Holy shit. That was on our answering machine. I made it. I was going on the road.
As the days that remain until I graduate slowly pass and as I write this blog I sometimes just stop and wonder what the fuck is going on? I’m now going through the process of cleaning up after a semester is about to wind down. This semester feels so different. There’s the finality of it all. I’m about to earn my MBA after being in school for so long. I haven’t really organized as well as I should have during this process. I just kind of kept going. I’ve been cleaning the area around my desk and it had becoming extremely messy throughout the past 7 years of this academic trip and I’ve ran across a couple of old assignments from a few semesters ago. I just picked them up and looked at them, but it took me a second to recognize what the contents of the assignment detailed and then I recognized it just a few moments later and my mind wandered off to about a year ago. I was looking at supply and demand equations. I folded them and placed them into a notebook knowing that it will be a long time before I see that piece of paper again, but I bet that when I do find it…that I sit back and smile, thinking to myself “I can’t fucking believe that I did that shit.”
It feels so unnatural to me to be putting my calculator away, my favorite mechanical pencil that has been my “right-hand man” in a way, as I was fighting the quantitative dragon of the day. I bought that mechanical pencil during my stint at HCC getting my associate degree. I wanted a really good mechanical pencil that would keep my math work sharp looking, I really don’t like mushy looking pencil markings. Aahhhh hate them. I just laughed at lough because I really do hate those fucking things. Wooden pencils in general suck. They are fun to chew on or to break though. I’ll give them that. Most transitions are kind of weird though, but I can’t help that this particular transition of mine is just really fucking weird. I feel good though. Old, but good. Ha ha. I actually don’t feel that old, I just feel so tired you just would believe it. The stress of school is just insane, especially when every semester is a huge question mark followed by huge, crushing waves of self-doubt and insecurity. After looking at every syllabus I’ve been handed on the first day of class for the last 7 years… “What the fuck is this bullshit?” “I don’t know how to do this shit.” Then I would start the process. My Tascam field recorder would start secretly recording while in my backpack so that the professor wouldn’t know. I bought the Tascam early on in my Academic career because I wanted to be able to adjust the microphone to hear a pin drop if I needed to. I would record those lectures and then listen to them again over and over. I would read my vocabulary into that Tascam and then I would listen to it over and over. I wasn’t sure about this process until the As, started to roll in. When I made the honor’s list and the dean’s list the following semesters, I knew that I was on to something. But, wait just a minute…I thought that I had destroyed my brain by doing drugs? Ha! Tell that to the Dean…it’s his fucking list.
Go ahead tell me about the cognitive impairment that occurs with hard drug abuse. Uh huh, do what? Oh, I’m just looking at my fucking degrees that I earned about 20 years, give or take, after the fact. I’m the one who was drinking every night, I was the one doing blow, smoking crack, any pill that I could find. That was me playa, the same motherfucker with that associate degree, the bachelor-of-science, the grad certificate, and soon to be motherfucking master’s degree. That was me, the guy with no chance. If you are reading this and you are currently in a bad spot, just realize that you can most likely get out of it. If I did, it’s possible.
You know, really quick right before I jump back in time and we go back twenty years or so to where we left off in Austin, I just want to say thank you to anyone reading this. I’ve had more people reading my blog lately and it’s just so fucking humbling to me when I see that people are enjoying my blog or getting something from my writing. I can’t tell you how much it helps me in my everyday life just knowing that people care enough to read what I type on my MBA 11. (Apple MacBook Air 11 in.) Old I know.
