I was home. I was exhausted. I was exhilarated.
I was bored.
After six months constantly on the go from one town to the next, slowing down was a bit of an adjustment. After picking up my mail at the post office, clear out my voice-mails on my home phone, and walking down to the beach for some fresh ocean air I was out of shit to do. So I called my buddy Drew, the guy who dragged me to my first open mic, and said let’s go get a drink.
It was Wednesday or Thursday and he was at work. He said he’d meet up with me after work. I want to hear all about the road, he said.
Great, I’ll see you in a few hours.
Now what the fuck do I do with the rest of my day?
I went outside to have a smoke and ponder. From my balcony I had a straight view into the neighbor’s yard and that’s when I noticed a guy I had never seen before. He saw me notice him and did that head bob thing that guys do when they acknowledge each other. Then he waived me over.
Fuck. I don’t want to meet the neighbors.
I pointed to my cigarette hoping he was like most pretentious twats in this neighborhood who saw smokers as only slightly better than pedophiles but much worse than lobbyists and leave me the fuck alone. He pulled a pack from his shirt pocket to show me that I was cool in his eyes. Jerk.
I headed down the stairs and through the white picket gate, down the sidewalk, through the white picket gate and met him in the middle of his lawn. In the time it took me to walk down my steps and through two white picket gates he decided to light a smoke of his own. We stood there like that, with a smoke hanging from each of our eyes, just looking at each other. I’m sure it was only a second or two, but it seemed like it was easily six or seven.
My name’s Byron. I stuck out my hand like I had been raised to do.
Nice to meet you, Byron. He looked at my hand for a second like it was an odd little creature he had never seen before. He looked at his hand and stuck it out to greet mine. He was a shitty hand shaker; limp wrist, moist palm. Gross.
Yeah, you too. I’m not sure why I said that. When I was thinking of shit to do with my day this was not one of them.
So what do you do, Byron?
Umm… comedy. I’m a comedian.
So what do you hate more: when someone tells you that you should use their lame life story in your act or when someone you meet asks you to tell them a joke?
I was caught off guard by that. Those are two things that happen to every comedian, but no one ever really appreciates how annoying that is except other comedians.
Are you a comedian too?
No, not at all.
Oh. Usually only comedic types get that.
He just smirked and said, wanna get high?
I won’t rehash the first two years of my comedic life (I almost said career but that just made me sad) because it was nothing more than a series of open mics and so-called showcases. A showcase is an open mic but with a flier.
So let’s start here…
Five years ago
I was finally on the road opening up for a pretty cool guy named Eric. Eric posted on some on-line comedy board that he was looking for a guy to open his show with about 20 minutes of solid material. Fortunately for me, what he really wanted was someone with a car who was willing to drive. What I lacked in material my little Chevy Cobalt more than made up for in gas mileage and built-in chauffeur.
I knew going in that I was going to love the road. A different town every night, seeing parts of the country most of us never hear of, a revolving door of chucklesluts. I knew it would be an awesome time.
For those who need things ‘splained to them: A chuckleslut is a comedy groupie. They’re the Taco Bell of the groupie world – they seem like a good idea when you’re hammered, but you spend the next day regretting the decision to eat them.
Eric was slated to do a string of shows in the Northwest so he asked me to meet up with him in Oregon. I was excited to finally get on the road and be a professional road comic.
I get paid to do what I love.
How many people get to say that? That was my prevailing thought as I drove the 12 or so hours north on the 101. I had yet to discover that there is a vast difference between getting paid to do what I love versus making a living doing what I love. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
As I got closer to where my GPS was telling me the venue was, I got a little nervous. I could see nothing in any direction and I was a mile and a half from my destination. I thought about calling Eric to double check the address, but just as I made a left turn from MiddleofNowhere Blvd onto WherethefuckamI Street I saw a marquee in the distance.
The closer I got the more it felt like some bizarro world dream. Out here in the middle of cornfields and nothing was this bowling alley. And in this bowling alley’s gravel parking lot was a marquee. And on that marquee was my fucking name! I remember thinking, I have arrived.
Then I parked and went into the joint. It was a little dive bar attached to the bowling alley. A dirty little shithole that stunk of stale beer and sadness. Yeah, I fucking knew I had arrived.
I met Eric at the bar. I was a little nervous because I had learned the hard way that many comedians have egos that far exceed their talent. Eric was nothing like that. He was actually very cool and we had a couple of drinks and a lot of laughs before the show. This was going to be an awesome trip.
And it was.
