Stand-Up Sundays #7

God, I’m tired. I keep vacillating between actively wanting to kill myself and being terrified that I have like two weeks left to live because I have a tumor or an aneurysm that’s about to explode or something. There are so many things I should be doing, and I’m not doing any of them, because why should I?

Alright, this is Stand-Up Sundays, so enough whining. Let’s talk about comedy. First, why do people INSIST on messaging me on Facebook about work stuff? I mean I get why, it just drives me insane.

Next, I missed all of the shows this past weekend and I’m still bummed about that. I went home early on Friday because I wasn’t feeling well, and I missed this show that I had been looking forward to for WEEKS. And then I was trying to catch up on Saturday so I stayed in the office for the most part and there’s something wrong with the EMS, so it literally took me a full minute to add a single person to a show, but I’m so behind on booking that I couldn’t just come back to it later and working on something else.

Fortunately, I have some people who are going to be helping me run shows, so that means I won’t be covering showrunning instead of booking — hopefully. Although, I’ve lost two interns because they were hired, so that is great and terrible at the same time.

Did anything good happen in comedy this week? Yeah, Kuddelmuddel was super fun. That’s my monthly variety show. I have a dude named Goat vs. Fish hosting it and the show had like 35 audience in it (capacity is 50) on a Thursday at 9:30 and it was a fun show. I need to book comedians who don’t take it personally that the host is so weird, but other than that (and it running 15 minutes over despite it starting on time and even with a 10-minute no-show), it was a great show.

I got annoyed with someone last night for trying to get a drop-in spot, and it hurt his feelings, so now I get to feel like a monster until — who am I kidding? I’ll never forgive myself. I did apologize, but he didn’t really accept it, and I can never tell with comedians if they’re playing mad or actually mad. He’s been doing stand-up for 20 years, so I don’t know if he just brushed it off or if he thinks that he’s above just fucking emailing and asking for spots instead of just showing up and is still annoyed that I got annoyed.

Anyway, good things, good things. At the auditions, this chick named Kelsey Munger did her chinchilla story, which she did at her first audition, and it was the first time that I remembered her — I mean, not when I saw her, at first, but when I heard that joke. I love that joke. I think she said she’s very new to stand-up but I might remember wrong because I have a surprising number of Kelseys and because she’s SO funny!

What else was good? I got to talk to Wayne on Saturday during my lunch break, which is always great, although not exactly comedy related. Josh wrote another book, so that’s great but also not directly related to comedy.

Oh, here’s something fun. We have a policy of not booking comedians within 14 days of each other. It’s to help with audience fatigue and to give comedians a chance to regenerate an audience and to give everyone a chance to perform instead of having the same twelve people around every week (nevermind that there are people I genuinely like and haven’t gotten around to booking for like 6 months, but that’s another story), but an independent producer sent in his lineup and two of his people were already booked within the 14 days. Even though he already knew about this policy, he complained about it on Facebook and said that he is looking for another venue to produce his show at.

Don’t do this. Honestly. I get it, social media is so easily accessible and it’s so easy to vent your frustrations online but it’s also SUPER easy for the people you’re shitting on to see it! What are you thinking?! I refrained from commenting on his post (we’re friends on Facebook) and I refrained from private messaging him and when I got into work, I refrained from emailing him and canceling his show, but goddamn, that sucked. This guy has put on two shows and this is his third, and his best audience count was 21. I was doing him a favor allowing him to continue with the show, giving it a chance to build into something. With his attitude and the negative attention he has already drawn to this show, I’m thinking it’s probably not going to go well, so I’m still trying to figure out if I should let it happen or not.

This is not what I want to be thinking about when I look back on my week. I wish that I hadn’t friended so many comedians on FB before I started working at the club because it’s impossible to separate my social life from work, now. And any time someone shits on the club, I see it, and half of the time, it’s someone that I like. It sucks.

