Head in the Clouds. Nose in a Book

Whenever I hear anyone say that they were poor as a child but didn’t realize it because they were surrounded by so much love, I don’t believe it. It’s a beautiful sentiment, but how could you not know? I was also raised in a poor but loving household and was well aware of it every day. And, on the off chance I might happen to forget for a moment, there was always a rich kid, usually a cheerleader with a cute button nose and the bosom of a 20-year-old Playboy bunny, who was more than happy to jog my memory.

Love is a beautiful thing, but it doesn’t make you not hungry or forget that you’re wearing hand-me-downs and that your mom, who isn’t a beauty operator, cuts your hair. I’m not saying I wasn’t happy; I’m just saying that I knew. But perhaps it isn’t fair to judge since, unlike myself, not everyone has been fifty years old since they were seven.

As a single parent and sole provider, my mother made sure her children never went without basic necessities, but there wasn’t much “extra” anything at our house. I suppose I could say there was “extra love,” but that would sound just as ridiculous as someone saying they didn’t realize they were poor despite having worn milk cartons as snowshoes.

The one thing that my mom rarely said no to when it came to spending money was books. She’s an avid reader, and it is from her that I inherited my passion for reading. I adore books: the way they look and feel and especially how old ones smell when you fan their yellowing pages under your nose.

When I get a new book, my ritual is the same today as when I was a little girl. First, it’s gets set somewhere in plain sight, usually on the coffee table. I want to be able to see it but won’t read it right away. It’s fun knowing that it’s there, waiting.

When the anticipation becomes too much, the front and the back cover get read. Then, if there’s a dust cover, I read the inside flaps with the information about the author. Most times, it’s boring stuff like how they reside in North Carolina with their spouse and a parrot, both of which are named Hank. But sometimes it’s about their work process and cool facts like how they hated crying babies and mainly survived on hamburger meat, green peas, and coffee – that was Will Cuppy. He wrote a weekly column for the New York Herald in the 1930s and one of my all-time favorite books, The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody. A hilariously wry book of stories where he humbles historical figures like William The Conqueror and Lucrezia Borgia. Who doesn’t enjoy a funny Lucrezia Borgia story, for crying out loud?

I then read the page that lists any other books the author has written and think, “If I like this one, maybe I’ll read one of those. But what if I do and it’s not as good? That would be sad. So, maybe I won’t. Relax, Pedigo, you don’t have to decide right now.”

Then next is the one with all of the publishing information on it. Not sure why I read that page. Maybe it’s because sometimes I get to say, “Hmm, I wasn’t even born when this was copywritten. Interesting.”

Even though it isn’t at all interesting.

Then onward to the dedication page, where I’ll ponder if these people truly appreciated the gesture and what they did to deserve it, other than having to live with a moody writer who ate a shitload of green peas.

Then I read the forward unless, of course, it gives too much away, and then I’ll stop and go back and read that after I’m finished to see if I agree with the pompous opinion of the writer of the forward. I usually do.

And, finally, when there has been enough word foreplay and my brain is sufficiently aroused, I will begin chapter one.

Yes, that seems like a lot, I know. But it’s not if you’re a reader because readers are hardcore. We like to read. In the 90s, I continued to work for a comedy club that wouldn’t move me up as a performer or pay me more money, and I did it simply because in the condo, where the comics stayed, there was, for some reason, a collection of The Alphabet Murders by Sue Grafton and I wanted to read them all. Which I did, and then told the club booker that “F is for fuck off.”

It’s hard for me to comprehend when a person says they aren’t a reader. A man once told me that while we were at dinner. He used those exact words, “I am not a reader.” I, was suddenly tired and remembered that I needed to get up early the next morning. Because that’s a deal-breaker for me, I could be attracted to someone who can’t read but not to someone who chooses not to.

Books and being able to escape into their stories are how I survived adolescence. They let me know there was a big colorful world out there, not just the grey one where this misfit kid hung her second-hand hat. It’s why I became a storyteller. I enjoy the thought that maybe one of mine might make someone as happy as the ones I like have made me.

No Cream No Sugar

There’s a quality that certain people possess to which I find myself inevitably drawn. A mysterious “something” that’s hard to define, and so I call it the “I’m going to grab a coffee. Can I get you something?” mystique.

It encompasses many things and doesn’t necessarily have anything at all to do with coffee. However, if you’re courting me, showing up with a cup so strong that my eyes water works just as well as flowers for no reason.

