Friday, July 25, 2008
My guy is a decent man. He doesn't remember in detail, but I can't decide if it's bad memory, being too busy, or he doesn't care. I think he cares but he is too busy. We talk. He writes prescriptions for sleeping pills and anti-depressants. I tell him about my quest to become an adult. Thats literally what we talk about. It kinda feels like that might be common, but there it is; I don't feel like an adult.
It's not what I thought it would be. I never felt it happen. It is probably a dumb thing to reveal. Did you feel it? What was the moment or action that brought it on? Did it feel like that, like a switch flipped or something just seemed right? What is it? I didn't feel it. For better or worse degrees, I have not grown up. Not in the way I imagined. Instead, this feels like some strange land I wondered into by mistake as I was just walking along. Things are familiar yet the colors are drab. Wonder is scarce and responsibility is heavy. I am a child in a mans body. A broken body, slowed down by years of that someday I will eat right diet and late night food. Still, I thought it would be different. I thought things would be easier because I would be an adult and adults know how to handle stuff. Nope. Turns out I am not alone in this feeling. Adults don't know any better than kids, really. Adults just have more stuff that can go wrong and more pressure to get things right. At some point I think you realize that school was complete bull shit. The book stuff comes in handy and socializing is important, but everything we were taught about sharing, respecting others and playing fair is not how the world operates. Sure, you can be the good guy and do all those things. I am not saying people don't. I think most of us live in a world of compromises. Nothing is ever black and white. Nothing. There are shades to every choice and every choice leads to several other branches that lead to still more doors. Maybe thats not right either. It feels like possibility becomes a precious resource that starts to dissolve over time. And here is the thing I know about me; I know what the right thing to do is every time. I really do. Sadly, I only chose to do the right thing about 45% of the time. I am not talking stealing or breaking store windows in anger, I am talking about those little white lies we all use to navigate our way in social situations or the short cut you take at work and hope people don't notice. It's the difference between sitting down at the computer and working on my act or downloading more porn to what I can only imagine is a very sticky hard drive at this point in my computers life. Being an adult seems to take place between what is said and what is not said. It is knowing how to read what takes place in that intersection that makes you a successful adult. At a certain point you realize the things you wanted to have or do are not going to be. I am never going to be a singer song writer now. For a large portion of my life there was a vague idea that was always present inside me that ultimately that is what I would be. I had the guitars, had 60 or so songs and even recorders. I haven't touched my guitar in about a year. When I think of that, it makes me sad. All those years I spent driving around doing comedy from one shitty location to the next shitty location, I would not have survived if it wasn't for my guitar. Countless hours were spent in run down hotel rooms writing songs I couldn't play for anyone. Instead, I just told jokes rather than really tell people what I felt. But that dream, that idea that I would eventually over come that brand of stage fright and start to play in front of audiences never came to be. Each new years that came and went carried with it the resolution to try and play at a open Mic. It never happened. I never did it and now the guitar sits in the corner as a symbol of something I can't think about for too long or I feel the trap of regret spring on me. That becomes a regular emotion, regret.