Six months worth of awesome. I’ll give you the highlights so we can move on with this thing; I know you have shit to do.
Show #1 in an Oregon bowling alley. My first time ever doing a real live road show. I killed it. After the show I got drunk with some big boobied waitress and her anorexic friend. They duped me into singing karaoke. Sweet Caroline. I think. It got a little fuzzy.
Show #37 in what was once a firehouse and is now a bar. I saw a drunk guy decide the bed of his truck was a much better place to urinate than the men’s room.
Show #5 somewhere in South Dakota. I got to drive Eric around while he got a blowjob in the back seat from some chuckleslut who was courteous enough to offer me a handy for my troubles. No thanks.
Show # 102 I was tired of this shit. I can’t even tell you where we were. I just know that we Eric was on my nerves and I was on his. We did our show and he asked me to drop him off at some hotel for a couple of days before our next show. I was more than happy to. Once the show was over we headed to our next town, I dumped him at some hotel and found one for myself. It made no sense financially for us not to split the cost of a room. It made all the sense in the world for our sanity. Sanity trumped.
I got settled in my hotel room and realized that in my sad life I had no one back home to call. Don’t get me wrong, I was thoroughly enjoying the road and the freedom, but there was definitely something missing. I decided that this was one of those moments in life where the only thing that makes sense is a stiff drink and a dirty girl. There was a bar a block from my hotel (hotels with actual bars are too expensive for comedian types) so I had the drink part of that equation taken care of.
As for the dirty girl part of the equation. Well, I looked and I looked. I met a couple of … ummm… hard working girls, but the closest I came to anyone coming back to my hotel room was the bartender. He was nice enough, but I prefer my women to have less facial hair. And a vagina.
So I stumbled back to my room and crashed.
As a comedian I don’t do alarm clocks. There’s no need for them. We have housekeeping to get us started on our day. They are our alarm. Them walking in on me naked on my bed is the snooze button. She gets her eyeful of man-ass, I get a laugh and the day gets off to a nice start. Everyone wins.
I chuckled as I drank my shitty hotel coffee. There’s a bit in this somewhere. There is always a bit in there.
I met up with Eric the next night at the show. The time apart had done us both good. And that bastard was a lot luckier in the dirty girl department. Ah well, I had a new bit and I will take that every time.
Show #135 the last show of the trip. After six months on the road I was heading home.
Home. A tiny one bedroom apartment above a garage in a pretentious little beach town somewhere in California. I got the place when I still had a real job. After six months on the road I was struck with the reality that I couldn’t afford this place unless I was on the road while being on the road all the time negates the need for this place.
Does reading that last sentence make your brain hurt too?
I decided I would wait until I actually got home to deal with where I would be living.
Our last show was in a small mining town in Nevada. I was an immeasurably better comedian that night than I was that first night in Oregon. That, plus the energy that comes with knowing you’re heading home made it the best show of the trip for both of us. Eric ended up with a standing ovation. It was a sweet night.
The next morning I dropped Eric at his brother’s house in LA and headed to my own place just a few hours north.
Driving home I couldn’t help feeling like I was a world conquerer. I was a comedian. I had actually gotten paid to make people laugh, I could drink on the job, sometimes I would even get laid.
Yeah, this was the life for me.
Real jobs have always sucked. I never wanted to be rich or in charge of anyone. I just wanted to be, to laugh, to fuck and basically get through this life mostly unscathed. I don’t remember ever having this epiphany that set me down this path, I just always loved comedy. So one night, after a few drinks and on a dare I got up at an open mic and told some really shitty jokes (if you can call them that) to a bunch of other wannabe comedians.
I was finally alive.
Before you get images of swanky hotels, hot chuckle sluts, and tv deals let me explain something to you – most comedians toil away in shitty little bars making shitty little money. We don’t do it because we want to get rich or be discovered or whatever. We do it because we have to. It’s not an addiction, it’s a need. Like breathing or drinking shitty American beer with buffalo wings.
And I was fine with the shitty little arrangement. I love going from town to town you’ve never heard of in every flyover state. I love making the good people of Baker, MT (Pop. 1,700) laugh their asses off. I love sleeping in shitty little motels, eating shitty road stop food, drinking shitty, watered down beer and driving my shitty little car to the next show to do it all again.
But then I met her and fell in love. Fuck.
Love is comedy’s cockblock.
My name’s Byron and I’m a road comic. This is my story.
