Sweet Dreams

For several weeks now I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night with the same bad song on rotation in my brain.

Not sure what time it happens because I refuse to check. That’ll just lead to a headcount of the hours already slept and then how many are left until I have to get up, and all the while Look Away by Chicago will be the dreadful soundtrack.

Around week two and a half, worry began to set in. Why was this happening? I’d lie in the dark wondering if perhaps it was some sort of a psychotic break, but then comfort myself by saying if it was I probably wouldn’t realize it because pretty sure if you’ve gone mad you don’t know you’re mad, you just are.

The next morning I googled psychotic break. I’m fine.

Since the song is about some heartbroken dude who can’t stop crying and doesn’t want his ex to know, but yet all he talks about is the goddamned crying, I thought maybe it might have something to do with a past relationship.

Unfinished business mayhap?

Maybe I’d hurt someone terribly and this is my “Tell-Tale Heart” karma where, instead of the beating of a murdered man’s heart coming from beneath my floorboard, I’m being tortured by a power ballad.

Probably not. Although that would be cool.

Intellectually I realize that on a subconscious level the repetition of the song most likely represents the repetition of my days being quarantined. And, the fact that the song is shitty means I’m finally ready to rejoin society.

Come Again?

People frequently mistake me not talking as me listening. It’s why I’m a good bartender. That, and I can mix a martini that’s so delightful you will be tempted to ask for my hand in marriage.

My first “real job” after I stopped working the road was at a neighborhood Italian place in Los Angeles County.

It was a tiny white building with giant red awnings that shaded the front windows. A billion twinkling Christmas lights covered everything like English Ivy while empty Chianti bottles, from their perch on the window sill, peeked out from beneath as if to say, “What the fuck you lookin’ at?”

When I called to inquire about the position, a woman with a thick, unrecognizable accent answered the phone. My guess was Russian. For some reason whenever I can’t place an accent I immediately assume the person is from Russia. They rarely are. I also sometimes think people sound like Count Dracula, which isn’t a country or an accent, and usually not correct either.

The dining room felt warm and lived in, like a grandma’s house, the air heavy with smells of garlic, freshly baked bread, and an occasional whiff of mildew.

It was decorated by the owner, Tony, who enjoyed gluing stuff to the wood-paneled walls. My favorites were an old Army shovel and the right half of a broken beer mug. Inside the mug was imprisoned a tiny clown wearing a top hat and playing the accordion. He stared straight ahead with a big smile on his face that didn’t quite reach his cold, dead eyes.

I totally feel you, buddy.

The ceiling was painted light blue, like the heavens, with cotton candy clouds and half-naked cherubs flying around playing the harp.

Directly above the bar was Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, exactly like in the Sistine chapel, except for God’s disproportionately long index finger and Adam’s nether regions which looked disturbingly lobsterish, or lobster-y, or however you’d say his junk resembled a lobster.

A large antique mirror covered the back wall and with the soft red and amber glow of Tiffany lamps, the ambiance was a combo of an old west saloon and a house of ill repute.

I learned a lot working that bar. Most notably, I look amazing in brothel lighting.

It’s true what they say about folks treating their bartender like a shrink. And, I guess if you think about it, it makes total sense even though it doesn’t.

Six days a week at 4 p.m. I’d open the doors to find my regulars impatiently waiting to get started drinking and bending my ear. Sometimes they’d knock on the front window in hopes of being let in early. You could hear them all the way in the kitchen where I’d sit and pretend I couldn’t hear them.

By the way, no judgment if you need a cocktail in the afternoon. It’s a little too early for me but I get it. Besides, pretty sure that 4 o’clock counts as 5 o’clock and if it doesn’t then it should.

Once a customer asked Tony if we had a restroom, to which he replied, “No. We shit in the street.” That job was a good fit for me. Although, I stayed way too long – as one will do when hiding from whatever it is that one is hiding from.

