Saturday, March 15, 2008


Have you ever asked people what kind of super powers they would like? I have always said I would like the power of flight and invisibility. Of course, human nature being what it is, I might not fight crime with those abilities-I would be crime!
Last night after a show I am having flap jacks with two comics. Both of them are attractive women. The one woman says, "I would have the power to get men to do things."
You already have that power. It's called a vagina.
"I think our powers should be based on some ability we already have." She tells me.
OK, but you can already achieve that, I explain. She considers this for a moment and then says, "I could find a sale anywhere!"
Really? That's a super power? How is that going to fight crime?
Some one help! My baby has been kidnaped!
"There's a sale on diapers!"
My God! This man is going to stab me!
"Mail in rebate for $100!"
None of these things fights crime. Besides, how are you going to get there? I have flight! What if the sale is somewhere across town? You can't jump on Muni wearing a cape. Well, OK I have seen that but I doubt very much they were headed somewhere to fight crime.
"I got this cape on sale!"
Good for you!
Alright, if the super power has to be based on something we already have, then mine would have to be sarcasm. This might actually work though.
"Sure. Go ahead and steal all that money. I'm sure you will be happier once you do."
My mother had this ability. All it ended up achieving is a son who thinks about committing crime. I guess it back fired.
The other woman, who has been sitting silent eventually says, "telaportation."
Ok, That's a super hero power. You could legitimately fight crime with that ability. Or, once again, be crime. There is no safe super power you could choose that couldn't also be used for evil.
I guess that's our lesson for today kid's.
I know, I have been very serious lately. A suicide under your roof will do that. All we really have to deal with life is a sense of humor, metaphors and religions. All of them seem a bit lacking to me right now. You want to hear the biggest cliche there is?
When I went to bed last night I was 20. This morning when I woke up, I was 39 years old still waiting for life to begin. How about that? Denial is not a super power, but the way I do it it is.
In everything that has been going on, there has been movement beneath the surface. I feel it even if I don't want to.
If your 20, hold on to it. Because even though I use to roll my eyes at it too, I did just wake up and find 20 years has passed me by. What the hell have I been waiting for?
I have nothing on my walls. No framed photos of friends and family, no awards or posters. Just bare plaster staring back at me. Why? You know why, I keep waiting for someday.
Someday with the right girl, the right job, the right moment. But the more I think about this the more people have been helping to fill in the blanks. Sometimes without meaning to. What ever life it is you want, you can't wait for it to find you. You have to go out into the world and make it. Hows that for the most obvious statement of the ages?
Being on stage lately hasn't felt right. There is this sensation in my chest that tells me something is off. I feel it. I hate it. Whatever it is I need to deal with in life has started to fuck with me in the one place I care the most about. Stand-up is the one constant in my life. Now, it too is being smudged with the finger prints of a thousand irritable ghosts. So now what?
I gotta tell you, that facebook post that had the photo of the F-15 fighter jet and Jesus really bothered me. It's that sort of casual mixing of complete opposites that makes us a very strange country. You see it all the time too. We have Amber alerts for missing children, programs to make sure predators are kept away from our kids yet we let young girls walk around in tight fitting sweat pants with the word juicy stenciled across their ass.
I got totally busted checking out a girls ass the other day. She turned around and yelled, "What do you think your doing?"
"I'm a slow reader." I said.
Yeah, it's funny. It made her laugh, but come on. You know you have a perfect ass. That's why you put on something that looks like it was spray painted on. Then you have the nerve to yell when someone looks? Come on. I have 2 million years of instinct and four inches of wood in my pants; of course I am going to look! You don't get angry at a fish when it takes the bait, do you?
My God. it sounds like I am attempting to justify horrible behavior from guys. I'm not. It's just cause and effect.
Pretty girl in hot pink pants stretched across her perfect ass-I look.
Again, it's this complete lack of seeing how we make society schizophrenic that is getting us all into trouble.
Yes. I notice young girls. How can you not? They are all over every bit of advertising, porn is e-mailed to you, and they walk around malls emulating what they see as self empowering sensuality. All you have to do is look no farther than Brittney Spears to see how that can end up.
Cause and effect.
OK, you want a less creepy example?
The mortgage crisis we are in right now. People borrowed money they really couldn't aford with loans they didn't really understand and now they want the government to step in and re-write the terms of those home loans.
The loans might as well have had the words juicy written in bold letters across them. I'm not saying that there wasn't a lot of predatory lending going on, cause there was. But come on. Course, this is the same government that doesn't put the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan occupation in the official military budget. Why bother, someone else will deal with it someday.
Back to me.
That's the kind of thinking that has kept me in this holding pattern for a while now. America too. We want change but are afraid to pick a direction. It's the same thing but on vastly different scales.
Should I look for an apartment down in the mission like I have always wanted?
Should we pull out of iraq?
What will happen if I have to get a new car?
What will happen to oil prices if we leave Iraq?
Will this comedy festival be the big break I have been waiting for?
Will another terrorist attack on America mean the war failed?
We are all in the same leaky boat my friends.
Did I tell you about the festival?
I got a call from Eddie Brill. if your a comic you know who that is. He is the Comedy Booker for the David Letterman show. I am not on the show. Yet. I have been invited to attend the first Comedy festival in Johnny Carson's home town of Norfolk, Nebraska. Yeah. Nebraska. It is a huge opportunity. An opportunity to get in-front of industry. How ironic would it be if the first big break in my career came in the middle of a corn field?
I don't have all the details yet, but there has already been talk of money and management. It's time to practice what I preach. Being on stage is the tip of the ice burg. It is everything you do off stage that really insures you will have a great set. For me, that means getting some kind of connection to a power greater than myself. It means getting out of my own head and doing something besides think of what I have and don't have.
The ultimate super power would be time travel. No matter what happened, you could know what happened.
I don't know what will happen. The tip of the ice burg will take care of its self provided I take care of myself. No super power or special talent required. I just want to be a happy adult.
Maybe the best way to get rid of those ghosts is to put a picture up on my own wall in a place I chose to live in.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Crazy people with churches