I would get to know the guy that the Austin community knew as “Man-Boobs” from KLBG’s morning show extremely well over the next decade or so, but in another way, we didn’t really get to know each other very well at all. We both were shit canned drunk and high for at least the first 5 years of our friendship. It was a hilariously destructive, yet positive friendship. We were best friends sometimes and we could really get on each other’s nerves with both aspects being fueled by a lack of shit to do other than whatever bullshit job we had going on at the time, finding weed, coke, or whatever, and doing comedy. We had just moved into our place, but it was tiny and we were close to being broke after all of the moving expenses, paying the rent for my spot on the floor up the hill and then making sure that we had weed, so food was in relatively short supply at first. But we did have beer. As the old saying goes. There is food in beer, but not beer in food. Meaning if you have to make a choice, go for the beer. We also didn’t have a charcoal grill to cook on. Man-Boobs and I would have these afternoon “steak-grilling” days at his old place occasionally where we would just murder these poor steaks. Neither one of us understood any type of cooking theory such as how to cook a steak and know when it’s done by touching it. Nope, were drunk, stupid, and cutting steaks in the middle to see if they are done. Yep, dumbshits. We would also use two forks, one in each hand, stabbing at steaks in order to tenderize them. I am more ashamed of that than any of the crack smoking for sure. Ha ha.
Man-Boobs was still pretty hurt over being fired and publicly humiliated in a way on-air both during his time at KLBG and especially for how they raked him over the coals after his departure. I mean he was just so well known. I remember that my sister-in-law was very impressed when she found out that my roommate was the one and only Man-Boobs. She wanted to meet him. He was a legend.
I had sent a tape to a stand-up comedy booking guy that had some rooms that he booked, and he called me back. Holy shit, I’m going on the road and they are even giving me a hotel room. I’ve made it! In your face everyone that ever said that I was just wasting my time! In your face!
(Spoiler alert!…I was an idiot. I hadn’t made it. The gig was in fucking Beaumont and Lake Charles, but I sure felt like I made it. I felt like a million bucks. Oh, yeah. It was probably that fat line of blow that I had just done after I got that message. I’m going on the road!
Back in the day, in Austin, one of the comics had written a story about being on the road and it was in the Austin Chronicle. It was very well written, and it wasn’t about some great gig at some big comedy club or anything like that, it was an article in the Chronicle about a shitty little one-night gig in some BFE town out in the middle of nowhere if I remember correctly. I remember reading that article and wishing that someday I would be that guy, rolling a few joints to smoke for a long road trip, opening up a beer once I hit the highway, and being a rolling potential quota-buster for any of the small town’s police department that I would be driving through in my ’83 Toyota Tercel SR5…The T-Cel as the other comics started calling it. I didn’t have insurance for the car, barely enough money for gas to get to the gig, a weird noise coming from the front axle, a slow fuel leak, and a battery that was sometimes iffy. Of course, when I got to the motel, I had to check the door locks several times on my Tercel, just to make that it was locked. I even disconnected the battery cable. I didn’t bring any blow with me, I got scared to at the last minute, but I did bring some weed. I now have a slow leak in my radiator to match the rest of the issues. Fuck. Somehow, when I get my room key, get to my smelly room at the hotel, motel, holiday inn, I feel like a motherfucking superstar. I’ve made it. I’m the opening act for a hypnotist in Beaumont!
Most of my nights were spent sitting on a bar stool at either the Velveeta Room or at Cap City Comedy Club just trying to get into the comedy scene during this time. That was becoming my thing. I was just kind of there pretty much all of the time. I made sure that I always had weed on me and I usually had some blow as well. My depression was still there and so was my anxiety as I’ve said before, but at that point I was holding it in better than I could in my later years. Hmmm. Something just occurred to me as I was writing that. Ugh, never mind. The depression was better for sure. I didn’t want to die anymore really, I mean maybe during binges I may go into an alcohol and coke binge crying session, but that’s not motherfucking depression. I was throwing up a lot before I would go on stage during this time and really that pretty much kept up until I stopped doing comedy, but I used to throw up almost daily anyway. I haven’t in over a year and a half though.
The excitement of stand-up comedy though was so intoxicating. I couldn’t quit. I could be throwing up in the bathroom before a set, hands shaking while holding the mic, feeling like shit after bombing, being told by Howard Beecher that I suck the second that I get off the stage, right after Howard Kremer has decimated me using the back mic (all from previous post). I didn’t care, there was something about finally being special in a way, well, special enough to be handed a microphone and given 5 minutes to talk. That was special enough.