Most of the pressing issues my crowd wanted advice about were just common sense things. Stuff adults should know and it annoyed me that they didn’t. A fact that was never hidden and also, unfortunately, not a deterrent.

My sage advice was usually along the lines of “Grow up and pull your head out of your ass.”

Perhaps not the guidance hoped for but I suppose is what’s to be expected when a disenchanted comic is your bartender, and your bartender is who you’ve chosen as a mental health provider.

SASSY WAITRESS

Chapter One
It was day two of a two week run in Indiana and I was standing in the back of the room waiting to go up. The night before, while on stage, I’d gotten into it with an open mic guy who was sitting in the front row taking notes during my set. Which means he was stealing my jokes.

Yep, front row. At least sit in the back where I can’t see your dumb ass.

Also, I had to break up a fight between audience members because no one who worked at the club seemed at all interested in doing it. So, I said, to two big-ole hammered farm boys, “You, aren’t going anywhere. And, you, are not kicking anybody’s ass. Both of you sit down right now.”

And you know what they said? Nothing. They just sat down.

I have found that if you speak to an intoxicated man the way his mother would, he will immediately behave. I don’t recommend this if it’s someone you feel romantic about because it kinda sets a disturbing tone. However, if that’s your thing, then have at it.

So, as I stood watching the opening act being verbally pummeled by the audience, I decided that my life as a full-time road comic was finally approaching its end.

Never saw that coming.

But, after way too many years of slugging it out on the road, I was over it. Not stand-up, but definitely the lifestyle.

I’d grown weary of living out of a suitcase, driving all night to get to the next gig, sleeping in my car or some disgusting comedy condo and staying in shitty, scary motels. I no longer wanted to deal with drunks, rowdy audiences or idiots who only wanted to hear dick jokes and thought it perfectly civilized to yell, “Show us your tits!”

Who raised these people?

I was physically and emotionally worn out but didn’t realize, or maybe just didn’t want to acknowledge, how much until that very moment.

Plus, I was always broke.

Always.

Fuck!

I was so sick and tired of never having any money, fighting with my boyfriend because of it and worrying about how to pay my bills. And also, getting to choose between eating or putting gas in my car.

In case you were wondering, the whole “starving artist” thing is way more romantic when you’re talking about it over a big, fat, juicy steak as opposed to a pack of stale peanut butter crackers. Hence the F-word, followed by an exclamation point a few sentences ago. For the record, I don’t exclamation point lightly. But then again what lady does really?

The older I got, louder became the siren’s call of having a pot to piss in or two nickels to rub together.

Perhaps someday I’d even own my very own Frigidaire. “What must that be like?” I’d ponder yet dare not say aloud.

At twenty-two, I gave up any chance of normal by pledging my undying love for stand-up. I made my mom cry, burned the boats, plus all the other stuff you do to prove you ain’t fuckin around, and then headed off in my Canary yellow 1974 Ford Pinto to make the world laugh one comedy club, hotel lounge, and one-niter hell gig at a time.

Oh, and also to assuage some unspoken ache.

I am too good enough, you’ll see!

They never see.

In a nutshell: After several years of roaming around the country and not living anywhere, I moved to Los Angeles in my late twenty’s. Met my ex-boyfriend. We lived (out of wedlock, much to my mother’s chagrin) in a great apartment at the beach for about a year. He got a job offer in San Francisco. I dramatically refused to go.

I went.

We moved into an apartment in Tiburon. That’s in Marin County across the Golden Gate Bridge. We had an amazing view of the city and Alcatraz. Alcatraz sits in the middle of the Bay. There’s a light on top of the prison that goes around every six seconds warning ships that it’s there and so please don’t smash into it.

My boyfriend would sit on the couch and time the light as it went around. He’d say, visibly agitated, “It goes every 6 seconds. It’s making me crazy.”  I would respond, “Let’s not blame the light, shall we? How about you just go sit in that chair instead?” His job ended five years later and we returned to Southern California. Eight years later our relationship would follow suit.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: