing class because it fulfilled credit requirements even though my major was English and because I thought it would be an easy class that I wouldn’t have to take too seriously.

Not a blow-off class like they talk about in movies, but something that wouldn’t require too much of me. It was a beginner class and I’d been drawing on my own for 15 years, so I was one of the better students (okay, I was the best, although, some of those kids are definitely better than me by now). It was four hours, one hour of lecture, three hours of drawing. At that point, I didn’t know how much I needed to just sit somewhere for three hours a week and create. If I hadn’t been taking a class, I wouldn’t have spent three hours a week, sitting in a room, drawing. That would have been ridiculous. I had too much real stuff to do.

If you’ve ever lost someone close to you, you know that you lose a part of yourself right along with them. And my mom wasn’t just someone. She was everyone. I didn’t have a hope or a dream that wasn’t connected to her in some way. Any accomplishment in my life would have been immediately followed up with a phone call to her. Every step of building up to those accomplishments would have been taken with her. Without her, those ghostly future victories deflated and crumbled into nothingness.

When I signed up for that drawing class, it wasn’t in the hopes that anything would come of it. I wasn’t looking to be a professional artist, I wasn’t even looking for an A. I was grimly moving toward my future, not even sure why I was still going to class every day except that I hadn’t actively decided to stop. In my last post, I talked about how being in the moment is so important in order for good art to be made and I was introduced to that by David, even though I didn’t know it at the time.

I got better at drawing, sure, but honestly, without the relief of having a few hours a week in which nothing was expected of me, I probably would have gone crazy. I loved that class. I could put on my headphones and listen to music, so I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I didn’t even have to smile. Nobody was looking at me. I didn’t even have to be good at drawing because David Attyah drove home how much class time was for practice and I have a lot of terrible charcoal attempts at still lifes to prove that I believed him.

I graduated from elementary school, junior high, high school, and community college, and I never cried on any of those days. I never cried on the last day of any kind of school. But the last day of that class, a year before I graduated, I had to leave before the class was over because I started crying. I cried the entire 45-minute bus ride home. I remember how sad I was that I wasn’t going to be going to that class every week.

I still feel that sense of loss when I think back to it. I still can’t quite articulate why that class was so important to me and why I was so sad to leave it, but I think it was because it was the first time in my life I didn’t try to be something, I just was. Of course I was sad. I thought that that time in my life was over, that it was some magic that was connected only to that class, to that teacher. I didn’t realize that I was taking those skills that David Attiyah taught me, not just in drawing, but in living, with me. That was just the beginning of learning to live in the moment, not the end.

(Note: the drawings in this post were done in 2007. This was 11 years after I graduated from high school and 4 years before the drawing class I describe here. I chose these images because they were done not long before I stopped thinking of fashion design as a viable future job.)

Writing Wednesdays #1

Okay, so only a few of my friends actually know this, but I’ve been working on a book. It’s a middle grade fantasy novel about a girl and her best friend, a unicorn. Non-fiction, obviously. Here is a photo I took: 

I think I came up with this story idea in 2004 or 2005. My files only go back as far as 2009, though. Anyway, the point is that writing is a quick and easy endeavor. Seriously, though, I started writing this for real in July of 2017 and then for some reason on December 13th, started writing it for real.

I have tried to talk myself into some sort of regular writing schedule before, but the writing was a chore, something that I did because I was trying to reach a word count, trying desperately to prove to myself that I was a “real” writer. Over the past four years, I’ve gotten in touch with my voice, who I am, and what I have to say. I’m also mildly convinced that I have a tumor and have like two weeks left to live. I’ve felt that way for a while.

I deal with depression, too (see last post if you don’t believe me), so although I want to die, like multiple times a day, I don’t want to die without having written at least one book. It’s been my only real dream since before I could read. I always knew that I was a writer, and the only part of dying that makes me sad is the idea that I’ll never get to tell the stories that I’ve been trying to tell for a decade. I know I’m supposed to say I’ll miss my family and friends, but I’ll be dead. I won’t be able to miss anyone. I also won’t be around to care if they miss me, so that part doesn’t really affect me much. I just don’t want to be murdered and I don’t want to die of suicide.

