Thursday, August 23, 2018

Brine Time

Something new at Open Mic tonight.
After the first year of doing the 5 minuters, getting consistent laughs, but never being asked to make people laugh at a real show, I said 'fuck it. I'd still write new material along the way but whatever topics or style struck me as amusing at the moment is what I did week to week. I didn't have any ambitions of fame or fortune, I just like making people laugh. They laughed at most if the twice a week mics I showed up to, so that was good enough.

I also went for the mental challenge of getting on stage and a bit of socialization. By 2014 atypical neurological (ADHD and whatever else) comorbidities had me in a perpetual brain fog. Most of the years since 2003 really. It worked. The stimulation kept me going as I fit pieces into other parts the comorbid puzzle. It's slow work. I was very close to dead when the pulmonologists finally got the BiPAP sleep apnea figured out at the end of 2014. More REM and less oxygen depravation changed my world. Even so, new rounds of sick and dizzy filled most weeks. Stop some medication, feel better, then start a different one and feel like crap. Same with supplement. Same with diet.

The last year or so there have been more good days than bad. As mental functions return I am better able to study/research/sus out what is just so damned different about how my brain works. A big step was letting go of memorized bits on stage. "Sugar" as a vehicle keeps the premises on track since short term memory is spotty at best. He is about the loving and caring which provides stable surface to bounce extreme juxtapositions off of. Makes it more like handball. Comic routines; more vaudeville than stand-up-ville.

That last 6 months have brought the most dramatic changes. I've discovered long term gut problems and what I hope are solutions. Turns out that a network of neural tissue, filled with important neurotransmitters is in your gut. That mass of neural tissue doesn't do any thinking, per se, but is a major support system for the bigger neural mass in your skull.

This is good and bad. Days are still good and bad. Some cognitive abilities are near the scary levels like when I was young. ADHD is more active than it's been in years. Which means that sensory input is like a cacophony that I used to be able to parse better. I see many sides of whatever peaks my hyper focus. Reasoning happens in about 2 tablespoons worth of that neural tissue in your head. The rest is autonomic functions and intuition, the part that kept humans alive for a million years before language and reasoning was a thing. Before the turn of the century and the years of brain fog, I relied on intuition much more than reason. Getting back to it is wonderful.

As happens some times, yesterday I was struck with a bolt of inspiration. Where "Sugar" is all sweetness and harmony, a reflection of my own base personality and personal philosophy, "Brine" is the salty overstimulated stream-of-consciousness that sees too many sides of everything most of my waking hours.

Tonight "Brine" did my 5 minutes. Loud and intense. His first premise was the lack of nuance in the hard political and social topics that inhabit social media. Lately I've been looking at comedians like Doug Stanhope and Lenny Bruce. Thinking about the philosophy of absurdism. The hour before going on, Sam Kinison's scream and catch phrases kept replaying in my head. A dozen different things Brine could say have been racing through my head the last 24 hours, so of course the most outrageous ones are what came out. Poorly executed, but you know, one of the other comedians got it and some of the audience had a bit of a stunned grin like when you realize absurd is what makes up reality. Might as well enjoy the ride.
In the big barn of a place with 30 foot ceilings where we do the Wednesday mics it is hard to warm the audience up a lot of the time. After I got off the skillful host bounced a relevant story off the outrageous things I said, I mean Brine said, and the audience was very warmed up for 30 - 45 or more  minutes.

In the interest of "fuck it" I'm doing what amuses me, I think Brine will get more of my stage time. The challenge will be to tune the loud and intense part and go for softer topics to explode binary thinking with nuance. The gray shades of everything that make life absurd and compelling. Laughs are the whole point of the exercise, so more of those.
The return of brain fog notwithstanding.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

That 4th of July at Pirate's Cove in the 80s

So there was this time one summer 25 or 30 years ago when it seemed like the whole state was on fire.  Big plume of smoke in the western sky that you could see from Taft to Gilroy.  This makes me feel old; the official state page about big fires only goes back to 1999.  I think it was the 4th of July of one of those years.  1987-92.