My theory is that a person who thinks, “Since I’m getting coffee, I should see if anyone else would like some.” is also a person who asks about your day because they’re genuinely interested. These folks hold the door at the bank, so it doesn’t slam in your face when you try to enter behind them. They make sure you get to your car safely, notice your haircut, ask specifics, and let it be about you sometimes. They’re the people who make eye contact when having a conversation instead of looking around to see if anyone more important is in the room because they think you’re the most important person in the room.

These are the people I want to be like and around more often.

“Narcissist” is a word that I try not to use because of its overuse. But since it is a word and does apply here, I feel justified in using it now, and so I will. I once worked with a narcissist. After 30 years in show business, there’s actually been tons of them, but one stands head and shoulders above the rest in my mind. The Big Bad John of the self-obsessed, if you will. So bewitched was this man, by the sound of his own voice that while droning on about his wonderfulness, he would gaze longingly at his reflection in the mirror with a flirtatious smile. As if thinking, “Who is this dreamboat?” So, I would say, “Would you two care to be alone?”

This man never tired of talking but had no interest in listening to anyone else do so. He turned and walked away in the middle of something I was saying on more than one occasion. When called on his rudeness, the unconcerned response would be, “I thought you were finished.”

Here’s an excellent way to tell when someone has finished speaking – they will no longer be talking.

With age comes wisdom and less tolerance for nonsense; therefore, the behavior I’m willing to accept and to whom I give my time has changed greatly. My tribe is smaller these days but filled with souls who “talk to and not at,” show an interest in what’s going on in a world other than their own, and of course, always think about me before making a coffee run.

One Non Prom

1984 was my senior year at Tascosa High School, which is located in Amarillo, Texas. Amarillo is where I was born and raised, and by the way, has been mentioned in many a country song because it just sounds like the name of a town that you would hear in a country song. I’ve said that before but felt like repeating it because it’s a good line, and what if someone didn’t get to read it the first time I wrote it.

I wasn’t a typical seventeen-year-old girl all aflutter about boys or going to football games or dances. Well, maybe the boy part, but attending school or any of its related functions did not hold my interest, which was a big factor in my being grounded my entire freshman year. There were many reasons for house arrest, including my hard head and sharp tongue, but basically, it was because neither my teachers nor my mother seemed to care that I already knew everything.

That isn’t an exaggeration either it was actually the entire school year. My sentence wasn’t handed down all at once. I was just never able to make parole. Which, unfortunately, helped prove my mom correct – she could indeed play the game longer.

My next three years of academia, if a public school can be considered academia, went a little more smoothly thanks to the lessons learned during my incarceration, which were “think before speaking because some people obviously don’t appreciate dry humor.” and “the importance of sitting quietly and pretending to give a shit even when you do not.”

Senior prom rolled around one month shy of my 18th birthday and seemed juvenile. It was only 26 days before I would be a grown woman, and so it seemed silly to go. Besides, I was bashful and awkward and pretty sure that no one would ask, which they didn’t, but it’s fine because that’s what helped me develop my theory that not going to the prom is a way more interesting rite of passage than going.

Imagine how many great love songs or works of art we’d have been denied if everyone fit in as a kid or went to their prom. Thank heaven Vincent Van Gogh was a redhead, which is never appealing to girls in their teens, so you know that guy didn’t go, and if he had, there might not be The Starry Night.

There had been talk about perhaps going as a group with my best friends Jo and Jonathon.

Jo and I had been friends since the 6th-grade. She was a tiny little cowgirl and was funny and sweet, with some rough-and-tumble thrown into the mix. Her older brother was a bull rider, so she spent a lot of time at rodeos and around cowboys. My mom always compared her to a Banty rooster, roosters used in cockfights because they’re scrappy and will fight to the death. That may not sound very flattering, but actually, it is and was a pretty accurate comparison. “Give in” or “Back down” were not phrases in Jo’s vocabulary.

We met Jonathon during sophomore year. He was our gay friend that we didn’t believe was gay despite having met him in drama club or the fact that he was designing his own clothing line at fifteen years old and wanted to be known only by his first name, like Cher.

We ended up not going as a group because Jonathon was asked to the dance by some random girl who also had no gaydar. I don’t know her name or anything about her, really, except that she didn’t lose her virginity on prom night.

Jo went with a guy that we knew from church. Hers, not mine. Jo’s family belonged to the Church of Christ, and mine were Methodist, but I’d tag along with them most Sundays because her parents would take us to eat at The Sizzler afterward.

Church of Christ is hardcore. They are rivaled only by the Pentecostals and those religions where you have to marry your grandpa’s best friend when you turn twelve years old or get your period, whichever happens first. So, I’d sit in Sunday school every week and listen to them tell me I was going to hell because I wasn’t baptized in their church, but then I’d get chopped sirloin and fries when it was over. So, it was totally worth it.

Initially, it was a shock because Methodists are a very mellow people who like to think we mind our own business. After all, it doesn’t count if you say it under your breath or out of the corner of your mouth. We enjoy a nice brisket and macaroni salad. And we love God, but come on, let’s not lose our minds about it. We sit quietly with hands folded, paying attention during the sermon so that we can be out of there by noon, and we just pray that nobody goes up to the front to accept Jesus during the benediction because that’ll tack on at least an extra 20 minutes.

May God be with you. And also, with you. Gotta run, see y’all next week.

On Prom night, I volunteered to work my boring part-time job at a clothing store in the mall and learned a valuable lesson that I wouldn’t really understand until years later. A dance is just a dance; it only lasts one night. But a job, no matter how boring, is something that, for the rest of your life, can be used to get you out of going to all kinds of undesirable functions like brunch and Christmas at your boyfriend’s parent’s house.

Hey, I Know You

Here’s a sentence that I’ve said many times in my life, “I don’t know because I don’t work here.” Perhaps it’s my stern resting face with severe glasses combined with good posture and a confident carriage. I’m not sure, but whatever it is and wherever I am, people usually assume that I’m in charge and are forever asking me questions and where things are located.

I don’t really mind and try to help when at all possible, “Let me think, if I was paint thinner, where would I be?” Because even at the hardware store, I look like I’m steering the ship, and not many things make a girl feel sexier than looking like she knows her way around a claw hammer.

And so, I’m always having these sorts of conversations with strangers as I try and navigate my way in this world-

“No, I’m not the owner. Just here having dinner.”

“I don’t know if they’re hiring. You should ask the chick with the name tag.”

“Tell you what, if they let me make my own cocktail, it would be my pleasure to get you another one too.”

In my twenties, I was having dinner at a Bennigan’s in the same strip mall as a comedy club where I was working. Bennigan’s was a popular chain restaurant in the 1980s and 90s. They were decorated by someone who decided it would be better to paint everything kelly green and glue random crap on the walls, like old rugby cleats and rusty trombones, instead of having a design plan or choosing an accent color. It was America’s original casual dining concept and was fun. It felt kind of like eating in a storage unit with dirty shoes hanging next to your plate.

On my way to the restroom, I saw a group of people staring, and then a woman waved and motioned for me to come to their table. We made pleasantries for a minute as I waited for them to ask, “Aren’t you a comedian?” the woman instead asked if they could have their iced teas refilled. And I said, “sure, I’ll tell your server.”

Because again, it’s no big deal, but moving forward, please let the record show-

“I can’t validate parking.”

“I’m not your kid’s principal. And yes, I’m sure.”

“No clue where that book is located. Check the card catalog or Dewey Decimal System.”

And, “I’m probably not allowed in the kitchen, but I’m sure someone would be glad to bring you more bread.”

Once at a brunch buffet, a man got extremely annoyed and marched off in a huff when I couldn’t tell him if the gravy was gluten-free. He didn’t seem to believe that I wasn’t managing the line, but it worked out for the best because it looked like he’d had enough gravy in his lifetime. You’re very welcome, chubby guy’s arteries.

I also get accused quite often of being an undercover cop. And it’s a good thing I’m not because apparently, I would be terrible at it. More than once, I’ve been sitting in my car, minding my own business, when suddenly tap, tap, tap on the window. “You a cop?” Nope just listening to NPR.

One time before a show, I was taking a picture of my name on a comedy club marque when a man suddenly began walking towards me very aggressively and asked if I was a police officer and had just taken his picture.

“No, I’m a comic and took a picture of my name.” I said, pointing at the sign.

He then barked, “If you’re a cop, you have to tell me. If I ask, you have to tell. Those are the rules.”

Really? Those are the rules? “Look, mister, I was only educated in the Texas public school system, but I’m fairly certain there’s more involved in undercover work than just the honor system. And in fact, in Texas, pretty sure they just make it up as they go. So, walk away before I haul your dumb ass downtown.”

The job that I have that no one seems to believe that I have is stand-up comedy. I’ve heard this a million times. “Seriously? You don’t look like you’d be funny.”