I started doing comedy about seven years ago. A buddy of mine – a wannabe comedian – had been bugging me for weeks to come see his stand-up. When I finally showed up to one of his shows it was fucking awful – one bad comedian after another. Comedy open mics are a special kind of torture. Water boarding is for pussies by comparison.
So he sucked and I got drunk and arrogant and figured, fuck it, I can’t be any worse. I was way worse. Tepid applause at the end of my time on stage – the kind you give the special needs kid during little league games for trying. I walked off that stage and I knew that there was nothing else I ever wanted to do with my life.
So here I am seven years later not quite famous, spending my nights mostly in shitty motel rooms and my days in my shitty car driving from one shitty motel to the next. In between I spend a couple of hours at the local dive bar/casino/bowling alley/frat house doing stand-up. Romantic, right?
But tonight I am home. Home. That’s a strange idea to a road comic. Home is where my mail gets delivered to. It’s where I store the shit I can’t take with me on the road. It’s also where she is.
She makes the road less interesting. She makes me actually miss the place where I keep my shit. She is the reason I get excited when I cross back into California. She is the thing I hate to leave behind. She is getting tired of waiting, I think.
My mother thinks I need to quit fucking around and get a real job. It’s the only way you’ll ever hold onto a girl like that, mom says. One day she’s going to wake up and realize she can do better, mom says. One day you’re going to wake up and she’ll be gone. Mom says.
Mom isn’t the usual mom type. She had me too young, decided fuck this, I have other shit to do and dumped me with my old man. It wasn’t until dad died that she remembered she even had a son.
I was 27 when dad died.
For the purposes of this narrative I really need to tell you about my best friend. He lives next door to she and the place where I keep my shit. With His mother. In her basement. I don’t know how else to say this except to come out and just say it: He is the I Am. That is to say, He’s God. Yep, that very one. And all the other Ones, too. I know you have a bunch of questions and I promise, most of them will be answered but, for now just know He’s not as bad as you’d think. He’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination – He never really understood where that rumor started – but He is mostly good.
So now you know most of the main characters in this drama I call my life. There are other bit players who may pop in and out from time to time but, we’ll deal with them as they come.
I’m not really sure where she is tonight. She wasn’t expecting me home for a few more hours anyway.
How about I take the next few hours to catch you up on the last seven years so you’ll understand what comes next?
(To be continued…)
I was driving to the drug store a bit ago and I caught myself thinking about things like my body hurling through space at 5, 10, 30, 65, 80 miles per hour. I thought, wow, we did this. Less than a few thousand years ago we couldn’t plant a fucking tree but, now we figured out how to say ‘fuck you physics’ and speed through life at a ridiculous velocity.
Then I got home and read about a moron at a gun show who shot himself and a bunch of other people with a shotgun. Accidentally. The fuck? I thought we were smarter than chimps!
That’s the thing about humanity – we are awe inspiring and dipshits all in the same breath. I guarantee you the same guy who figured out how to make the combustion engine go wicked fast also did the kind of thing that made his wife wonder what the hell was I thinking saying ‘I do?’
And I want to believe that the monkey dick who shot himself and a host of others accidentally has done something right in his life. I mean, he tied his own shoes or something, right?
I find myself watching a lot less news and a lot more TED Talks. I’ve always been a cynic but, lately I was just getting ugly. It got to the point where I would read about some kid shooting himself or another kid with mommy or daddy’s gun and my first thought was along the lines of one less idiot in the world. Even I thought I went too far with that one.
And I realized I was constantly reinforcing the negative. I would watch political pundits religiously. I would read the news and take it all very much personal. It was ridiculous. I was fighting with everyone on Facebook. I was getting into virtual screaming matches in comment sections. Who the fuck does that?
So I decided to stop with the news for awhile. I decided to make a concerted effort to cut back on the online jab sessions (it’s still a work in progress). Mostly, I decided to look into more positive things – like TED. TED is cool. It reminds me of all that is best in us as a species. I need that. We all do.
I want to spend less time thinking that the world sucks. I want to stop believing that we humans are the worst thing to ever happen to this big blue ball. I want to remember that each of us has something great within us and a limitless capacity for compassion and love.
Anyway, I guess that’s enough for now.
I don’t normally share these here but this one is for a little girl you’ll likely never meet. Click, read, then help if you can. At the very least, share.
Happy Mother’s Day!!!
I’ve spent a lot of time the past few days deciding on what to give you as a present. Flowers? A post card? Nothing seemed to really capture what I wanted to say to you — therefore, I have decided to write you this letter.