Sadness Saturdays #7

I have to stop complaining about my job. Not because I don’t hate it but because nobody wants to hear about it. People are supposed to want power, even women, so to complain that the collective hopes and dreams are, as Dan Fogelberg once described a woman’s heart “so fragile and heavy to hold” — people just don’t get it. If someone saw me crying at my desk, which happens almost every day that I’m at work (to be fair, I cry a lot at home, too, mostly about my dead mom) they would think I was insane.

I’m so tired of trying to explain what a drain it is to try to keep everybody happy all of the time. People tell me that that’s not possible, and I get that in theory, but it doesn’t stop me from trying.

On an unrelated note, I’m sure, a new facial twitch popped up yesterday. So, of course, the eyelids top and bottom, left and right, are the classics. I also have had eyebrow twitches. Once, the middle of my lower lip twitched for about a week, and then last week, my upper lip twitched for the first time. The newest one, though, was between my eyebrows, at the tip of my right eyebrow. Who needs to travel? Dealing with my own face is an adventure.

I also had the fibroids flare up this week, which means that I left work early on Friday, and almost called in sick on Saturday. I remember this happening when I was agoraphobic and wondering how I was supposed to hold down a job when I’d be Mt. St. Helens-ing for weeks on end, and it’s mostly been okay. It’ll officially be 11 years in July since I went out and got a job. Not that it hasn’t been a problem, but it’s mostly been manageable. Still, it sucks to be debilitated every 6-9 months for no earthly reason other than, you know, biology. Stupid biology.

I’ve also been isolating a lot. I’m finishing up all of my promised projects and I’ve promised myself that I won’t start another one. I’m avoiding my best friends and am “too busy” to really stop and talk to anyone at work. Josh can tell that something is wrong so he being vigilant about checking in on me, but Barb is going through her own personal nightmare so she’s too sad and distracted to notice. Dave is getting ready to film his special and between that, helping Barb, and getting ready to film his special, he’s nice and distracted too. So I get to fly mostly under the radar, only interacting the minimum amount to avoid suspicion that I’m not okay.

After my mom died, I used to pretend that I was okay so much that I started to feel like a con artist. But I’ve studied up on it and I definitely don’t have that Machiavellian instinct. I think I just have BPD, part of which is having extremely thin skin AND emotional numbness. What a roller coaster!

How I deal with it is I just stay distracted as much as possible. I’m watching a lot of YouTube tutorials and Ted Talks and trying to stimulate the part of my brain that isn’t constantly screaming. I am currently making a crown-shaped jewelry box out of cardboard and a purse and neither project is for anyone in particular. And I created a new and pretty stitch for my knitting loom. I mean, I’m sure I didn’t invent it, but I didn’t learn it from anyone else.

I wish I had more or better advice about how to deal with it, but sometimes, there just isn’t any. I did an online chat with a crisis hotline about a week ago. Super unhelpful. I got linked to an online anxiety tips list that was clearly written for children and that linked to a longer list that I could pay for if I wanted to….I’m seriously better off just Googling baby animals.

Writing Wednesdays #6

I want to write a song called “You Don’t Get to Know Me”, so I Googled “How to Write a Song and I’m going to try to write a song tonight from this article that I found. Why this article and not another? This one popped up first. Yay, research.

So, I know the title and the article says that the most popular structure for a song is verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge (whatever that is), chorus. It also says that you should have questions about the title and to answer a question in each verse and one in the chorus.  Here’s what I have so far:

Verse
What are you?

Chorus
Who are you?

Verse
When are you?

Chorus
Who are you?

Bridge
Where are you?

Chorus
Who are you?

Yeah, I went with the reporter questions. I may switch out one of the verses with “why” or “how” if one of the other ones doesn’t work out. Okay, Step 5 is to “find the melody”, whatever that means, and to “choose the lines you like best for your chorus”. I haven’t written any lines. I guess I’ll do that now. Okay, I don’t know how to do that. Back to Google.

Okay, that wasn’t helpful either. I’m going to write a poem instead, and call it a song. Hold on, be right back…

You Don’t Get to Know Me

Verse
Like a bird without wings,
A cricket that never sings,
A lion with no teeth,
A daffodil among the heath.