The game is on!
Barack has been pretty untouchable. They have to keep looking for stuff or insinuating stuff to try and slow him down. Now comes this. An excerpt from Jeremiah Wright, Barack's pastor of 20 years.

"Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary can never know that. Hillary ain't never been called a [n-word].

Hillary is married to Bill. And Bill has been good to us. No, he ain't. Bill did us just like he did Monica Lewinsky. He was riding dirty.

The government gives him the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law, and then wants us to sing "God Bless America." No, no, no. Not "God Bless America." God damn America. That's in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating us citizens as less than human.

We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed in Nagasaki. And we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon. And we never batted an eye. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans. And now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now been brought right back into our own front yard."

America has funded groups that other governments consider terrorists. America has overthrown governments that were put in place by democratic elections. America has bullied countries with the threat of military intervention. Those are just facts. It is the height of arrogance to think that it would never come back at us someday. Every credible expert now believes that 9/11 was a direct result of our foreign policy. Before you go ape shit conservatives, I'm not saying this justifies what was done on that day, it is just a clear eyed assessment of actions and reactions.
As for the other stuff about HIV? I don't think the Government invented it, but they sure as hell did nothing to prevent it for a long time. I'm not black, but let's not kid ourselves white America, black people have a very different relationship with America than we do. What you might see as paranoid delusions, are commonly held ideas based on that relationship.
The prison population is largely black. Are they more violent than white people? No. The law is not always applied evenly though. Powder cocaine, the one favored by rich white people, is illegal of course, but rock cocaine, favored by black people, carries a mandatory prison sentence almost three times longer than the powder form. Explain that?
Besides, we have our share of crazy white preachers. Case in point, Pat Robertson just called Yoga spooky. Watch for yourself.