What are you suppose to tell children? You can't sit them down and tell them that life is not going to be the adventure you think it's going to be. When parents give you the realistic speech, as it came to be known in my house, it doesn't register. I didn't think I knew better than my parents, I just knew I didn't want what they had. I thought that would be enough. I thought that alone would create a life different from what their lives had become. My life is nothing like my parents, but like them, I have invisible baggage that is not always easy to claim. Everyone must. That is part of growing up. Life is not bad or boring for me, it just isn't the shape I thought it would be when I had the luxury of not knowing any better. Not knowing has saved me from being crushed. Sometimes. Not knowing has also launched me into whole decades that turned out to be vast detours I had to back out from. Stand-up comedy was one of those. Not knowing how hard it was going to be and not knowing the amount of self I would pour into it, prevented me from ever thinking realistically about it. I still think there is a chance I could be a star in it. I don't know, maybe that idea will someday rest with the guitar in my room. Until it does, I will keep doing it though. Too much of my identity is wrapped up in it now to ever really stop. Drugs. That was something I had to back out of more than a few times and still don't fully have the entire situation under control. By that I mean, the craving to be else where without actually moving makes drugs a powerful force in every adults life. This is San Francisco. I can't go a day without smelling pot drift across my path somewhere. The very first time I smoked pot I thought to myself, now I understand why there are drug addicts. That scared me enough to not try it again for a long time. When I did pick it back up again in my middle 20's, it lead to doors I have since tried to never knock at again and profound grief in how it dissolved me. Pot really was a gate way. I told a friend once that what I liked most about it was the way it made me feel like a kid. It did. When I was a boy, I loved the borders of paintings and pictures. I could sit and look at them in books or on school walls and what really fascinated me was the implication of everything that happened outside the frame. We were only looking through a small square window into another world. When I first got high, I felt like all that went on just past the picture frames was coming into focus. Its a weird way of explaining it I suppose, but it was a potent sensation I reached into again and again only to come back with empty hands. Cynicism became a shell I lived in. Still do to a slightly lesser degree, but like a hermit crab, I wear it on my back and scurry awkwardly into it when trouble shows up. Hard to say what exactly built such a thick insulating shell, but I don't blame any one person or event for it. Maybe it is like an emotional calcium deposit that naturally builds up over time. The thing that seems the hardest to resolve as an adult are the loves that ended. When i look at my early 20's, I see a man who was heart broken over the loss of a girlfriend. That feeling, more than anything else defined who I was for a very long time. What replaced her was another loss. What replaced that girl was all my reaching into borders. That blew a few years. When I met Sam, I had resolved myself to being alone. I wasn't sad at this thought or mournful anymore. I felt strangely OK with the idea and felt a certain comfort even freedom in it. You know when you hear, don't look for love and you will find it? This is the state of mind I think people are talking about. It wasn't that I had given up, I finally felt comfortable with who I was and what my situation seemed to be. That felt very adult. That was also the moment a beautiful girl showed up in my life who continues to haunt me with what if. What if, what a fucking useless wish what if turns out to be. You beat it and beat it and the very thing you don't want to see again just falls out with all the shrapnel of any bomb going off in your face. More than any other expression, what if seems to be where much of my adult life has unfolded. After all the self help books, therapy, programs, girlfriends and professional successes, what if is a living thing that you can only hope to diminish. One part of this has dropped away from my thinking. The idea that anyone or anything is "normal" now seems ridiculous to me. Normal is societies greatest lie. It is a standard that we are all pushed toward as children but come to find out later in life is a convenient myth. Normal doesn't exist. I doubt if it ever did.
Somewhere in all this is an adult. Maybe only in age, but I am an adult. Funny, I didn't think it would feel like this at all.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
The project is now projected to cost $11.2 billion.
The fleet of helicopters cost $400 million apiece. The British have bought the same base model helicopter for $57 million each.
Wow! I did a little research. That $11.2 Billion is for 22 helicopters. When ever the president is aboard one of them, it is called Marine one. It is usually accompanied by two or three as decoys. The most common flight it makes is from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base where the president boards Air force One.
It takes ten minuets.
Wouldn't it be cheaper to just build a runway for Air Force One next to the White House?
What I have noticed about the coverage of McCain is that the press seems unwilling to point out when he makes a mistake. The latest was a interview where he talked about the danger along the Iraq Pakistan border. Iraq does not border Pakistan. A country by the name of Iran, sits between the two countries. If anything, the media seems unwilling to be critical of his statements out of fear that people will think they are pointing out his age. Fine. Call him out on his policies. Call him out on the huge issues he has changed his mind about and ask him why. Call him out on the fact that his campaign has had to fire lobbyist after lobbyist when their conflict of interest is brought to the attention of the media. The fact is, Obama has yet to make a major misstep. When he does, the media will be all over it. There is nothing we value more in this country than the fall of a star. It will come. Until then, he is just that; a star. Obama is more than politician or leader. He is the agent of change in a time when no one particularly knows how to change. America has some very hard choices to make. No one is telling us this yet because the leaders are scared by what they see too. The fact is, we are headed into a decline of Americas power.