Chorus
You don’t get to know me,
You don’t get to know me,
I know some of you,
But you don’t get to know me.

Verse
Always three steps ahead,
Or seven steps behind,
I spent a decade in my bed,
The next one in my mind,

Chorus
You don’t get to know me,
You don’t get to know me,
I know some of you,
But you don’t get to know me.

Bridge
See me by the tree planning the spree,
I steal your lordly Chablis, I am beastly,
An absentminded amputee bumble bee,
Can’t you, can’t you, stop waiting for me,

Chorus
You don’t get to know me,
You don’t get to know me,
I know some of you,
But you don’t get to know me.

Okay, there you go. I had to look up what a bridge was supposed to be and that’s as close as I can get. I don’t really know anything about music, but this would probably make a decent four-chord song. 🙂

I should probably address the fact that I haven’t updated this blog in almost a month.

Stand-Up Sundays #6

When I first got to work yesterday, thankfully no one was there, except for Ryan, who was manning the phones. So I went in to the classroom that I use as an office and closed the door. I sat down at my desk and opened a browser and as I went to open up my email, I started crying.

It was a panic attack. I cry when I’m panicking. So I Googled, “im having a panic attack right now” (no time for punctuation) and clicked on the first article I saw. The first thing the article suggested was to breathe deeply, and that was when I realized that I wasn’t breathing normally, so I slowed down my breathing. I was still crying, though. I’ll spare you the details, but it took me probably about 20 minutes to calm myself down and be able to start working.

I have a new facial tick every week — I really have to quit this job — and my upper lip started trembling. That was new. Fortunately, by the time, Josh got back from his lunch break (Saturday is his day off, but he never actually takes it), I had calmed down a bit. I was clearly not okay, though, so he talked to me about work stuff long enough for me to seem calm enough for him to go back to work. I had a good talk with Wayne during my lunch break, too, and was starting to feel a little stronger. Honestly, I would have just called in sick again, but I’m so behind on booking and Saturday, if I’m not covering showrunning, is the best day to catch up because the office is empty and there aren’t as many distractions and interruptions.

Anyway, I was feeling better because the people around me are little miracles but I wasn’t quite up to being around masses of humans, so I hid in my office during the shows and caught up on some parts of my job.  I noticed that someone had bought tickets to the late night open mic. Sometimes, people buy tickets to the 11:30 show thinking it’s the 9:30 show, so I called, just to make sure.

It was a kid who had gotten the tickets on purpose because he was going to try stand-up for the first time at the open mic and he’d gotten tickets for himself and his friends. Adorable. He asked me some questions about how to sign up and what time to be there. I don’t know why, but I ended up giving him advice. I probably shouldn’t have, honestly. People on their first time should just go up with their own excitement and expectations and not with some weird comedy troll in their head, telling them not to talk about their dick. But I did talk to him and he was really sweet and I wished him luck.

I’ve only been around stand-up for 4 years, and to have come as far as I have in that amount of time boggles my mind. That anyone even takes me seriously as a person in comedy blows me away, as well. However, if you take 4 years at 40 hours a week, that’s 8,320 hours, and you need 10,000 hours to be an expert at something, and I just watched a Ted Talk last night that said if you study anything for even 20 hours, you can be passably okay at it. So, whatever, here’s what I’ve learned that you need to be good at stand-up.

First, there is a difference between wanting to speak and having something to say. I’ve seen comedians start with just wanting to talk. They have the stage presence and the joy of being on stage, but no substance.  A lot of times, watching these comedians can leave me feeling empty.

However, sometimes the point is just the joy of connecting to other people through sheer silliness and there are a LOT of performers that I really love who entertain without being super personal. So, I can’t say that you have to talk about your family or be super dark or political in order to have an impact on the audience. However, the comedians who are more performance artists than stand-ups have still tapped into the uniqueness of who they are, the way that they walk around the world.