But I digress. The point is, thinking that I’m going to die in two weeks (from today, always from today) combined with my new ability to express myself have given me the push I needed to start writing again. I always wanted being a writer to be like it was in movies — I’d sit down at a typewriter and instantly be transported to another world. It’d be like reading, but better because I’d be controlling the story. Over the years, I’d have moments of that, but so few that I grew frustrated. I got angry at myself for not being able to make the writing experience like that. I got angry at movie writers who would lie to would-be writers and make us think that writing was that easy.

And it’s not. Even though the writing is smoother now, and I get lost in it more, there are still hiccups, still doubts that crowd my mind, especially right before I start writing for the day. But there is a magic to it, and I think that the last four years of working at a comedy club has taught me that magic. The magic comes from being in the moment with my words. I’ve watched, honestly, countless shows, countless comedians do countless jokes.

Comedians often get embarrassed when they do a joke they think I’ve heard before. This makes me laugh for two reasons: one, because I have face blindness and if I have no idea who you are, sometimes hearing a joke you’ve done before helps me remember who you are. And two, because I LIKE watching people do the same jokes over and over (unless I hate that joke). A good joke lives in the moment, never to be told the same way again. They say that you can never cross the same river twice, and I feel the same way about telling jokes. The comedian grows and changes, the audience changes, the joke gets tighter, more tags get added, etc.

If you could Groundhog Day a joke and have the comedian tell the same joke to the same audience a split second later, and then another split second later, and then another split second later, the joke would never be the same, any of those times. The differences would be subtle, but even the amount of time the audience has been sitting in the room affects the reaction. Where the servers are in the room, who gets up to go to the bathroom are factors, too. As soon as one audience member checks out, thinking about the bathroom instead of the joke, the air in the room changes. Stand-up is a very fiddly artform.

My host tonight told me that he made 37 mistakes during the show that he’s going to obsess over and get perfectly next time. I hope he’s joking because, really, imperfection is where the poignancy and beauty of stand-up live. Vulnerability is the absence of structure, and it is the key to not just good comedy, but good art. That’s why people talk about “being in the moment” all the time with stand-up because there is no great stand-up who has ever lived who has performed their bits, completely or even minutely detached from what they’re saying. Urgency is the key to amazing stand-up, not saying your “lines” perfectly.

Similarly, when I’m writing now, I don’t worry about getting the words and sentences perfect. I’m less concerned with writing impressively. I understand poetry, to some degree. I understand the rules for writing well. But I don’t care anymore because I’ve spent four years watching people mess up their own jokes and still manage to connect to the audience perfectly.

So when I’m writing, I keep in mind that even though the words are for someone else later, they’re also for me, now. And when I remember that, the experience of writing takes me from this world to another one, and it feels like how I always thought writing should.

Testy Tuesdays #1

Social anxiety can be a bit of a struggle. Here’s how I dealt with it this weekend: I didn’t show up. A baby shower and a birthday party, both of which I have been planning to attend for weeks, but couldn’t. For the baby shower, I just didn’t show up and I feel like a jerk about that. For the birthday party, I lied and said I had the flu, and I feel even worse about that one. I very rarely lie, and even when I do, it’s generally of omission, not a straight-up lie.

I could have said I wasn’t feeling well, which was true, but that’s such a weak excuse. A broken arm, a car wreck, an actual illness are all acceptable reasons to not show up for people. Depression isn’t. Anxiety isn’t. I could have said that I felt like all of my skin had been scraped off with a potato peeler and the idea of being around anyone else in that condition was too much, but I didn’t.

I think in general, we’re all coming around to accepting depression as an actual obstacle that we have to work around, but we’re not there yet. “I’m too scared to go to your party” isn’t going to cut it. “I need three days to sit at home and recover from the severity of my own self-loathing” doesn’t work either.

I should have called into work sick on Saturday but “being a person” isn’t an illness, even if it feels like one, sometimes.

I was agoraphobic from the ages of 17-27, and to be honest, it started before that and it has never gone away, even though people like to declare that a full-time job and having friends means I’m “cured”. When I was 27, I came to a point at which I decided I wouldn’t let anxiety rule my life anymore. I struggle with it every day and I usually win. I hate that it beat me this weekend. I hate that it turned me into a liar and a lesser version of myself. But I don’t know a way around it.