So, guess I don’t look like I’m funny but do look like I’m in charge of gravy.

Piggly Wiggly Moment

In the year 1970, or it may have been 69 because my mom still had a beehive, either way, the Pedigos lived in the town of Perryton, Texas which is located in the gas and oil fields of the Northeast Texas Panhandle.

Ralph Pedigo, my mother’s husband at the time and also the father of my brother and myself, had relocated our family to this tiny place in the middle of nowhere, on the high plains surrounded by a forest of massive oil rigs and pumpjacks after being hired as an officer for the Highway Patrol.

Ralph proudly wore a Stetson Silverbelly felt cowboy hat and a gun and would cruise the desolate highways and farm to market roads enforcing the speed limit and asking people if they knew why he had stopped them. With tickets usually being issued regardless of the answer.

Sometimes in the evenings, after a trip to the Dairy Queen, we’d drive those roads in his patrol car and watch the sunset. Because that’s what you do for fun in a small town, eat ice cream and watch as day becomes night. There’s a wonderfully achy loneliness that washes over you when the sun descends on a stark landscape. It’s always been a good match for the melancholy part of my personality that enjoys feeling sad and like it’s me against everyone.

During that magical moment at dusk when the sun, moon, and stars are simultaneously visible in an orange and purple-y sky, I’d stare out the car window at the 40 foot-high pumpjacks watching as their giant heads slowly moved up and down, extracting crude oil from the wells, like a toy drinking bird in his little top hat, waiting for the red fluid to move up into his head making him top-heavy so he could finally dip forward. It felt like I was the only person in the world, and I’d dream about how when I was big, I would sit on top of one and ride it no matter what anyone said.

Although only four years old at the time, there are a lot of memories of that place. The little white house with green trim we lived in on Colgate Street, and the smell of Dippity Doo hair gel on Saturday evening as we’d sit in front of the television watching Laugh-In while my mom would torture me by trying to make curlers stay in my baby fine hair, so I’d look pretty for church the next morning.

I remember once being at the grocery store with my mother and realizing I had to get out of there. The town, not the store, which was a Piggly Wiggly.

It started as just a normal outing. Me in the shopping cart with my legs dangling, occasionally kicking my mother in her crotch while she tried to shop and prevent my seven-year-old brother, with his bright red hair shaved in a flattop, from putting anything he could get his paws on into his mouth or the basket.

Everything was fine as we began our checkout. My perch in the cart was the perfect vantage point to watch the cashier, wearing a red and mustard yellow polyester uniform and a button with a picture of a cartoon pig wearing a butcher’s hat, and also, I could keep an eye on the Chips Ahoy.

The cashier made small talk with a cheerfulness that didn’t quite reach her eyes as item after item was robotically rung up and then slid towards the kid whose job was to put things in paper bags and then into the trunk of our Cutlass.

Somewhere, between shampoo and cans of dog food for our Chihuahua named Rodrigues, I was overcome with a feeling of dread. The kind of dread that makes you mad and your gut hurt, and you try to casually spot the closest exit without anyone noticing, in case you need to make a run for it. And I remember thinking to myself, “This will never be my life.”

I may not have been old enough to know what her life was, but I somehow knew what it wasn’t.

Maybe she was married to a roughneck that worked in the oil fields, and they had kids and roots in the town and were happy as pigs in shit, or maybe not. Sometimes people are satisfied because they just are, and other times it’s because they think they have to be. But whatever, that was not going to be me.

I haven’t told many people about that memory because it seemed kind of arrogant, but recently it dawned on me that everyone has their “Piggly Wiggly Moment.” That moment when God or the Universe, your gut, whoever tells you that you can do anything you want and if it feels like there has to be more to life than “this” then there is, and it’s okay to go find it.

It’s been over fifty years but to this day, whenever I’m scared to do something or hearing too many voices, including my own, tell me I can’t, I always go back there and try to channel that little girl with the wild heart who wanted to ride an oil pump like a bronco and didn’t care what anyone thought about it. And then I just go for it. Because no matter how scary something is, there is no way I’m letting a four year old be a bigger badass than I am.

Oh, That’s Kinda Funny

I was 19 the first time someone told me that women aren’t funny. He wasn’t just talking about me specifically although, I have heard that said quite a bit and have also said it to myself more than once in the deep dark of the night. Which I happen to believe is the best time to question your self-worth and life choices because it’s way easier to feel the full effects of despair when you’re cloaked in pitch blackness. But this “matter of fact” statement was made about my entire gender. All of us. Every woman on the planet.