I begin to understand now, more than ever, that our time at this place is limited. For years, there are things I have wanted to say to you. Perhaps, somewhere along the way, I have said them. And maybe even, some of those things you remember. Even so, I want to do this here — right now — for you.
I’m not gay — nor am I getting married again — so relax!
I often look at Jake, and feel ashamed for the type of father I am to him. I was never a hunter. Never been much of a fisherman. And never much of an adventurer. I’m not even a big “spend a lot of time with you” type of person. In fact, I would describe myself as reclusive. I’ve tried to be those other things, but it’s simply not who I am. I’m a private person. I enjoy my peace and silence. And I’m not unhappy about it.
I see my son growing into a similar-type person. And for that, I feel like I’ve somehow shorted him in life. But have I? Or, like me, is that just who he is? I do not know the answer to that question. However, I must admit I feel a large degree of guilt because of it. In the small amount of time I have left with him before he becomes an adult, I guess the only thing I can really say to him is “Be the person you want to become.” Then, support him in every way I can towards achieving it.
I can never make Jake understand what we lacked in a father. Though not perfect, I’ve always tried to be here for him. To support him because I know I should — and to honor my obligations to him. To ensure he never goes without something he wants — or needs. I wonder if he’ll ever understand what that means — and why I do it. I wonder if he’ll appreciate it. Or if he’ll only see all of my flaws — the ones that, deep down, I know exist.
I’m saying this because I often wonder if you have, in your life, thought the same thing(s). Have I provided everything I could have for my children? And if not, is that my fault?
I wonder if you have regrets on how you raised us — or the life you have lived.
I have, on more than one occasion, gone by the old neighborhood on Georgetown Drive in Montgomery. I have often wondered what life would have been like had we stayed with our father. Truthfully, nothing in my mind convinces me that our lives would have been better. I’ll always believe you made the right decision.
I don’t have any regrets about the life we had to endure afterward. Sure, it’s never good to know our father could not care less about whether we lived or died. Or that society viewed us as white-trash because we were so poor — even some of our other family members. Still, it’s in those things that you learn a lot about life.
I once said that my finest quality was loyalty. I have not, at any time, ever cheated on a spouse. I have, at no time, abandoned my son. I have tolerated bad situations just because I can’t bring myself to leave someone else “high and dry.” Despite all of my flaws — and there are many — I am loyal to a fault.
Once, I believed I grew up this way because of the lack of loyalty our father displayed — out of spite for him. I would “show him” by becoming the person he never was. I realize now it had nothing to do with him at all. It had everything to do with you, and the example you set. I will never forget those days when you came home, changed, and then went to another job until almost midnight. Go to sleep. Wake up. Repeat the next day — six, seven days a week.
And you did that for years.
I will be forty this month. I can only think to the past and remember when you were forty. You lost some of the best years in your life then. And for what? Because you were always working to raise your kids.
The thought has brought a tear to my eye more than once. I don’t feel terrible for the environment we grew up in. I feel really bad because it’s like a piece of your life was robbed from you. You sacrificed so much for us — I can never comprehend how you must have felt. And to think you did it alone, frankly, leaves me a little bitter with other people.
I have often wished you could have those years back — that you would have been more selfish. Perhaps, you should’ve been.
The measure of a person is not his or her wealth. Or his job. Or her things. Or his looks. It’s what’s inside that truly matters. And when it mattered, you’ve unfailingly been there for us. It’s never been about what you could provide, it’s about what you’ve always been willing to give up for our sake.
No one has sacrificed more than you. My dear mother, you have no peers in this regard.
You are a beautiful spirit — and you are my hero. I hope you see your worth as much as I do. When I went through Marine basic training, I did just so I could see the proud look upon your face. I remember when you first saw me in my uniform like it was yesterday. That look made everything worth it. To make your mother proud — that is the greatest feeling a child can ever know.
And to see the type of grandmother you have become has only deepened my respect for you. Jake could have never known a better one. I thank you every day for that. You are beyond perfect to him. Though he is too proud and young to admit it, I can see it in his eyes — no one has ever been truer to him than you.
I don’t want to go into my grave wishing for a life I should’ve had. That’s the vow I’ve made to myself recently. I want to experience my life, and to do it on purpose.
Because of that, I am writing my very first novel. It’s a passion I’ve long had, and for far too long I’ve ignored. In fact, there are some who have expressed an interest in seeing the completed manuscript. Frankly, it doesn’t ever have to sell. It’s not about the money. Still, with each word I write — with every scene I craft — there is one perpetual thought that runs through my mind — “Will my mother be proud of the work I’m doing?”