One of my favorite people to watch is Michael Rayner. He markets himself as a “post-modern vaudevillian” and a lot of his act is juggling and silly tricks. Sometimes, performers use tricks as a distraction, a deflection, a distancing mechanism, so that you never really see who they are, but as Dave once pointed out, Rayner uses these tricks to disarm the audience with the end result being a real connection with everyone in the audience. I’ve watched Rayner perform for kids and adults, I’ve seen him do straight stand-up (brilliant political riffs) and I’ve seen him do silly tricks, and he is always amazing because he is always a 100% in the moment.

As Bill Hicks once said, “The act is something you fall back on if you can’t think of anything else to say“. A good performer knows that the most powerful thing you’re bringing to the stage is YOU. Your however-many-years of being alive, experiences, thoughts, emotions, ways of processing the world, etc. Some of my favorite performance artist-type comedians to watch are Rayner, of course, but also Claire Titleman, Marty Wurst, Keith Kelly, Natisha Anderson, Jackie Loeb, Ryan Harvey Pearcy, Jim Tavare, The Martin Duprass, Rick Garrison, The Jasons, and there are a lot more, but those are some that spring to mind.

So, all of that said, sometimes when comedians are newer, they start with nothing to say and also, they don’t know who they are on stage, so they really have nothing offer other than an eagerness to be in front an audience. Those tend to be the roughest people to watch, but I do have to say that I’ve seen some of them develop into interesting performers. And the point is not that you HAVE to have something to say, but to know the difference between having something to say and knowing that you want to talk. You don’t want to force yourself into being a one-liner comic or an avant-garde performer, but you do need to be aware of your natural instinct so that you can rely on your strengths but also so that you can work on your weaknesses.

Second, there is a difference between getting a reaction, and getting a laugh. God, I wish that I could infuse this difference into every shock-y open mic’r who uses abortion, rape, masturbation, etc. as a punchline instead of writing an actual joke. And really, there’s nothing wrong with getting a reaction for parts of your act. That’s audience manipulation, and it’s important to know how other humans react to more controversial issues.

Sarah Silverman opened her latest special with a rape/poop joke. It’s a silly joke, it’s a gross joke, and it’s a dark joke. But as she’s telling the joke, she’s fully aware not only of the response of the audience in front of her, but she knows what their response will be before she tells it because she understands the human condition. The last part of her joke is her responding to the audience’s reaction to the joke. I don’t necessarily love it when comedians get super meta, but I think in this case, the joke is stronger for her acknowledging the effect that it has because she gets to turn a gross-shock joke into social commentary that is funny instead of preachy.

That said, you have to know the difference between getting a reaction and getting a laugh. A reaction is visceral, gutteral. A laugh is more spiritual, it comes from recognizing a piece of yourself in the performer; an experience, a thought, a feeling, shared humanity. A reaction may sound like laughter, but is often discomfort, and you as a manipulator of your audience, need to not mistake that discomfort for enjoyment. You need to be aware of the difference for two reasons: one, so that you can use the power of reaction effectively, and two so that you don’t end up relying on shock-punchlines for your entire act.

An act made up entirely of gross/shock punchlines is unimaginative, boring, and exhausting. It also loses effectiveness the longer you go along because the audience can start predicting where you’re going, and they start to tune you out. Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t ever use shock or grossness, but if you’re going to, why don’t you switch the shock and gross to the set-up and let the punchline be a little more creative? Some of the best audience manipulators out there are Anthony Jeselnek, Laurie Kilmartin, and Ryan Stout. But none of them relies entirely on shock — they can’t because it gets old.

Third, nobody wants to hear about your dick’s porn preferences and/or masturbation techniques except for other open mic’rs who feel validated to keep talking about theirs. It’s not shocking or offensive, it’s worse — it’s boring. Fifty percent of the world has the same type of genitals you do — I do know ONE comedian who was born without testicles, and he’s basically the only one that I ever want to hear talk about his dick (that was a weird statement to write) because it separates him from the rest of humanity. Not only does he feel different, but he is seen and treated differently because of this. His dick jokes are also social commentary. Your dick probably isn’t that special. Talk about what IS unique about you.