You have to love the fact that this little clip hits so many buttons. The e-mailed questions segment is called, Bring it on. A direct connection to one of Bush's bigger missteps. Remember when he was asked at the start of the war about terrorists rushing to Iraq to fight our military. His jock answer, "Bring it on!"
The question it's self is pure rhetoric. Before even being answered, the viewer has already heard the word Yoga attached to the idea that it has it's origin in evil. Then, he goes on to essentially degrade another religion that is practiced by a much larger population than Christians.
So Obamas ministers said some inflammatory things. Pat Robertson blamed 9/11 on the Gays, abortionists and pagans. If I'm not mistaken, he said America deserved it for allowing those people to exist in our country. He isn't even blaming our foreign policy, he is blaming Americans for 9/11 right here! This is just one reason that John McCaine referred to the religious preachers in the conservative party as, "agents of intolerance." That's not me saying that, that's McCaine.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

An Eye for an Eye

Only two defining forces have ever offered
to die for you:

1. Jesus Christ
2. The American G. I.
One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.

This was a post from a "friend" on Facebook. Do you really think Jesus, wants us to be using a billion dollar weapon to kill in his name? Don't you think we could use the money to feed and clothe people? I don't recall reading anywhere in the new testament a time when Jesus said, drop bombs on your enemy from 30,000 feet. Do you? I have nothing against the military or Jesus, but combining the two is not only absurd, it's dangerous. You can either kill or work for peace. You cannot put the two together. History has taught us that when an army believes God is on their side, they are capable of doing the most extreme and godless acts known to man. Why do you think a suicide bomber can do what they do; they have God on their side.
It doesn't matter who fires the first shot or with what weapon they are using. If both sides are killing then there is NO difference in what they ultimately stand for. It's the same as people wearing large gold crosses that cost thousands of dollars. You are missing the point.
This is the schizophrenic ideology of America. Like the Romans before us, we fight to expand our empire secure in the knowledge that we are on the side of good. Problem is, invoking the name of Jesus to do so is beyond ignorant and vastly arrogant. I don't know who said it, but an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.
It is because of the morally corrosive nature of religion that our founding fathers saw fit to make us a nation of laws and not a nation of religion. If you want to see the danger of what a country run by a single religion looks like, then look no farther than the people we buy our oil from.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Were Number One!

America has more people behind bars than any other nation on the planet!
Way to go. Were number one!
1 in 99 adults is in prison.
Dear everyone at Fox news, we might be a Christian nation as you constantly say, but we seem to have forgotten how to forgive.
If we built new schools at the rate we build new prisons, maybe someone smart enough
would come along with a better idea .
Then again, when the first guy came along to seriously preach forgiveness, they killed him.
We don't need a new idea.
We just need people to remember.
This message brought to you by the makers of logic, and the People Involved Socially, Systematically, Offering Forgiving Futures.

Monday, March 10, 2008

"I can talk about his passion."

