In the last year I lost a dog, crashed a car, gained a number on the heap that is my age, went on some dates,lost a fiance, got 7 hair cuts and lost a bit more faith in the world.
They found a city under a basement. I read about it in a book for some class with some name and some teacher droning on and on somewhere in my almost eaten away memories of that year in college. Imagine that. I am thrilled if I find an extra can of Spaghettios behind a box of stale cereal, a few odd orphan coins in the couch under the cushions. There were tunnels and staircases and different types of homes and stores and it was all under his crappy carpet. The guy only found this whole lost world because he had wood rot. I am 53 years old and my luck the wood rot would find mold which would find termites which would find wasps which would find angry disturbed ants which would irritate moths which would fly in panic irritating rats which would really piss of bats in the trees outside really annoying rabid wombats severely setting off the before unseen packs of deeply neurotic feral cats that would make such a racket it would drive to drink the once alcoholic vampires in the forests thereby really rubbing the wrong way the trying to be vegan werewolves ultimately sending a shivery wave across the land of general annoyance. Yep, that would suck.
It is so cozy watching things from behind a window. I noticed as a teenager sitting in the back as friends drove out to nowhere to de-stress during finals that window down it was hot, dusty, things almost seemed to want to move, cross the roads as we headed out of L.A, run in front of the wheels of my friend’s dad’s car. It was almost like cacti might jaywalk at random or grab my hand as it fluttered in the artifical breeze of speed of the aging station wagon and try to jump on in. The thought (classic vintage of my worry addled and ever spinning turbine brain…) was for a few miles fascinating as we all listened to music and static battle on the weak radio then not so relaxing, troubling even.
I rolled up the window that afternoon and something happened. The cactus, road signs, dust and other things seemed suddenly academic, distant, like pictures in an old encyclopedia and so passive and safe. Something about this was very soothing. We drove another hour or so before turning around and it was like things were more at ease in the world even with finals beginning the next day. It was something I learned later to come to quite often really.
I almost died last summer. The flu hit in the middle of the hottest day of the year and like the cliché of an unbalanced spurned lover it just would not let go. I wish I could find better words, that is such a corny metaphor but maybe the darkness and familiarity of it being recent just takes any cleverness off to a far distance. It was as though my body grew to hate me, to want to give up, just peel off the bones and go. The drive to the hospital felt like my kind neighbor who happened by to ask about an old comedy show on you tube was going 5 miles an hour on tires made of glue and feathers. It was an ugly slow kind of forever.
I almost got married 4 months ago. He was this supportive friend for many years who was for 2 decades the one there when the world seemed to mildew or wish to shear apart. He was tall and dorky in the most charming way. “Was” Damn you past tense.
I almost wore out a laptop searching for videos on living in bunkers and hypothetical space dorms, of houses in caves half way across the world. I am not a survivalist or worried about some global end, far the opposite, just kinda tired and bored of things. There are some lovely things you can do with rocks and old metal. I would love to live on a stipend to stare out windows. The space thing could drift along, do odd experiments, make mutant life by accident from drifting space debris outside, all fine with me. Sounds great. Sign me up. I will report any odd doings or gurglings within, will write a report of any strange happenings outside or on-board. I could even tell a few jokes if needed or wanted.
Almost. What a horrible word.
I read recently of a guy that lived seven years with a turn signal in his arm. He just shrugged and left it I guess. His friends must have bugged him when he was the designated driver. Bad joke. I know. It is just amazing to think that someone could leave some piece of a broken machine inside. He crashed the car it had once quietly , humbly even dully been a part of. He totaled that car that night. The night is left to be imagined but I can’t help but see the cliches of old t.v shows: wet roads on a curve, changing radio stations, a distraction, screech of tires, growl of over rev and engine in panic, the crunch of pristine metal made into the shapes of impact, glass showers etc… He had a fucking turn signal in his arm.
I moved out here from the city so long ago now. It was so sexy to head out in my late 20’s. It felt at the time (as best I recall…) like shedding something, like doing to physical space what headphones can do with sound, block, shift, obscure, erase, replace to a degree. Wonderful.
It is New Years day. I later today will write a note to no one in particular not for suicide or joy or anything to be gauged in between. It just feels like something I am supposed to do. The calendar said so. The holiday is pointing a big arrow out at me again like last year…Spill it because math, because seasons, because some news show just wrapped 365 previous days into 3 minutes to a soundtrack again, corpse to burial, champagne corks to have popped at midnight 13 odd hours ago as it died head on into some anthropomophized/mythological/meme infant in a diaper and sash like the last year.
Oh pardon me…is my cynicism showing?
It is this odd marker. It is like some quiet Stonehenge hung on the edge of the parties. Once the need to be in the buzzing humming cacophonous human static of a prescribed time to party and celebrate , be in the pocket of some impossible near infinite fun that surely no one in human history can catch with even a bejeweled champagne loaded pole , once all that wears away, it is just time to order new checks, buy a new calendar or use the new page digital on a phone. Happy new year said no sun dial ever, exclaimed no shadow, memed no goddamn Bison in a field. Happy construct. Happy time passing like whatever cliché fits best. Come on. Time knows nothing of silly hats or a morning that is supposed to be the back to pin hopes to.
I have been doing stand up comedy and writing for 30 years. I have toured all over, opened for big names before their rise, after as they fell and for a while there at their peaks. I have a box full of my name and theirs. I have another box full of photos of amazing places and moments, events and news articles. I tend to be the one at the side not given a name or name horribly misspelled as not worthy of a fact check. I have one amazing photo of me and That comedian now seen is the best of his generation at the Academy awards. Well, “me” after the magazine did their photo cropping works out to an arm, a shoulder and a bit of a nice red dress.