Fourth, the ONLY thing you need in order to be someone a booker wants to work with, is a decent person. Everyone starts out shitty at comedy and 90% of the time, they get better. My job is technically to “develop talent”, but talent develops with practice, I really have nothing to do with it. People who are excited to be around comedy, always do their best, and are keen to learn and do even better next time, are people that I want to work with. People who are too cool for the room, who aren’t supportive of the people around them, who are only out for themselves with no regard to the venue, the staff, the audience, or their peers, can go fuck themselves.

Fifth is the most important one, and it’s one that I was shamed into remembering by Peter Berman. One weekend, about a year-and-a-half ago (August 2016), he was headlining the Yoo Hoo Room (yeah, I don’t know how we got him to do it, either). Anyway, the mood was a bit muted, I was tired, and fucking around with the bulletin board outside the Yoo Hoo while the emcee went over the pre-show meeting with the newer comics.

The meeting was basically a bunch of don’ts “don’t stand in the doorways, don’t be loud, don’t be mean to the audience” — you know, addressing all of the petty bullshit that gets annoying after working at a comedy club for a couple of years. Anyway, the meeting broke up, and the emcee went in to start the show, and the kids kind of scattered.

Peter stepped forward to all the kids who were sitting there, lost in their own heads, and said something like, “Don’t forget to have fun, right? Did anyone mention that? That’s kind of the most important part, otherwise, why are we doing this?” And I was instantly ashamed, because the pre-show meeting talking points came from me, and I had focused on all of the bad things and forgotten that the point of the pre-show meeting is to answer questions and to get people pumped up to perform.

So now, if I ever give the pre-show meeting spiel or am witnessing it, I always add that having fun is the most important part. Really, as much as structure and audience manipulation are a part of the art of comedy, the main, intangible force of comedy, the reason everyone from the staff to the audience to the performer is there, is because it’s supposed to be fun. If we lose that, we have nothing.

Sadness Saturdays #6

Last night, I came home from work early. I was having panic attacks and couldn’t stop crying. Some people think they’re dying when they have panic attacks because dying seems like the worst case scenario. For me, death would be a blessed relief, but my worst fear is letting people know how I really feel. Anyway, I said I wasn’t feeling well and left.

I stopped by Smart & Final on the way home because I knew there was no food in the house, although I wasn’t really hungry, which is unusual for me. The cashier asked me how I was and I made a noise somewhere between a moan and a grunt. And he was very nice about it. Sometimes — no, most of the time — if I express any kind of negative emotion, the other person reacts as though I am personally attacking them, and they put their hands up as though my sadness is contagious. And it is, I guess.

But I think that there’s a level of emotional intelligence at which people can let you feel how you feel without it destroying them. Therapists have to have this level of emotional intelligence. I’m working on it, myself. But he was very nice. And it’s been, like five years since I worked there, and as I walked home, I was thinking about the two years I was there, in which I forced myself into a good mood, thrust all of the bad thoughts away, made myself focus on who and what was in front of me — and I remembered when that muscle tore down from overuse.

I don’t have it anymore. I have SOME ability to be pleasant when I’m not okay, but I can’t put on the full mask anymore, and to be honest, I don’t want to. It was SO exhausting. I would cry on my breaks, on the way to work, on the way home, at home for hours, but in public, I was all smiles.

Now, like, I’m having a rough time and I definitely feel some pressure to maintain my composure in public — mostly self-induced, honestly, right? If I just broke down and started crying in front of a co-worker, they would comfort me, I would feel better, and then later, I would be embarrassed, but I’d have a sense of closeness and acceptance with that co-worker that I didn’t have before. And they wouldn’t necessarily think that I was unstable and couldn’t be trusted, most likely they would just think I was human and having a bad day. Maybe they’d even feel more comfortable being less than perfect in front of me.

But I still have trouble being vulnerable in front of other people. Madlen was having a bad week last week, and she cried a LOT, and asked me if that made her weak. I told her that allowing yourself an honest reaction to stress is very brave. Sometimes I learn from the things I tell her. But I’ll say this: I have to leave for work in about an hour, and if I didn’t think I could hold my shit together, I’d be calling in sick today.