Beyond loyalty, I have learned from you how to stand up after defeat. I do not despair in my losses, for I always know they can be regained. I have no worries that I can make it in this life. Because of you, I know there’s always a bright sun lingering beyond the clouds.
I wish that in your remaining years, you live at your very best. Do all. See all. Experience all. Love all. And gamble all — I know how much you love it! Do so knowing that you have my eternal admiration. You have worked hard and sacrificed for much of your life. You deserve every ounce of happiness you can squeeze from the time you have left.
What you have given has quietly cemented the people we have become. I hope you will find comfort in knowing that your legacy will live on long after you have left this place. Some of these lessons you never intended to teach. Some, perhaps, you may have wished otherwise. I hope you have no regrets in how you raised us. We are stronger people today because of you.
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t pause for a moment to think about you. And how much I will miss you when the day comes you are no longer here with us.
I can only hope that I have been a good son to you. I pray that in spite of all the times when I have been mean, disrespectful, or unappreciative, that you will feel the depth of how much you mean to me. You are the most important person I have ever known. My admiration for you can never be tarnished. My appreciation can never be surpassed. My love for you can never be greater.
I want you to have the pride of knowing that for every minute you’ve spent working, for every ache you’ve felt, and for every tear you’ve ever cried — you’ve made someone else’s life a little better. I am one of those people. And I will never let a day pass when I don’t take a moment to appreciate that.
You are with me in the quiet of my truck when I am driving. You are with me when I’m brainstorming a new scene for my novel. You are in Jake every time I look at him. I am a part of you. And for every breath I take in the time I have left, you will remain with me.
It’s Mother’s Day for every mother tomorrow. For me, though, there is only one — this is your day. I am forever proud to be your son!
With my love,
I’ve had something on my mind the last 24 hours and I was hoping we might talk about it. It’s about the Boston Marathon bombing and the asshats who did it being Muslim.
Why do we care so much about their faith? I get that they are/were what we would call radicals, etc. But I still don’t get why that matters. An organization (and as I far as I know at the moment there was no actual organization) that supports evil is evil regardless of what religious face you put on it. Westboro Baptist is evil independent of their Christian face but, we don’t go around lumping Christians into the same group.
To me it seems that we are allowing ourselves to be distracted by things like faith and immigration when the real issues have nothing to do with either.
We have an actual American citizen – your misgivings about how he got that status or your issues with immigration laws aside – he is an actual American citizen. Afforded all the same rights and liberties and PROTECTIONS under the Constitution as the rest of us. And that’s the part that we should be paying attention to. While we look at the shiny object of Islam we might miss our Constitutional freedoms getting stripped right in front of our very faces. I am not saying that will happen, I am simply saying that it is much more important that any religious affiliation asshat might have. And should he be declared an enemy combatant (so far Obama says that won’t happen) that is precedent that affects us all.
I figure the Fourth Amendment has been used to wipe two Presidents’ asses already (Yayyyyyyyyy Patriotic Act!) and that is enough. And that is way more interesting to me than asshat’s religion.
And yes, I call him asshat because fuck his name getting any of my keystrokes. Plus, it’s really hard to spell. But mostly the keystrokes thing.
And I keep seeing gun lovers trying to draw some sort of comparison between this and Sandy Hook. Somehow trying to make this worse because of asshat’s religion. I don’t get that. I mean, the dead in Boston aren’t any more dead and the survivors aren’t more sad than their Sandy Hook counterparts, right?
There are a whole host of other issues in that vain (or vein? I always screw those two up and I don’t care enough to Google) that I can write a tome on but, this is mostly about the religious thing that has been in my head.
Jews, Christians and Muslims have been at each other for the better part of 2,000 years (granted Muslims joined the fracas late in the game). But I will never comprehend the logic of it. Yahweh, Allah and God the Father (of the Christian Holy Trinity) are the some fucking guy! All three faiths trace their roots back to Abraham. Same God, same starting point, three not-so-different religions. They all worship the same God, they all have a body count, they all are convinced they are the one true faith.
And I know there are differences in each faith blah, blah, blah but, this is like three kids with the same dad arguing over who daddy loves more. It’s enough to make me give up on us as a species, really.
Anyway, all I know for sure is that we’re allowing ourselves to be distracted by things that don’t matter much (religious extremism is as old as prostitution. maybe older) while we miss the really important thing issues in this whole ugly mess.
That’s all I got for now. Feel free to chime in. I’m interested, really. If you can make it make sense to me I would be impressed.