All that abuse that we all endured was really difficult at times. We all loved it though. Have you ever seen one of those Comedy Central Roasts? Of course, you have. On those, people are getting killed onstage and they just sit there and laugh. Do they go home and cry afterwards? Who fuckin knows? Some do probably and get really mad…watch it over and over and fume…others probably just keep laughing at it…at themselves and it never bothers them a bit.
The Austin Comedy scene back then was like living in a real-life everyday version of a Comedy Central Roast. It was motherfucking brutal, but we were all laughing. We all loved it. Well, most of us did. There were some that just got decimated week after week, the ones that end up becoming punchlines. Most of us would have our moments in the crosshairs. It would just happen. Even the two Howards got their moments from time to time getting destroyed by the other comics, but there were as I said, some comics that just got more abuse than others and I’m so ashamed to admit that I was part of handing out that abuse.
I keep mentioning speedballs in this blog. The mixture of heroin and cocaine. Usually injected. One up, one down.
Stand-up comedy was fun to be a part of for me though for the most part. I think that fun is the right word. When you never make it as a comic, but you played the game for as long as I did, 15 years or so, it seems to affect individuals differently. It’s a weird feeling when you step away from the microphone and just stop going out to open mics as much, especially when it once meant so much. I know what has gone through my head since I abandoned the dream. I have felt a sense of loss and also a sense of gain. I don’t miss looking out at an audience that doesn’t give a shit or that are just drunk as fuck. I don’t miss the general underlying competitiveness of stand-up comics with actual goals. I do miss the ones that I would hang out with sometimes. Not really losers, but certainly not winners either. Man-Boobs and I got along very well usually. He is absolutely one of the funniest, if not the funniest person that I’ve ever seen on stage at one time and also maybe the worst that I’ve ever seen at the same time. Maybe even the same week. Don’t get me wrong. One of my personal biggest weaknesses as a comic was my inconsistency. I would love to sit here and type away that it was alcohol that kept me back from being successful at comedy, but I honestly don’t think that is the issue. I’m an addict, but that wasn’t it either, but kind of. The point is that I was very inconsistent, but Man-Boobs was even worse. Together, well we just should never do shows together, there would be way too much chance for horribly bad shows, mixed with really good ones. The only thing that could be worse is if we threw someone else into the equation. That would happen. Eventually we would get several other comics together that would have some really, really, bad, shows and then a really good one, followed by a series of awful performances, and then a great show, and then really bad ones. Motherfucking powder kegs filled with some comics drunk, high, coked-up, on meth, Vicodin like they were skittles, shrooms, just absolutely crazy shit that went from Austin out to San Diego and even a few shows in Los Angeles. By the end of our run as a group of comics, working together, we ran through bank accounts, credit lines, favors, promises, lies, fuck you’s, standing ovations, standing no-vations as the audience walks the fuck out, and then reduced to a pile of worn-out comics, all with major addiction issues of some sort just trying to figure out what the fuck we had all just been through. Weekend shows that we did with an 8-ball in the greenroom while someone was outside standing watch. Door guys know, they are the ones watching the door. The bartender is doing the line right before ours, the manager is crushing it up with my license on the plate that is on the greenroom coffee table. We had years of midnight comedy shows that would sometimes be absolutely off the motherfucking chain, followed by huge parties, followed by huge egos, followed by all kinds of psychological biases that when mixed with the booze and recreational pharmaceuticals sure did provide a breeding ground for young-ish, kind of stand-up comic wannabes to feel as if they are the real thing and to make bad, or at least questionable decisions. We could almost feel like real comics, bet we weren’t though really, and we all knew it. We were able to get some neat gigs, but also some real shit ones as well. We also had to do most of the promotion ourselves, which was a bitch back in the day. We were passing out fliers, 2 for 1 tickets, hand-bills, to audience members after shows, outside of music venues, posted all over town, all done by us. We were sending out press-releases, putting together promo-packs, just trying to make the break for ourselves, but also enabling each other’s addictions. There wasn’t any type of social media at the time to help, it was just us, some drugs, whoever had a car at the time, and a lot of fun. We were really fun addicts with a dream.