And it makes me SO angry. I was agoraphobic for 10 years and then I decided that I would never stay home again just because I was scared or overwhelmed. And I kept that vow for about 5 years. After my mom died, I missed a couple of days of school, just because I couldn’t go.

To be fair, after my mom died, all bets were off. All of the things I had “figured out”, all of my little formulas for walking around the world feeling safe — exploded. My belief in God, in cosmic balance, in good winning over evil all went kablooey. So, if I missed a couple of days of school a month after my mom died, so what?

But, you know, that was 7 years ago. Part of me thinks that I should have my shit put together again, by now, and part of me realizes that I know that I’m still shattered and that I just want to SEEM like I’ve managed to fit all of the pieces back together. Who am I trying to fool? And why is it so important that I fool anyone?

And then I think about all of the terrible advice I’ve gotten, like, “don’t be sad” or “you’re torturing your mother in Heaven” or “you’re going to die alone” and I”m like, no fucking wonder I have a hard time expressing myself, when that’s the result I get. And then I get defensive and clam up and I have to remind myself that the worst examples of dealing with people a reflection of most of my interactions.

At the store last night, the cashier asked me how I was doing, and I responded with a moan-grunt and he just looked up at me and said he hoped my night would improve. He didn’t dismiss my mood or try to guilt me into pretending to be okay, he was just kind. Be kind, people.

Face-Blindness Fridays #5

“Prosopagnosia can be socially crippling. Individuals with the disorder often have difficulty recognizing family members and close friends. They often use other ways to identify people, such as relying on voice, clothing, or unique physical attributes, but these are not as effective as recognizing a face. Children with congenital prosopagnosia are born with the disability and have never had a time when they could recognize faces. ” MedicineNet.com

So, last week, I wrote about the first day of my second year of kindergarten. My face blindness is fairly moderate. it takes me probably 2-3 times longer to learn a new face than it would take an average person, and if I haven’t seen someone in a couple of months, depending on how well I know them, I can forget who they are entirely, until they tell me their name. If I know them well enough, it might take me like an extra 3-5 seconds to recognize them.

It may not seem like that big of a deal to take that long to recognize someone, but it creates an emotional disconnect. If it takes an average person half a second to recognize me, and it takes me 3-5 seconds, they’ve already recognized me, waited for acknowledgment, AND felt rejected by the time I actually recognized them. I try to make up for it, but it’s definitely something that I’m aware of.

I used to walk around, displaying a full amount of friendliness at all times, but that got exhausting. So now, people have to deal with me not being particularly happy to see them until I know who they are.

Drawing Thursdays #5


This is a picture of Laurie Kilmartin in the Green Room holding a doll I made as a raffle prize when she headlined my Friend Zone show. I love this picture. Turns out, nobody won the doll. We had several prizes and when no one chose the doll, Laurie was like, “Oh for God’s sake!” and she went up to the stage and made Robin give her the doll.

So, as far as I know, she still has it. Or maybe she threw it away as soon as she left. Who knows? Anyway, she’s the headliner for the Main Room this weekend so I got to see her yesterday. She has a new book coming out on Tuesday called “Dead People Suck” so I’m SUPER excited to read it. I challenge you to find a cooler person.  She’s so completely awesome.

 

Writing Wednesdays #5

I have written two plays, each of the 5+ years ago, but who is counting? I want to use my website as a portfolio of my writing, and I actually like my plays, so I asked a playwright friend of mine (thank you Los Angeles) to read them over and give me some tips on making them actually seem like real plays.

It did take me about a month to actually send them and only did it after I woke up to this gentle nudge in FB Messenger:

WHERE THE FUCK ARE THESE PLAYS I’M SUPPOSED TO READ?!

Anyway, I sent them to him on Sunday, and yesterday, he said that he wants to meet and chat about them over coffee. So, that’s nervewracking. I could probably wouldn’t need all of my fingers and toes to count all of the people in my life, even people that I consider to be good friends, who have ever read anything I’ve written outside of a long-ass Facebook post.

In other writing news, there is none!

Testy Tuesdays #5

Let’s be honest, folks, today is Thursday, but whatever.