Sorry girls, but as it turns out, not-a-one of you whores are funny.

The year was 1988, which was a simpler time, before social media when if a person wanted to say something mean or disrespectful they actually had to say it to your face, and not from behind a computer screen in the comfort of their childhood bedroom or minimum wage job.

But, thanks to the internet, things are much easier for folks now. For example, once a stranger named Marianne was able to Google me and then email to let me know she was watching my Comedy Central special and that I really suck. (Not just “kinda” suck, mind you, but “really.”) That could never have happened in the olden days, and sadly, Miss Marianne would’ve had to carry around that disdain for me and my act until her dying day.

As a stand-up comic, who happens to be female, I’ve become very familiar over the years with this boring “women aren’t funny” stereotype, and it doesn’t bother me at all because it isn’t true. And, the people who believe that usually aren’t funny or very bright and probably didn’t get laid in high school, which is somehow our fault, and so who cares.

However, as a 19-year-old kid, it bothered me a lot. Which was the intent of the angry hack comic who said it.

Touché, bitter dude.

There is power and sexiness when you can control a room and make people laugh. It’s threatening to some, and so there’s a “How dare you?” or “Who do you think you are?” attached to women who can do it. Which I know because people have said to me “How dare you?” and “Who do you think you are?” (Some people talk like that in real life, it’s not just on soap operas.)

I took it personally at first, spending many a year trying to change minds and prove people wrong. Until one day, I just didn’t want to anymore because that isn’t my job. Just like it’s not my job to convince someone that we walked on the moon in 1969 or that you should eat leafy greens every day.

You’re grown, darling. Figure that shit out.

If for some reason a funny woman bothers or feels threatening to a person, I’m not going to try and change their mind or figure out why because honestly, I don’t care. That seems like a conversation they probably need to have with their demons in the deep dark of the night like a normal person.

Mama Bear

On a recent afternoon, while preparing to leave the house to run errands, I noticed that my shirt was on inside out. So, after pulling it off and flipping it right side out, I then put it on backward. This is one of the few times in life that I have questioned my decision to not have children.

It seems probable that these sorts of things will be happening more frequently as I head towards the light, and it might’ve been nice to have someone around to keep an eye out for it.

I have enjoyed my unencumbered life of telling jokes in smelly bars, and dating men who were rarely a good idea, however oftentimes, I feel melancholy knowing I’ll never get to experience that superhuman mom strength that happens when a 57 Chevy slips off the blocks and traps your toddler under the axel. And then, for some reason, you’re able to lift a 3,000-pound truck with your left hand and use the other to yank your kid to safety by his hair.

The first time my mom performed such a feat still fascinates me. I was in the second grade, and we lived in the small town of Hereford Texas. It’s known as the beef capital of the world and is the kind of place where men open doors, say ma’am, and take their hats off when they enter a room.

The town got its name from The Hereford, which is a breed of cattle. And cows are like flowers; when there’s a bunch of them, they’re very fragrant. The residents refer to this fragrance as money, which sounds better than saying that your town smells like cow shit.

Sandra was my best friend in those days. We went to school together, were in the same Blue Bird troop, and spent hours playing at each other’s houses. Her mom was nice and would give us snacks like crushed ice cubes, which we’d eat with a spoon from a coffee cup and felt very fancy doing so.

One Saturday morning, while walking to my house to play, we got to witness my mother turn into a superhero. About half a block from home, which was on the opposite side of the street, I could see her standing on the front porch watching to make sure we crossed safely.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a dog about the size of a Shetland pony started galloping towards us. And not in a friendly, tail wagging, “Hey, how ya doin?” sort of way.

Don’t know exactly what breed of dog it was but it looked like the kind that patrols the grounds of a junkyard and finds joy in killing little girls. As we began to scream and scatter like baby chicks, he sunk his fangs into Sandra’s back and began to shake his gigantic freak head, flinging her tiny body to and fro.

Somehow, amid all the terror and mayhem, I saw my mother spring into action in slow motion. She leaped from the porch and sprinted shoeless, down the block and across the street, grabbing this beast by the scruff of the neck and lifting him off the ground.

Apparently startled (as one would be by being interrupted in the middle of a kill) he yelped, which caused his jaws to release their death grip on my friend’s spine and she tumbled to freedom.

With one hand, my mom raised him above her head, twirling the enormous hound like Wonder Woman’s lasso, and then hurled him into a yard several houses down where he hit the ground running and never looked back.