“I can’t be happy that you’re alive because I’m too sad,” is a shitty thing to say to someone on a regular day, let alone a day that is set aside to celebrate that person’s birth. Being happy that someone I love was born, on a day when I’m depressed, is like looking out at the ocean, my gaze following the prismatic rays of sunshine from the heavens, down to where it glimmers and glitters on the floating, frozen bodies lying in the ocean above a sunken Titanic.

On a good day, I can keep my eyes on the Heavens. On an okay day, I can see the light and the death and find a balance there. On a bad day, all I can see is the death and the mourning and the loss of our greatest treasures. All I can see is the infuriating fragility of life and hope. I wonder what the point of celebrating our small victories is when our defeats are so much larger and more devastating and relentless.

It’s like the first flower that grows after an atomic bomb explodes. Most people see the flower as a symbol of regeneration, the circle of life, life finds a way and other bland cliches, unhelpful philosophies, and conventional wisdoms. I look at the flower and I think about all of the people who died immediately and the poor souls who died slower and more painfully. I think about how irreplaceable each and every one of those people were, and I look at the flower and I think, it’s not enough. Who could ever think that could be enough?

The only thing I can really do is hold on to this experience and use it to allow me to be kind to other people. Sometimes, when I go for long stretches in which I feel strong and smart and capable, I lose my empathy. I get very judgemental. Letting down the people that I care about is always humbling but it makes me kinder. I remember that people don’t fail me because they want to. It’s because they’re human and people aren’t perfect.

Minstrel Monday #1

The reason why I know too much about Dan Fogelberg is because my mother was convinced that he was her soul mate. I grew up thinking that he was going to be my dad someday, so learned as much as I could about him (mostly from my mom) as a kid could without an internet (Wasn’t invented yet. I know, I’m old.).

I have a terrible memory for melodies and songs but I can sing along with about 90% of his songs, and a few of my favorites I can sing at least partly from memory. He’s rarely an option at karaoke, though, except for his bigger hits like Longer, Ald Lang Syne, Leader of the Band, Power of Gold, Run for the Roses.

I like Longer and I loved Leader of the Band before I heard it about a zillion times. Power of Gold still hits me with its gorgeous composition and is as emotionally manipulative as any classic Queen anthem. I didn’t like Run for the Roses when I was a kid, although I have more and more of an appreciation of it as I age.

My current favorite Dan song (it changes every few years or so) is The Reach from the album, The Innocent Age. The Innocent Age is currently my favorite album, as it consistently has, song for song, the prettiest compositions and the most vivid imagery of any of his albums. There are a couple of songs on The Innocent Age that I don’t like, but Ghost, Nexus, and In the Passage are all the best in lyrical poetry. And Hard to Say is just a straight-up awesome WTF-is-love ballad.

A few years ago, I had my heart broken pretty severely and I had to choose a new favorite song. It couldn’t be a love song, and I didn’t really want it to be a bitter song, either. I wanted something nice to focus on. That left out Tucson, Arizona (Gazette), even though it’s not a love song. It also left out Sutter’s Mill, another clever and kind of funny, but ultimately depressing song.

The Reach is about generations of sailors and their relationships with seasons and the ocean. The lyrics are haunting, and the composition still makes my heart ache and stomach clench at certain parts. But don’t take my word for it — now that you have a fully biased opinion in your ear, listen for yourself:

Stand-up Sunday #1

Alright, look at me being all consistent for a day-and-a-half. Stand-up Sundays! I just got home from work, I’m tired, cranky, and not entirely sober. Let’s talk about comedy!

Yeah, I’m going to let my first comedy post be a bitchy one. Deal with it.

If you’re booked on a show and you’re NOT Jerry Seinfeld, you: 

  • Show up on time, and by “on time”, I mean 30 minutes prior to show start. If you’re hosting, it’s 45 minutes.
  • If you’re running late — and don’t be running late — call the club so that we know what the hell happened to you.
  • Stay for the whole show.
  • If you DO decide to bust out early, DON’T call the booker’s attention to the fact by finding and shaking her hand in the middle of someone else’s set.
  • Be nice to the staff. I got a complaint about a comedian from a staff member yesterday and I won’t be booking him for a while, if ever again.
  • Do your BEST material or a reasonable facsimile.
  • If you ARE doing brand-new material, don’t announce it to the booker or the audience or both.
  • No notes on stage.
  • Don’t run the light.
  • Don’t run the light.
  • Don’t run the light.