Story after story comes in from people traveling every where that the dollar, the currency of the planet, is no longer being accepted by the road side merchants in India or the small shops in Cairo. The dollar is no longer respected or strong enough on the global market to be of any value to even the people on the fringes of their local community. Prices for basic items are going up. Our military is fractured and over stretched. The writing is on the wall for anyone who wants to see it. If we are to maintain anything like the power and prestige we once had on the world stage, it is going to take some dramatic changes in policy. Change, as you might have noticed, is not something we do well here. We have all been conditioned to trust that the next generation will have it better than the last generation. Maybe not this one. Education standards continue to fall. Well paid jobs in industry and technology are getting harder to find for even the best educated Americans. We have sat transfixed by reality TV as the machinery built to grant everyone life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has been dismantled. It has been taken a part by men in power to give those who already have a lot, more. Deregulation has driven prices up, not down as they told us it would. We might not have faced any more terrorist attacks on home soil, but an entire generation of adults will come home from Iraq damaged in ways we scarcely understand. Money will not be there for all their issues. Help will be rationed and only the worse who act out will get attention. In every way, they too should be thought of as victims in a terrorist attack. I do not think Obama is a saviour or anything more than a politician. However, he has shown the capacity for greatness in a time that needs a leader that can inspire us to change. John McCain is the total embodiment of all that rests in the past. This is not his fault. It is just not his time. One more rich white guy with all the privileges and lack of understanding for anyone else is not what we need in the White House right now. We need to hear how bad it is along with a solution. We need to be able to trust that leader and allow him to push us toward difficult changes. Do you really think McCain is that man?
It's easy to lavish Obama with praise. He is a phenomena. The press is reflecting what the population feels for him. I don't know if that means he will be able to guide us onto a new path or even how much worse things will get. If anything, the media seems more determined to not let us know the true state of things. Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness might be a right to all in the Constitution, but those three things are in short supply lately. The Constitution has never faced a more scornful administration for the rights it grants every citizen. You might have the illusion of being safe from a terrorist attack, but the leaders who remind you every chance they get that they are responsible for that are the same leaders who deregulated the banks. Last time I checked, it wasn't Al Queda taking peoples homes in record numbers, it was the banks who have politicians on their boards that are forcing people out of their homes. Gay marriage is not responsible for Americas big three automakers refusing to update their technology and are now paying for it with inventories filled with gas guzzling SUV's and nothing to offer Americans who want a cheaper more green alternative. Burning the flag has not kept American troops under hostile fire in a war that has been based entirely on lie after lie for an agenda that will benefit a handful of petroleum companies. Believing in God has not kept our educational standards from falling lower and lower in a world we are told we must compete with in a global economy.
Stop voting against your self interest America. Being for or against abortion will not fix the system of money lending we created to destroy the middle class. If you are truly pro-life, then end our billion dollar a day experiment in empire and bring the troops in Iraq home. We are hated and shot at everyday while we are there. No good can ever come from that. Every stray bullet we fire and each child harmed in a normal bomb dropping operation spawns a hundred more sworn enemies of America. This is how we created Bin Laden. If Iraq is doing anything, it is making a thousand more of him that your children will have to face. Not us. Not today.
I don't know what Obama can do to turn us from a dreary path. I have no illusions that he is anything but a man. But I have concrete belief in the fact that McCain will only continue a slash and burn attitude toward the dying middle class. McCain will be another out of touch guy use to money and power who will take America away from what it was set up to be. That I believe.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Without using names no American can pronounce, lets just skip to the chase on this one. Iraq has three groups. Sunnis, Shias and Kurds.
Saddam was a Sunni. All the leaders under him and the vast majority of those who belonged to his ruling party were Sunni. When we stepped in, we got rid of every Sunni in power.