We were young, fire and smoke was just one point of interest in our day on the road.  Michelle was younger than me 23-24 and had one of those egg shaped Honda cars that got 30 mpg or better.  She was more game for adventure than her twin sister Kimberly who I also had some interesting times with.  The whole family were characters.  Miss them.  Out past Blackwell's Corner and Cholame and on to 101.  Paso then back down to SLO with the smoke cloud in sight the whole time.  There it was; Pirate's Cove the nude beach just down the road from Aviva.
More pictures of Pirate's Cove here

I was/am a hippy. We got naked a lot in the 70s. Delonegha Hot Springs in the canyon was a favorite place to shinny dip.  Before the Sheriff blew them up.

Once we got to Pirate's Cove I tried to repress my anticipation. If you know what I mean. Uninteresting tidbit about me: I am the worst at seducing women, always have been. Lots of reasons we don't need to go into here.  To say that Michelle and Kimberly were hot; curly dark hair and eyes, would be an understatement.  I still can't say which was sexier to be with, personality wise.  "Make a good dog break his chain" is a saying that comes to mind.  A shared adventure with naked time, things should become things was my plan.

Steep climb down a cliff face to reach the beach. Stories I've heard about Michelle after that time are legend. At that time however, she was a modest young woman.  Just removed her top. I, of course, went full monty.  I was 30ish at the time and seemed to be the youngest person there except for Michelle.  This was a few years into being massage therapist. I had seen hundreds of naked people. A prude about my client's modesty I had only seen one foot, back or body part at a time though.  This was full on naked middle aged and older people frolicking in the waves.

Even though she was not used to being topless around strangers Michelle proceed to meet and interview the people around us.  That thing some pretty women do since they have never experienced rejection.  Go up to people anywhere with an easy eye contact and start talking.  I'm a little better at it now but in those days I had to put so much attention on non threatening gaze that I would forget what I was going to say.  With clients I present a whole person non threatening person vibe.  No energy output; me just being me. Different from strangers in the street.  I digress.

At one point we heard some guys above us on the cliff face.  Young men come to gawk. At that time you could tell the Mexicans from Mexico because of the colorful polyester shirts they wore.  Different from the styles of the day everyone else wore.  Kind of lame thing for them to gawk but understandable.  Otherwise macho dudes giggling and pointing was kind of endearing.  I still had to do the protective male thing of standing shoulders back glaring at them for a minute.  They weren't looking at me so it didn't have much effect. After a while they moved on.

Emboldened by our time at the beach we didn't bother dressing before ascending back up to her car.  She was so tickled by getting away with 'doing something wicked' that we drove back sans-clothing.  This means that we didn't stop at the monument a mile or so from where James Dean bit the dust. About the time we got to Blackwell's Corner the 'has never seen the sun before' skin on her breasts was a bright red. We pulled off the road away from the store. There is nothing else around for miles. She just covered up saying something about her German skin recovering quickly from sunburn.  I had to step out of the car to re-pant myself.

By the time we got back to my house hours and hours of being turned on was wearing on my nerves. Geez, I liked her so much.  This was the first time all day that we weren't in a public place.  One more thing to try.  I was a big fan of Leo Buscaglia. The love doctor.  It was probably a misuse of his work but I talked about his take on love. I played bit of one of his tapes. Similar to the video.

I could tell she was coming around. I moved in close to massage her feet.  Talking about love as a state of being not just about a person you focus on.  Or similar psychobabble. She was enthusiastic and agreeing and adding to the conversation.

"Oh I have to get back. My mom and everybody and MY BOYFRIEND are having fireworks and  . . . ." She starts to get up; gather her things.

In my head; "MOTHER FUCK! THE GODDAMNED MY BOYFRIEND THING! Since when does she have a boyfriend? A few years from now there will be a thing called the friend zone to describe this. MOTHER FUCK!"