I remember being so happy and excited about that first gig though. I was going to make it. That first gig was just the start. The problem though was that I just wasn’t good enough yet to be able to handle that gig. Looking back, I might have had the jokes to pull it off, but I didn’t have a reliable plan. I didn’t have a map of the set. I had some, “I hope that the crowd will like that jokes”, but at that point I didn’t have any BOOM jokes. The ones where you know it’s going to hit and hit almost every time. It took me probably 6 years to get a few BOOM jokes and they were good and reliable. Here’s the problem. I wasn’t. I keep stressing my inconsistency and as I’ve been writing this blog, since the first post, I’ve been trying to pay attention to myself, my addictive mannerisms, quirks, qualities, contributions, anchors, and those sometimes debilitating aspects of who I am, the decision making, the choices. I have to sometimes say this to myself. “ERP. Exposure, response, prevention. The world is going to throw shit at me. How do I respond is something that has a moving average that I can control.” Why would I have these jokes in my pocket, these BOOM jokes, but sometimes I wouldn’t use them? I would just go up as if I didn’t have any material at all. And just die. Then, I would feel like shit about it. Sometimes I’d be really drunk while this was happening, but alcohol isn’t the main issue. It’s just there also. It’s convenient.
I wasn’t ready for my weekend assignment as a comedian, my first paid, professional gig. I thought that I was, but I wasn’t. Knowing what I know now about studying, knowing what I know about how much work it takes to get an associate degree, a bachelor-of-science, a motherfucking MBA, I’m shaking my head right now, because I know that I never put in the work that it really takes. I never did. I didn’t know what academic preparation looked like, felt like, I mean I knew what it felt like to go to a 24-hour diner and drink lots of coffee, “study” with a group and then go get a C on a test or fail it, sure I knew that, but I didn’t know how much work it takes to make the Dean’s List for example. I had no fucking concept of that type of academic commitment. The hours that I spent working on my comedy were inefficient at best and completely ineffective at worst. That’s a tough pill to swallow, luckily, I know how to crush that pill, snort it, and deal with it. I don’t need to swallow shit motherfucker.
I did the math and all I basically have to do is show up and give my presentation. That should be enough. It sounds so simple, but it’s going to take another few days of preparation both individually and with the other members of my MBA group project. The class has this weird feel to it now. Everyone there are just days away from the last class of the program and we’ve all been working on the BSG Online business game simulation as part of our Capstone. There are 26 of us that are in the class and we all have horror stories of former classes, past projects, group dynamics that were just horrible, professors that required unbelievable amounts of work to be done, etc.
It’s weird not to have any current assigned reading lurking in the back of my mind or hibernating on my calendar just past the current page where I can’t see it, but I know that its due date is approaching. There aren’t any professors to look up on ratemyprofessor, no textbooks to order, no parking pass to purchase, no folders, notebooks, scantrons, or Khan Academy. No more recording lectures, transferring notes into a speech generator so that I can make my own audiobooks within minutes, no more having to read what they tell me to read.
But, I now know how to read. Wait? What? Of course, I knew how to read, but the way that I read is different. The way that the information is received, processed, packaged, and distributed has changed. I read like I have a master’s degree. That’s how I motherfucking read! I just type like I don’t. Ha ha. Fuck it. I joke around, but I’ve had to read a lot of in-depth business-related material that could potentially cure insomnia in even the most stubborn cases. Hundreds if not thousands of Annual Reports and Letters to Shareholders, Harvard Business Case Studies, peer-reviewed articles, just all kinds of stuff.
I was a lot younger when I started this academic path. I was 41. I would suggest it to all and not wish it on anyone.