The Shia's were always a majority of the population in Iraq. Under Saddam, they were treated as less than second class citizens. Guess what America? Iran is almost entirely Shia. What years of war and thousands of years of fighting had not been able to accomplish, we did for Iran when we got rid of their opponent. Nice of us to help Iran out on that one, ha?
Why am I telling you all this? So you understand the situation. When that conservative family member who gets information only from Rush or Fox news starts vomiting the talking points they want you to have, you will have easy to check facts and an even more interesting question as to why we don't know these things.
We are told that the situation in Iraq is getting better. That the surge did it's job and the government of Iraq is finally getting stuff done. Nothing could be further from the truth. Violence has all but stopped. True. However the government of Iraq has never been more fractured. The Kurds in the northern part of the country are cutting their own deals with oil companies for exploration and development. They are operating like an independent nation. The Sunnis, who were always a minority walked out on the last government meting where everyone was to vote on a bill that would give America control to negotiate oil leases for Iraq. The shias remain in power and friendly to us because we put them there, but thousands of years of culture and other similarities are hard to break when the center of the Shia Muslim world is right next door in Iran. Thats right America, we gave Iran what they have wanted forever, a Shia Muslim government in Iraq.
In other words, we have pushed ourselves and all interested parties into a stalemate. A stalemate we created because until Iraq agrees to let us stay as long as we want and lets us decide on how to develop their oil resources, we will continue to tell the American public that the situation in Iraq is not stable enough for out troops to go home.
You see whats going on now? It's blackmail on a huge scale. We want their oil. Period. To think this was ever about something else is beyond ignorant at this point. The Iraq government said they want a time table for us to leave. This is coming from the leader we installed. Not hippies in America or Al Quedia forces we allowed into the country when didn't pay attention to the borders. Yet, we continue to say the time is not right. Until we get an agreement on the oil and the permanent bases that now dot Iraq, we are staying in force. That has been what has been going on for the last year now. The extra troops sent over in the surge were not to help stabilize the fledgling government, they were there to keep down the overwhelming decent among all groups in Iraq for the deal we want. Right now, we are just waiting for a signature on a contract that has been unsigned for more than two years.
Look folks, if you want to look at it from the perspective that we freed them, then you have to admit staying long after they have asked us to go makes us seem like an occupying army.
Being angry at Iran for helping their Shia brothers makes us look almost retarded when our actions have never made it easier for Iran and Iraq to communicate directly with each other. The Kurds, who everyone has fucked over in history, have decided they are going to pretty much do their own thing with or without the rest of the country. Meanwhile, 7 years after we invaded Afghanistan to get rid of the Taliban, they are still attacking U.S. forces. In fact, last month we had more troops die over there than in Iraq. If you think the surge has worked, then you just are not paying attention to the news you can get outside of America. Lets be honest here, we are not telling the Iraq's that we are staying until all power plants and hospitals are rebuilt. We are not telling the world that until Iraq's museums have their cultural treasures back, we are staying. We are very precisely telling Iraq that until we get exclusive rights to develop and profit from their oil reserves, we are staying. We are staying at a staggering cost to us tax payers and staying despite the overwhelming emotional toll it is taking on our dangerously over stretched armed forces.
So you tell me, what was this war all about and why are we still there?
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Ever been to Stockton? It is one of those small cities that have seen better days in the Central Valley. I am sure that San Francisco is used as a punch line for many a gay joke told in bars around Stockton. It is only fair to report that Stockton, like Modesto is a punch line for ignorance out here. That’s the beautiful thing with comedy sometimes. You go out to a location with one idea in your head and come back with another.
I was hired to be the comic at a fundraiser for a woman running to be a city council person. I am not the first comic I would of thought of to do this gig but the Booker told me I was the first comic he thought of who could handle the gig. That’s a flattering thing to hear. Well, the money was OK too and I am always up for a challenge.