What I did say was "Well hey just ah yeah can't leave mom waiting" disappointment and confusion in my eyes.
Then she says: "You wouldn't have some of that sun burn cream you could put on me?"

End scene. Fade to black.

Haven't gotten any response back from this post.  Maybe some explanation.

One thing I didn't know about myself at the time or this foray was that I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - predominantly Inattentive Type.  This means my brain functions differently especially in executive function and working memory.  When it comes to certain social situations I have no way to react or be proactive. The mental mechanisms just aren't there.  This video covers some of it.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Passage to the virtual stacks

One day about 30 years ago my sister Stacey and I had an adventure.
It’s been a long time and I don’t remember many details. I think it was late spring or early summer. We were traveling from Bakersfield to Los Angeles in my 1966 Volvo 122 Amazon Estate Wagon. Looked kind of like the VW squareback but a foot longer; engine in front.

“Historians speak of the area around Gorman, California (just south of the crest of the Tejon Pass), as "one of the oldest continuously used roadside rest stops in California." This is because pre-Columbian indigenous Californians would have stopped there when it was the Tataviam village of Kulshra'jek, a trading crossroads for hundreds [possibly thousands] of years.”

We were on Interstate 5, the section just south of the Tejon Pass and Magic Mountain. For as long as I can remember it has been 8 lanes of cars and big trucks moving fast 24/7 (fire and ice notwithstanding). 
The car started to overheat. It threw a belt.
That bigger gear is made
of pressed wood
The thing about the pre-solid state Volvos was that they were made to be worked on and made to withstand wannabe mechanics like myself. 
One example; in the workings of a car engine is what is called the crankshaft. The thing the pistons push on that make things go round and round. At one end it turns the transmission which turns the drive shaft which turns the wheels. At the front end on my Volvo's crankshaft was a big gear maybe 6” across. It turned a smaller gear that was essential to making the engine run (camshaft). It all has to be in perfect sync. One day I heard this loud knocking from under the hood. Turned out that the big gear was made out of pressed wood with a metal center. It had completely stripped out and the car still drove. The valves didn't shatter as far as I know. 
This time it was more simple. Except that while we did make it as far as the Lyons Ave - Newhall exit, at the time the only place to get the replacement belt was miles east of the freeway. A couple of gas stations near the freeway still had repair bays but no belts that would fit. The Volvo wasn’t going to make it any farther. So with some vague directions we walked east toward the parts store, getting lost, and meeting a few local characters. Mostly it was the heat that oppressed us. We walked past where the sidewalk ends to a highway of sorts with a few old storefronts. They had the belt and we made it back to the Volvo. Installing it was quick but the sun took it out of us. Whatever our original mission was I think we let it go and just went back home. 

For a decade I worked standing a massage table. Two more decades were spent sitting at a computer screen then behind the wheel 8 or 10 hours a day. That must be what busted my ass.
Now as a disabled, I mean retired, person my days are filled with dreams of hiring a housekeeper “When I win the Lottery” and a list of other things. I have projects to fill my time. Besides stand up comedy and writing blog posts I listen to audio books. Paper books don’t do it for me and the selection of audiobooks at the Kern county library is quite limited.

A few months ago I saw an article about the Los Angeles Library’s vast online library that includes quite a few audiobooks and many other resources. As a resident of California I can get an LA library card and access to all of their online goodness. The catch is that you have to apply for the card in person. At least a 2 hour car trip each way. sigh
Among my array of medical conditions. The one that limits me the most has defied a definition from doctors. If I sit longer than an hour or two during the same day a pain develops right on those bones you sit on. For a while they called it Ischial Bursitis. The latest doctor says arthritis. Same treatment for both: ineffective.  But what the hell it's only pain, right?