One year my name was a traded hornet. It buzzed and buzzed and fluttered as it was passed around. It seemed as though great things were in the making. It really did. It was at one point even looking like my name might crawl up the paper of those fliers toward the top, that maybe, just maybe a photo might have my name actually spelled right, maybe even me near its center. Then that year died into the next like all of them do, at least as we have calibrated them with calendars. Yep. The next had me couch surfing and watching the uncoupling of each and every shiny possibility of that year before.
If someone found a vault and it held a hundred years worth of new years eve parties , new years eve day parades and a giant book of resolutions what would they really find? First would come the stench of dead flowers or more likely not even that, just the dust of floats past and maybe some stems and rice. Next would be the empty bottles of so many hang overs with varied wear on their labels. Next would be the book of resolutions and there is no point even stating the obvious there. The vault would be opened and like those years it would then become less and less novel and eventually simply be this thing like bottles and paper and roast beef sandwiches and that interesting thing someone said that one time with those people and the vapor of so much surrounding chit chat.
I used to watch you tube videos of people starting things. I would watch them apply to college, begin new jobs, move away to new cities, talk about first dates and first tastes of new foods. The best would be in a sequence that I could follow curled up on my couch by the window, the flickering light on my table glimmer around this new thing whatever it was. If the series was interesting enough I could then close my eyes and fall asleep with a solid sense that I had just started college, was in my first night in a new apartment and city, belly full of new foods. It was a cocoon in the best way.
It worked for a few years, especially in times between paying gigs when things were getting tight. I had started at a good 50 colleges around the world and moved into every city I could find when I ran out of search results to dip into. That night when it first became clear that there was nowhere left to “go” my carpet looked dirtier somehow, more worn, painfully familiar with floorboards surely aging away underneath it all. I fell asleep to old movies and had stress dreams of piles of paper and doors left unlocked in storms. One dream had a rolling car I rode in lose all window glass in a big dust storm that fluttered papers from Vegas trash cans all the way to Palm Springs, littering the sky with old receipts and glossy photos. I awoke with pulse racing and a rare heavy thunderstorm raging mud and hail outside through the usually placid if dull courtyard.
I woke up the next morning so painfully aware of here, of every napkin in the kitchen, every nick and scratch on each wall, of the inverted cocoon, of almost 25 years in this apartment once some great adventure and now the contempt bred by familiarity, the thing hiding under the floor so long so to speak. I left to hide here. I travel to tell jokes and make a little money once in a great while selling jokes for horrible t.v shows and dishonest young comics who pawn paid jokes off as their own in that old climb I once knew inside. There is more than one kind of death if I can fart out that pretentious thought first manifested on a bus to Vegas in my early 40’s a decade ago. There is more than just rigor mortis and the grave, smaller ones, a myriad menu of things along the way. My sarcasm wells up usually when the little inner pointer come to this place within and when I hate these walls like I do right now and did then. The dry fountain would be incidental if I did not hide so much at home.
That magical year is now just that. A collection of days, an old calendar thrown away with all the hopeful markings along the way now just odd old artifacts like the scratches on a prehistoric cave wall.
I still make enough to get by. I pay bills, even go on a small vacation once or twice a year. I live out here near Palm Springs and drive in to do shows. My name at times may even reach the middle of the bill for a show at a smaller club. It is what it is. That magical year is now a decade past. It is best kept that way, away, held , something under this, whatever it is and now, the same.
Outside my window is a courtyard. In the middle is a pretentious fountain. It has not worked in the 15 years I have lived here. Around it are bushes and a tiny bit of grass and walkways to different apartment units in the complex. The fountain looks elegant when the light hits it just right. The rest of the time it looks cracked and the cherubs gleam crooked faced in the near ever present sun of the desert here east of Los Angeles. When it rains hard it almost seems like the damn thing works. It is currently 1 in the afternoon and it is cold and dry and the cracks surround a crooked set of faces within a dry basin like some ridiculous microcosm of the drought the entire state is now 3 years mired in. The rumor is that the owner put it in back in the late 70’s to appeal to some hoped for wave of moneyed post disco folks looking to get away and to bring some bands out of the foothills to make a second gasp of mellow rock by cherubs with comfy bedrooms. Of course this would have driven neighbors nuts and was to never be. But there are cherubs here.
“Here” “Now” I am never really here when hiding behind a window staring out or living vicariously through the glass of a laptop into a million places and things safely far away. What bullshit. These words really mean nothing like I so long wanted them to. Enough.
I am tired of feeling safe only behind glass. If there was a hidden city under my floor I would surely have hid there too. Sarcasm is another sheet of glass and a tidy lock, we comedians know this as well as anybody and my waves of depression know it like a vocabulary all its own. That 28 year old died into this place and the years after that move , spread out and faded thin along walls, floors, carpet and these hands and eyes, she is the bits of dust in the light if even now, dissipated like that amazing year and the remorse after. Time to go. Goodbye cherubs. Will drive somewhere and things will happen, some new narrative will fall in sequence. It always does.
I will pack enough to fit in the back of my aging Honda. Maybe I will marvel at the absurd fountain dry and cracked as it shrinks like every time I have left but with a crazy finality this time around. Maybe as it shrinks to a dot the radio will play some poignant music by some portentous coincidence, maybe that is the bad writing that led me to right here and right now.
Mundane comfort may you shrink and pop like a soap bubble as the tiny car pierces a huge gelatinous unknown with as many directions to go as roads.
It is time.