Ever try to get to Stockton? There are two main routes and I apparently took the more scenic one. Each road I drove on lead to a road narrower than the last. Eventually I was out in the delta twisting across two lane highways that connected islands. I even crossed a drawbridge. I didn’t know we had those anymore.
I found the place, walked in and immediately felt out of place. I had on a blazer, but I went with the 80’s comic style of a T-shirt underneath. Mistake! The crowd was white, rich and old. You know, pretty much the exact opposite of what I would call my crowd. I have done gigs like this before and they go great. I can play on being the outsider and them being rich. Not this time. The thing about a private gig/ fundraiser for conservatives is that laughter is a sign of weakness. That and there are not a lot of rich, old white dudes who are known for having a great sense of humor. Think John McCain and you will have a pretty good idea of who these people are.
My opening act, for lack of a better description, was the Sheriff. My front row was comprised of the Booker, the Sheriff, the candidate and her husband. I now know what the Berlin wall must of felt like when East Germans looked at it. I started well. One joke fell flat. Into the void the candidate who hired me said, “not funny.”
What can you do? I still have 20 minuets, haven’t got the check yet and I will be damned if some politician in Stockton is going to win a battle of wits with me. But, it is a private gig. It’s there house and their rules and blah blah blah.
Ever try to work the room when half the room has hearing aides? It’s not so easy. The sheriff’s name is Sheriff Moor. Now come on? With a name that sounds like gay porn you don’t expect a comic to not say something? Actually, I was under contract not to say anything. I got the whole speech before the show from her supporters about how open they are and how they believe in freedom. Thats great. I wanted to tell them, really? I got handed a list of subjects not to bring up. Politics was the first thing on the list. Followed by religion, sex, drugs and abortion. What comic would show up with 5 minuets on abortion for a private fundraiser in Stockton? I don’t know, but I am writing some stuff for next year now.
Any landing you can walk away from is a good one. Right?
I left the gig without getting the check. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t great either. I knew I would see the Booker when I returned to work his regular room that weekend.
Saturday night comes around and as I wait for the show to start who do I see walking into the show room? The Sheriff, his wife, the candidate and her husband.
About 10 minuets into my act, I turned to look at the table. They were up front of course. They all turned out to be good sports. I broke down how impossible the other gig was and thank God they could see me in my natural habitat.
After the show, I talked to them again. Like a lot of people, it is hard for them to separate their public face from their inner desires. A fundraiser is no place for jokes because someone is going to be offended. Hell, it happens in a regular show too. But once they were free of holding themselves up in a respectable way, they just laughed at all the stuff anyone would laugh at. I also learned that I did much better than I thought I had at the first gig. I must have. Other wise why would these people come back? A few other people were in the second show from the fundraiser too. They also enjoyed both shows and were curious to see me with no restraints. The lesson? Don’t beat myself up so much and have fun. After all, I am a comic.
Then came Monday.
Getting on local radio has become almost impossible for a local comic. They want the big name. I managed to get myself on Live 105 because they had talked about my performance on Last Comic Standing. I sent the producer an e-mail and they agreed to have me on. It didn’t hurt that I could plug a comedy show sponsored by the Onion at the Punch Line. I got down to the station early in the morning, excited, yawning and over caffeinated. Like Stern, you get introduced as you walk in and sit down. Soon as I took a chair they went off on Cobb’s. The PR staff and these guys had been in some war for a while now. I got a front row seat for it. It was awkward. I love Cobb’s. I have nothing to do with any of the PR stuff. I am just a local comic looking for some airtime. That’s all. So I sat there hoping this wouldn’t be my entire segment. After a few minuets, they dropped it and I started getting some solid laughs. They kept me on for half an hour. I think that means it went well. Eagerly I checked my web page to see how many hits I got. The sad thing is, I got hits, but only about 400. I just don’t know. I don’t know what you have to do to get people to check you out and come to a show. There are so many gifted local comics that are screaming in the dark. People go to a big name show and leave disappointed while quality locals play in front of crowds of 30.
Well, at least I know I am big in Stockton.