On Tuesday, I had just woken up and was probably about to do something productive with my last day off of my usual 3-day “weekend”, when I heard someone calling my name through my front door. At first I thought it was my neighbor, but then I realized it was my best friend, Madlen.

Madlen can be persistent when she wants to talk to me, and I’d had my phone off since I clocked out on Saturday, so I wasn’t that surprised that she didn’t take an off phone for an answer, and showed up at my door. It did surprise me when she immediately burst into tears when she saw me. The fact that she was already on the phone when she knocked on my door, is also pure Madlen.

Madlen is the most ADD conversationalist I’ve ever met. She’ll ask me an existential question and as I’m answering, she’ll text someone or answer a call. She has no problem interrupting a conversation she’s having with me to talk on the phone with someone else for 10 minutes, with me just sitting next to her, in her car, or at her house. She’ll call me, talk to me for 10 seconds, and then say, “I’m pulling into my parking garage. I’ll call you back in 5 minutes.” I’ve known her for 9 years, and she’s been like this from day one.

So on Tuesday, I let her in, and she had to use the bathroom, so she goes in and starts talking, and I was like, “I can’t hear you” and she said, “I wasn’t talking to you, I’m on the phone.” Oh, Madlen. Anyway, she was in crisis, so I spent all day helping her, spent the night at her place, and came home in time to shower and get ready for work on Wednesday.

It’s amazing how little time you have for your own sadness when you’re ensconced in someone else’s. It makes sense why people with chaotic childhoods tend to surround themselves with drama queens. It re-creates that chaos in adult life. I am not one of those people. I hate getting caught up in other peoples’ problems. I feel like I am struggling hard enough with my own, I can’t take on anyone else’s.

I tend to avoid people who are addicted to chaos, but I’ve known Madlen since before I had any kind of boundaries or any opinion about what I wanted in a friend. Back then, I had been working for 2 years after being agoraphobic for 10 years. When I decided to stop being agoraphobic, I made a rule to never turn down a social opportunity, so when Madlen wanted to hang out, I said yes. We were just VERY different people. I always liked her but she had a tendency to be a little bit superficial, and it’s probably been at least two years since I’ve voluntarily worn makeup. I’ve had the same bottle of hairspray for that long, too, and it’s mostly full.

She has a good heart, but after hanging out a couple of times, I think we both mutually decided that we probably wouldn’t  hang out again. Then my mom died, and Madlen started calling me every day. I dreaded those phone calls. I wanted to die, and I very much resented being literally called back into the land of the living. I resented being asked (forced is too harsh of a word) to talk about my mom and how I was feeling, thinking that if I really unleashed what I was really thinking and feeling, she wouldn’t be able to handle it. But once in a while, I’d let her have it, and she would just let me yell at her. Then, whether we were on the phone or talking in person, she’d be silent for a minute or two, and then say, “Do you you feel better?”

I would say, “No,” although, honestly it was a relief to be able to say some of that stuff out loud. Then she’d tell me a joke in Armenian or Farsi, which I wouldn’t understand. Then she’d translate it, and it wouldn’t be funny which would make us both laugh. So, she’s a good kid. Big heart. And that is the ONLY thing we have in common.

I think our approaches to friendship are just different. I approach other people if I have something to offer them, otherwise, I tend to hang back. I will NEVER call a friend if I need emotional support. Madlen is someone who always reaches out when she needs support. I can’t remember ever just hanging out with her when she wasn’t in some sort of a crisis. It’s a puzzle-piece friendship, I need to have something to offer, and she needs to have at least one person in her life who accepts her the way she is (that’s usually the crisis).

I never say “no” to anyone who asks for help, but she asked so much that I had to start. I thought that that would be the end of our friendship (because that’s where my self-esteem is), but she actually took it pretty well. She credits learning to say “no” to other people from hearing it from me, which is so funny to me because I learned it by saying to it to her. I’ve also learned to reach out and ask for help when I need it because she did it so often, that it just rubbed off. So although I probably won’t call or text for help when I need it, now, I’ll answer someone honestly when they ask me how I’m doing. (I have to be REAL low to do that, though.)