That memory is the reason my sweet little mama is still on my ‘top 5’ list of people that I want with me in a bar fight.

You Ain’t Nobody

Just discovered four brand new linen napkins in a kitchen drawer. They must have been purchased during a time in my life when I felt I was too good to wipe my hands on my jeans. 

And The Livin is Easy

Remember when we were kids and thought that pistachio nuts were red? Then we found out it was because they were being doused in the cancerously delicious dye Red 40.

That was sure fun.

On lazy summer evenings, during that magical time when moon and sun simultaneously rise and set and your soul whispers that anything is possible, we’d hop on our bikes, with little red-stained fingers, and happily cruise along in the mist coming from the truck spraying for mosquitos.

So many fond memories and upper respiratory infections.

Twas a simpler time when it was safe to be outside from dawn to dusk. Just hanging out on the curb, waiting for your dad because he promised you could spend the weekend with him. And you could just wait and wait and wait until the night was as black as pitch and your mom would finally make you come inside because he didn’t show.

Ah, the carefree days of childhood.

Up from San Antone

From the time I was old enough to sneak into bars, all I’ve ever wanted to do was be a stand-up comic.

Life changed during the summer of my nineteenth year on this planet when the comedy boom of the 1980s hit and Jolly’s Comedy Club opened in my hometown of Amarillo, Texas.

That’s right, the Amarillo.

The one from Route 66 and Amarillo By Morning. It’s actually mentioned in a lot of country songs because it just sounds like the name of a town that you’d hear in a country song. A dusty, little cow town on the plains of Texas. I-40 runs right through the middle of it, leading anywhere but there…which is exactly where I wanted to be.

I hated small-town life. Dreaded the thought of getting stuck there, marrying a feedlot cowboy, and then dying. And not necessarily in that order.

My first time on stage during that open mic, Tuesday, June 22, 1987, 8:15 p.m. central time, (every comic can tell you their comedy anniversary) I knew things would be okay. It didn’t matter that there weren’t a whole lot of laughs, cause I was saved. No cowboy husband or a job slinging hash for me.

Onward and upward!

I performed secretly for months before telling my ridiculously overprotective, single mother and older brother that I wanted to drop out of Jr college and go on the road telling jokes. They took it surprisingly well. Probably because I prefaced it by saying, “I have something to tell you. I’m a lesbian.”
After a really long and incredibly awkward pause when it seemed like they both might burst into tears, I said, “I’m kidding, I’m going to be a professional comedian.”

“Thank you, Jesus,” was their heartfelt response.

That was when my brother revealed he’d been worried that I might not be straight because my roommate and best friend at the time was a hefty girl who played catcher on our church softball team.

If he’d ever paid attention to the way I played right field, his worries would have been laid to rest much earlier in the season.

As it turns out, my friend wasn’t gay either. She was just chubby.

And, by the way, my family doesn’t think that there’s anything wrong with being homosexual. It’s fine. Just as long as it’s not one of us for cryin’ out loud.

Anyhoo, after religiously doing open mics and not getting laughs for another year or so, it seemed like the perfect time to hit the road. So, I then quit my high-powered waitress job at the Red Lobster, even though I’d just gotten my year pin with the diamond chip in it. (See how serious I was?)

By the way, when I say there weren’t any laughs when I first started I’m being only slightly self-deprecating. There were some but just not very many. As is the case with most new comics. Usually the audience members were people I knew. Some of them I’d grown up with, gone to school with, and worked with. Most of them just sat and stared.

Thanks, guys.

It isn’t easy trying to chase a dream when it feels like nobody’s rooting for you. It hurt my feelings at the time, but I’ve come to understand this; it isn’t that people don’t want you to reach for the stars because they don’t like you. Nope, that’s not it at all. Sometimes they don’t want you to do it because it means that they too will have to try.

And who wants to do that? I don’t blame them. Trying is hard.

Don’t let anyone kid you. It’s nothing like not trying.

And, so began the journey. July 3, 1988, I quit my day job and hit the road in my 1974 canary-yellow Ford Pinto. I was twenty-two years old, had zero money in my pocket, and even less of a clue about how the world worked. I know: awesome game plan.

It’s always felt like I was raised twice in my life. First, in a small town by a nice family who didn’t drink or smoke and a grandfather who was a Methodist minister. Then again in green rooms, showrooms, and comedy condos across the country by comics who drank, swore, did drugs, and fornicated with cocktail waitresses in the bedroom next to mine.

I must tell you, it’s made for an interestingly boring life.

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