Fast forward to February 5th 2018. Stacey and I try to have an outing or adventure of some kind couple of times a year. She lives about 100 miles north, outside Fresno. The last one involving travel was in June of 2015? I got a gig doing my comedy Hypnosis show for a high school’s lock-in graduation party. The school was in the countryside near where she lives so she got enlisted as my assistant. What with me feeling better lately it was time to test the limits of my sitting. She suggested we take a day trip down south to get an LA library card. 
Kinda like this

As it turns out there are LA city and LA county library systems. The northernmost LA County library is right off I5 at Castaic squirrelled away behind a shopping center. Just a few miles south, not too far off the 210, in Sylmar is the northernmost LA city library. We set out before noon to hit both in her brother-in-law’s late model muscle car a Dodge Charger. 

We talked up a storm all day as we tend to do. I had printed out the library card application forms before we left town so when we got to the county library it was simple enough to hand the librarian the forms and our IDs. The city library was in a more urban-like setting the librarian, an old hippy gal, also made the process easy and painless. The one in Sylmar has interesting architecture. 

Business out of the way it was time for lunch. If you know me well at all you know I detest chain restaurants. Few survive having more than 2 locations before the food loses its soul. By the time they are extended beyond their home city the taste of the food is, at best, a weak imitation, at worst, concocted in a lab and manufactured off site, untouched by human hands. The people working in such establishments have never met or worked a shift with the owner. They can try but they can never genuinely care that specifically you showed up for a meal. Not to mention that profits leave the community. 

Cecily Willis’ watercolor tribute
Just so happens that we were in the vicinity of the oldest cafe in the state. The Saugus Cafe opened in 1886. It is supposedly in the same location which appears to have been updated as late at the 1950s. 
This local access video is so charming in a kitchy way. 

I had the Saugus Burger special and Stacey ordered the steak sandwich with au jus on the side. That was some good eat’in. 

Then a little surprise. Stacey and her husband Mike have business in the southland fairly often and have their own favorite non-chain restaurant in Newhall. Vincenzo’s Pizza Newhall started to become a chain but sold off the satellites years ago. This is the real deal pizza. As we got back into the Charger Stacey got out her phone and ordered a 20” to be picked up. Power of suggestion I suppose; as the call connected I could smell fresh handmade pizza. We found the place in a stripmall on Lyons Ave. not far from the I5 on ramp that would take us home. The big restaurant was empty midday on a Monday. The owner Steve was there and is clearly one of those ‘a force of nature’ people. He was just boiling over with genuine enthusiasm for his pizza. Before we said a word he was telling us that he likes the pizza even better a few hours later when the chewiness of the crust is at its best. We told him that it won’t be eaten till Fresno, 3 hours away. He thought that was awesome. The enormous pizza box was able to sit flat on the floor of the trunk. That pizza was for Mike so I will have to wait for another outing to see if the crust is "all that". Stacey assured me that it was. 

Summary: Mission accomplished on the library cards. I logged into the LA city library and have a Kevin Hearne book checked out. I suppose it’s technically illegal but I have software that catches audio just before it gets to the speakers and lets you save it as an mp3. That way I’m not rushed and can listen through whatever device. I don’t plan on sharing the files so the intent of the copyright is maintained, mostly. 

No more undeveloped (past the end of the sidewalk) land in the Newhall, Saugus, Valencia part of the world. 

It ended up being around 5 hours of sitting. I use a special seat cushion that lets most of my weight rest on the muscles around, not on, the troublesome spots. That is how I’ve gotten it up to 3 hours on some days. It all might have worked better if I would have brought the special cushion into the Saugus Cafe. That got painful. The the last hour of the ride home was a pain in the ass. I spent most of the next day on my side while the whole area of my posterior kind of throbbed. I'm posting this 5 days later and the area is still tender, fuck! But I didn’t die. 

Getting through that hurdle I am planning the next challenge. Not quite as far away though. For a couple of years the guys I do comedy with have talked about how much fun they have at a place called Barmageddon. One Yelp review starts with "This place is dope". How can I resist that kind of magniloquent rodomontade? It’s only 65 miles away and hopefully I can stand while I'm there for the Open Mic and other activities. If I have to spend most of the next day laying on my side, so what?