One thing that she does is she demands that I say nice things to her. So, in the middle of the conversation, she’ll have an insecure moment and say, “Tell me something good about myself.” This used to infuriate me because it would never have occurred to me to accept a compliment, let alone demand one. But that has rubbed off, too. I still can’t demand a compliment, although I know that if I talk to my best friend Cheri, she’ll at some point just offer one (or two or three) up of her own volition. However, I have started to accept compliments — okay, not like internalizing it and believing it, more like accepting that the person complimenting me is delusional. Hey, it’s a start.

Anyway, it’s an unusual friendship and one that I’m frankly surprised has lasted this long, but I think that the one thing that we have in common is that we both walk through the world actively trying to figure out how to make it better. Both of us are perplexed by maliciousness in others because although we are both incredibly flawed, neither of us has an instinct to be actively cruel. The meanest things I’ve ever done have been out of a sense of self-preservation, warranted or not. And I still cringe at them.

I don’t know how to end this post, so I just will. Have a good day!

Minstrel Mondays #5

Across the vein of night
There cuts a path of searing light,
Burning like a beacon
At the edges of our sights.
At the point of total darkness
And the light’s divine divide,
We can let our shadow stretch (Correction: A soul can let its shadow stretch)
And land on either side. Either side.

Balanced on the precipice,
The moment must reveal,
Naked in the face of time,
Our race within the wheel.
We hang beneath the heavens
And we hover over Hell,
Our hearts become the instruments
We learn to play so well.

So, wealthy the Spirit
That knows it’s own plight.
Stealthy the hunter
Who slays his own fright.
Blessed the traveler
Who journeys the length of the light.

That’s all of Nexus that I can remember without re-listening to it or looking up the lyrics.

And here’s the rest of it after looking up the lyrics:

Outside the pull of gravity
Beyond the spectral veil
Within our careful reasoning
We search to no avail
For the constant in the chaos
For the fulcrum in the void
Following a destiny
Our steps cannot avoid

Across the vein of night
There cuts a path of searing light
Burning like a beacon
On the edges of our sight
At the point of total darkness
And the lights divine divide
A soul can let its shadow
Stretch and land on either side

Wealthy the spirit
That knows its own flight
Stealthy the hunter
Who slays his own fright
Blessed the traveler
Who journeys the length of the light

In a spiral never-ending
Are we drawn towards the source
Spinning at the mercy
Of an unrelenting force
So we stare into the emptiness
And fall beneath the weight
Circling the Nexus in a
Fevered dance with fate —

Wealthy the spirit
That knows its own flight
Stealthy the hunter
Who slays his own fright
Blessed the traveler
Who journeys the length of the light.

Just delightful imagery in this song. It’s been a while, otherwise, I would have been able to remember the whole thing. My favorite thing about some of Dan’s older songs is that the further you go back, the more it’s written like poetry. Later, you get story songs and message songs, but my favorite stuff is generally the poetic stuff. Although, I have to say, I’ve memorized The Outlaw before, too. I can’t sign it though because Dan sings it SO fast. Great story song, though. For now, here’s Nexus:

The song starts with a full minute and 20 seconds of frantic but euphonous guitar, setting the background for when he sings over the same melody throughout the rest of the song. This song is a tongue twister, not just because of the clever wording but because it’s sung so quickly. Not that Dan makes it seem hard, the words just slip off his tongue. Having sung along to it about a billion times, I know how hard it is to keep up. There aren’t any long, drawn out words that give you a chance to remember what’s coming up next.

Dan kind of fetishized Native Americans a bit, and that influence shows up toward the end of the of the song. Before the final verse and chorus, some kind of Native American chanting underplays Dan’s singing and drums accompany the guitar. It’s got a nice effect, adds dimension to what would otherwise be only guitar. One of Dan’s strengths was composition, and the reason his songs don’t get boring to listen to is because he had an instinct for when a perfectly good melody needed to be switched up to enhance the lyrics, or just the listening experience. This is one of my favorite songs.