I have known Mike for as long as I have been in Comedy. We have fallen in and out of touch with each other over the years. After my break up with Samantha, I stayed at my brothers house in Lafayette. Eventually, it just made sense to move back into the city. It was suppose to be temporary, but I have stayed because it is cheap.
Mike was the one who told me about the place.
We are room mates, but never really see each other anymore. We talk outside when we run into each other, but that's about it.
I have known the guy for more than 15 years.
He called me today. One of the other room mates in the house killed himself.
I hardly knew the man. He was always smoking when I saw him. Frail, as thin as a stick, I usually saw him sitting in his car out front smoking with a look on his face that said he wasn't there. Not crazy, just some place else.
I saw him this morning at 7:30 when I was rushing out the door to cover a shift at the day gig. We nodded politely to each other as we always did.
That was the last time I saw him alive.
I didn't even know his name till Mike told me.
I keep asking myself what I should feel? I listened to Mike on the phone. He had been dealing with the Police all morning and was understandably shaken up. After we got off the phone with each other, I sat back down at a table in a cafe, put my iPod ear buds back in and checked for messages on Myspace.
Now, a few hours later, I am at a Starbucks in Napa killing time before a show and all I can think about is the pain in Mikes voice when he was explaining the situation to me.
I can't imagine the pain either of these men felt today. I have thought of suicide. After the whole Samantha mess, it crossed my mind on more than one occasion. But I never got to that place in side myself where it became an eventuality. You know? It did for this man.
He handed Mike a money clip and two letters, went into his room and a few moments later, Mike heard the gun shot.
My God.
I just sat back down and thought about what I needed to get done today and how tired I am going to be tomorrow.
Is that cold?
My life has become so busy lately. Shows, teaching, day job-I don't know where to put everything I need to get done. Friends? I have a few people that I would consider close, but my first impulse for anything is to just retreat inside myself. Isolate, bare the pain and hope it will pass.
It never does. Not really.
When I was driving up to Napa, I called Mike to check on him. Still shaken, still that tone of voice I hope to never hear in another persons voice again, he was going to try and sleep. When I put the phone down and really looked at what was just scenery on the way to another gig, I thought how beautiful it was. The hills, the vines that look like open hands tied to their polls, it was beautiful. Those trees that flower for a few weeks at the start of spring were in bloom everywhere. I rolled my window down and inhaled. It always makes me think of being young when I see those trees. The smell filled the air. Instead of car exhaust and urine, the air was fresh with their scent. It was good to be out of the city.
What should I feel?
What should I feel for a man I never had more than a token, how are you, with? I could see he was a shadow. Anyone could look and see he was broken. He was a bare light bulb hanging from a cord over an unmade bed.
I understand what it is to be trapped in your own private world of regret.
I avoided him for that. I recognized to much of myself in his sunken eye's.
He smoked like it would rid him of the ghosts you knew were hanging around him. He was always leaning against the gate, the door or the wall. Always looking down at his feet and always awkward. I understand that the most.
To be so awkward, so stuck in your head but to want someone to reach inside and just get it, I understand that. Truth is, no one ever really can. You want it to be that lover, or your father, or a friend, but it is always best described by something you keep to yourself. A favorite song, a movie, a book. But it is something you never really tell anyone else.
What should I feel?
It feels like I have asked myself that all my life. All I can think is that the answer he gave himself was that he was tired of trying.
When people say, suicide is selfish, I never really got it. Now I do.
Mike heard the gun and ran down stairs and found him.
Can you imagine that?
Mike told me it will be with him forever. I believe that. How could it not be?
That's what makes it selfish. Someone has to deal with it after your gone.
Mike was this mans only real friend. He trusted him with the money and the letters.
I ask Mike how he is doing and he says, "I am mad, I am angry but mostly, I miss my friend."
When I turn onto the last road that leads to down town Napa, I look at a familiar stretch of road. Cynthia and I use to come up here for weekends when we lived together.
20 years has gone by. 20 years since I saw a woman I thought I would go through forever with.
Where does the time go? All that stuff that was suppose to happen that didn't. Why do I hold onto it like stones in my pocket? What was this man holding onto that he couldn't let go of? What brand of pain must he have had? What brought him to this end now?
I think of Samantha of course, some where else with someone else and I realize that I had learned nothing from the first woman I lived with 20 years ago. There is no one person in my life that knows all my truth. Do you know what I mean by that?