There’s also something else I should mention before I forget: DON’T RUN THE LIGHT! Ugh, I was trying so hard to not write that list in all caps, I just couldn’t hold back anymore! So many people violated multiples of these rules this weekend. Most of the time, I’ll overlook it, but bad manners just ran rampant this weekend and I wanted to scream.

Okay, that was me being negative. Here are some DOs that people did this weekend that pleasantly surprised me: 

  • Comedians supported other comedians and came to watch the shows. (By the way, I do not count the DBs who come in only to watch his/her friend’s set and immediately leave. I’m not going to get into why here, but I might in a future Stand-Up Sundays post.)
  • Grow As a Comedian: This weekend and last weekend, there were comedians that I hadn’t seen perform in a while, and they blew me away! This makes me SO happy, more than you can understand.
  • Be a Better Comedian Than I Thought You Were: This sounds like the same as the last thing, but the truth is that you might be a great comedian and have had a terrible audition or a just-okay tape and those were what you were booked from. A few people pleasantly surprised me this weekend and I will be doing more with them in the future.

Honestly, I wasn’t my best this weekend either, and that has an effect on the other comedians, the staff, and the audience. And I know that I’m not the end-all, be-all of whether a show goes well or not, but I’m a component. That’s why I get so mad when a comedian comes in and is too cool for the room — because one jerk with an attitude can take all of the air out of a room. We all affect each other whether we like it or not.

Sadness Saturday #1

 

First, let’s address the question that everyone asks when I express any type of sadness: why? And the answer? Who the hell knows, really? Was it a tough day at work? Sure. Was it a great day at work? Sure. Yes. Every day is terrible and wonderful and that is what life is. So it doesn’t matter why. I’m sad a lot, there are smart and dumb reasons why. Why isn’t important.

Why is a question that only makes me sadder because it means that the person asking it thinks that there is a solution. If you are sad because a) then you can cure your sadness by doing b). No. No matter how hard I dream, I still wake up me and I have to be me all day and then I have to go to sleep and be me again tomorrow. And me is sad. Sometimes I think that sad is all that me is, ever has been, will ever be. Usually, I think that when I’m sad. I generally don’t think that when I’m not sad.

The second thing that bugs me when I say that I’m sad, and honestly, I don’t say it much anymore because I’m so tired of hearing: get over it. Move on. Oh, okay. Wow, why didn’t I think of that? Just don’t feel. Don’t have a natural reaction to pain. I could, and honestly, I’m tempted to, justify my pain, really lay it out there, tell you all of the terrible things that have ever been said or done to me, and if I did, you would give up. You would say something like, “Oh, wow, I didn’t know it was that bad.” And then you would go about your life, still thinking that I should get over it, except you wouldn’t say it out loud to me because you wouldn’t want the argument.

The WORST thing about being sad is when I have to argue it, justify it. Here is my why? Why? Why do I have to prove that I have a right to be sad? Why do I have to paint a picture so horrific that you’ll finally stop arguing with me? I didn’t ask me how I was, you did. My only crime was answering honestly.

Here are two things I do to combat my natural inclination to make sure that others are okay with my sadness:

    • I don’t answer why. I just say, “sometimes I feel sad” and that has to be enough for them because I’m not giving them anything else.
    • If someone gets upset that I’m not justifying my sadness, I get over it.

These suggestions sound snarky, but honestly, it kind of works.

Here’s something else I do: any time someone tells me that they’re overreacting to an upsetting event that happened to them, I tell them that they’re allowed to be sad, that sadness is a natural reaction to a sad event. I figure, if I allow other people to be sad, they will allow other people to be sad, and eventually, maybe we won’t all walk around expecting ourselves and everyone else to react to pain like sociopaths.

via GIPHY

Pay the sadness forward, everybody! Have a good weekend!