Everyone has a piece of a story that I want them to have. Some of the story people have is more fiction than fact too. But there is not a single other human being I have ever really trusted with all of who I am.
I am guessing, but I don't think this man did either. How odd to have something so intimate and in common with someone you thought of as a stranger. A stranger under the same roof.
It doesn't really mater what I am suppose to feel. It's not my story nor my grief. I think too much about me anyway. Maybe not in an outright selfish way, but it is in a way. All the energy I put into avoiding not just conflict, but connection tells people I don't trust them. Truth is, I am just afraid. Afraid of everything any human being is afraid of.
This man had enough. He was worn out by all the unanswered questions that lead to a fear that takes hold of you like cancer.
If there is a God, I cannot possibly believe he is cruel enough to keep this mans punishment going in the afterlife.
For him, it's over. For Mike, it is just starting.
I do the gig in a bar where the noise is like a physical presence. The entire back of the room is disconnected from the show and just try to speak louder and louder over the comics.
I end up doing way too much time, but it was therapeutic.
I get in my car and Mike calls me. He is drunk now and tells me he picked a fight with one of the other roommates in the house. The guy didn't think it was all that big of a deal.
People never loose the ability to surprise me with their callousness.
Why would anyone say anything like that to Mike right now? It didn't come to blows, but grief and vodka mix in such a way that lashing out becomes a reflex your only aware of after the fact. That's how I remember it anyway.
We talk on the phone as I drive. We talk about putting together some kind of a memorial service. Something to mark his life with dignity. Mike says something that is so sweet and so profound it catches me off guard. "I can talk about his passion."
I cannot think of a better way for any of us to be remembered than to have a friend do exactly that, talk about my passion.
When I pull up in my car, Mike is outside with another roommate, an unlit cigarette in his hand, and stumbling between a lamp post and a parked car. I take a breath. It has already been a long weekend, but this has nothing to do with me.
I hug Mike. As soon as I do he starts crying and because we are men and no matter what the lifetime channel tell us, he stops as abruptly as he began.
"I'm sad." Is all he says with a slur.
I ask him when was the last time he ate. Maybe two, he thinks. It is now almost one in the morning.
The other roommate and I convince him that eating something would be good. We climb into my car and head to the Lucky Penny on Masonic and Geary. Open all night and a weigh station for lost souls, it seem like the perfect place to sit in a booth, eat some greasy food and talk.
This other roommate, Bill is a character. All he orders is a Coke he never took a sip from and a plate of well done fries. He picks up each fry one by one, dips it in ketchup, and eats it down to where his finger tips grasp it like an insect. Instead of putting the last little bit of fry into his mouth, he places these fry butts on the table next to his plate.
I am listening to Mike, he is laughing about other times spent here, but I can't take my eyes off those one inch fry butts. What the hell Dude? I keep my mouth shut about it. All he keeps talking about is how good the meals are at the Lucky Penny. Then, without warning, as mike is laughing, he asks if he has ever had to deal with something like this before. I have never seen such a dramatic change in a person happen so swiftly, so completely. The sadness struck Mike like a hammer blow. I thought he was going to throw up. He pushed his omelet plate back and shook where he sat. I could of reached across the table and hit this guy! What's going on with the pile of fry butts too?
Mike answers with a solemn no and looks down at the plate of food.
When we get back to the house, we all stand there for a moment. Mike lights a cigarette and tells us we can go in to bed. He will be OK. We each ask if he is sure, but I get the feeling he wants to be alone for a moment to stand in the spot he use to hang out with his friend. Reluctantly, I head up the stairs to the front door. That's when I see the trail of blood drops and what appears to be cotton gauze or a bandage. That's when it becomes real for me. That's when I can feel it in the pit of my stomach. It's a paper cut compared to what Mike must be dealing with. There is already a pile of belongings sitting outside his door and an official warning sticker on his room's door.
Today I tried to find Mike some help. A grief counselor an emergency therapist, something. Here is what amazes me. There is nothing. If Mike had witnessed a rape or homicide, if he had been a victim of a violent crime, the police would have given him a card with a number on it. But for a friend of a suicide, there is nothing. No emergency number or website or professional help. Nothing.
How do I feel?
I feel sad for my friend and angry at the gapping hole in our mental health care system.
But what is really important is how Mike feels.
Out of the blue, another friend called me while I sat in my car before the gig. I told him everything. He said the perfect thing. "You are not responsible for the bad in the world. All you can be is responsible for the good you put into it."