But it's freaky how my friend Steve turned back up in my life last night because he's the Haim to my Feldman [I'm cuter than Feldspar, I'd like to think.]
I don't know if I've ever talked about Steve here before. When I graduated high school I took a few years off to work and earn money to pay for college. One of my jobs was working at an improv comedy club, Ad-Libs. Those are the guys that took me under their wing and became my family. They're the guys that taught me the art of swearing, how there should be no boundaries in comedy, and the beauty of porn magazines that were just absolutely filthy, because who is into that stuff? Good times. (And now you know who to blame for those bad!fic posts. You're welcome.)
While I worked there I struck up a relationship with one of the comedians, Steve. He was older than me by a lot. Well, when you're 19, a guy in his late 20s is a lot. But he was so funny. That's my kryptonite. He wasn't the best looking, but he wasn't hideous. We were the same height (usually a no no for me, I like them taller) he was barrel chested (I like them lean and lithe) but he was SO FUNNY. And! He liked that I was funny. That had never happened before. Guys didn't like my humor, or they liked for me to laugh when they had that humor, but not be able to keep up. (I knew stupid boys up to that point.)
He was charming, he made me feel beautiful and smart, and he encouraged me to get on stage. He didn't pull punches with his critique, but he also told me what I did that was right. I was falling for him, even introduced him to my dad. Met his folks. And then something changed. He got mean. Not physical, nothing like that, but just mean. Cutting. Insulting. And then I found the mirrors in the house. Weird people started dropping by the house. And then I found the pipe, and it wasn't for weed. And I figured it all out (I know, I'm swift as eagles.) I told him he didn't have to push me away, that I would help him, but he had to stop the coke and crack. And he laughed in my face and told me to get my little girl ass out of his house and how stupid I was and how I blah blah blah.
I said it again, he didn't have to do this, I cared for him, would care for him. And he told me to get out of his fucking house and not come back. And I didn't.
We still worked together. And when he wasn't lit he was the old Steve, funny as all get out, so smart (he speaks 5 languages, was VP of an international company aside from his job as a comedian) but my heart was closed to him, and he knew it. Oh, I still was his friend, still tried to help him, but it would never be the same. The club owner and I would have lunch and try to figure out how to help him, or just shake our heads at what was going on with him.
I moved to Utah and went to college, came back a year later to hang with the guys. Heard that Steve had flipped his sports car on a residential street going over 60 MPH and had impaled himself on the steering column, but lived. How he stopped showing up for shows, or came late, blitzed out of his mind. Phil, the owner, wouldn't let him perform and would brew him coffee. The hope was to keep him sober long enough to maybe talk some sense into him.
He disappeared for a few years. We heard from random people that he was using his house as a crack den. He still worked (if you can believe that) and was pulling in a great salary, so the parties he threw were epic, and fellow crack heads started moving in. He resurfaced with a hooker (literally) that he married in Las Vegas. They got busted in a hotel room with - according to reports - an ungodly amount of crack and heroin that those cops hadn't seen on a single person before. Cops in Las Vegas. That's a shit ton of drugs, then.
Finally, his boss had enough and fired Steve. He had blown through his savings (literally) and that's when he started coming around again. Sweet as pie. Hoping for money or work or a place to stay. (The crack heads took over his house and sold everything.) He pawned his sports car. Everyone told him that they loved him, but no one would give him money. They would, however, pay for rehab. Angry, cruel Steve would lash out and no one would hear from him again. Almost 20 years of this.
When Phil (the owner of the improv club) called to invite me to join the Story Slam group, he told me that Steve had turned up a few weeks ago. But this time, he was clean. Was coming out of rehab. Had been in therapy. Was the old Steve. Phil is no dummy, so he was cautious. But it seems like it's sticking for now. And I get there last night and see him. I haven't seen him since he was strung out on heroin and crack and telling me that I was such a good girl and so fucking naive about the world. And there he was, nervous and shaking, because he was going to tell a story. And he hadn't performed in years.
I couldn't help it, I threw my arms around him and gave him a big hug and we both cried a little. He didn't leave my side all night, pawed at me, patted my hand, stroked my hair, held my cheek when we talked. And at first, I was a little skeeved and kept reminding him that I'm married in a subtle way. "Oh, my husband loves that, too!" But then it hit me: I'm the last woman that knew the real him. I'm the last person that loved him before he was broken. And I think I represent a time before his life went down the toilet and he was clinging to that. Because the comedy club is a blessing and a curse for him. That was where people thanked him by giving him a hit out back in the parking lot. That was where he was idolized (because he was really talented) and the booze and drugs and pussy flowed.
I went on stage just before him, and I could hear his laughter over every one else. And he stood up for me, clapping, when I finished. And he held my hand before he went up, scared to death that he had lost it, because then he really would have lost everything and that realization finally hit him, just how far he had fallen, how much he had really lost in those 19 years. Comedy was all he had left - the house, the money, the career, everything was gone. But he told his story, started out nervously at first, then it all came rushing back and he was the old Steve again. Phil and I shared a look, hoping that he could stick with it. Addicts promise you the moon, but it's hard to follow through.
There's something different this time, though. There's a humility in him, he's scared. He's never been like that before. He knows that he could have easily ended up dead of an overdose in some crack hole in the bad part of town, everything of value picked clean from his corpse before anyone would have found him. And maybe none of us would have cared at that point, maybe none of us would have showed up at the funeral.
So when I heard that Corey Haim, that famous addict who had so much promise and pissed it all away, died of an overdose, I cried. Because that could have been Steve. And you know what? I would have cared.
I really hope he'll stick with this sobriety.
End of my maudlin navel-gazing. :)
Story Slam! My New Favorite Thing
I did my first ever StorySlam last night, and I needn't have been worried. I was tres nervous as I hadn't been on a stage in 16 years. Yow. I'm old. Or rather, I've been busy for the past decade and change. What a great way to ease back into it.
For those not familiar, this and this are examples of Story Slams. The first one, The Moth, is the most famous. They're also very polished and have an "I'm auditioning for NPR" feel about them. Not a bad thing, right? The second is in Philly, and it's much more loose and more "Oh my god, I have a story to tell you!" The owner/organizer of Story-Stage-You (what I did) wanted the latter feel to it. The rules are: 5 minute story, must be true, must be YOURS (no, I knew a guy who knew a guy that blah blah blah.)
A few people from the audience threw their names in the hat and decided to give it a whirl, too. Very cool. The audience wasn't very large, but this was the first show and it was a Tuesday night. I'd say about 30 - 35 people there. 9 of us had stories on the night's theme, Disobedience. Now, I have known about the theme for a few weeks and started panicking because I didn't have any stories. I mean, I really was a goody two shoes growing up. Any thing I may have had just felt... like I was really reaching. And I was having a hard time stretching it out for 5 minutes. GAH. I settled on a story about the first time I dropped an Eff Bomb on my dad. There was a problem though.
1. It sounded... theatrical. I had written the whole thing out and set about trying to remember all of the lovely polished words I had written. (You can't have any notes or cards on stage.)
2. In order to have the Big Moment carry any weight, I had to slag on my dad and exaggerate things. I didn't like that.
Yesterday morning, it hit me. It didn't have to be ME that disobeyed (or what ever) but I had to be connected to the story. AND I HAVE THE GREATEST STORY EVER. No, really. MISS CRUMPET, the Pomeranian that was eaten by a bald eagle. And why? Because the owner refused to put a leash on their dog, as was the law in the Nat'l Park. See what happens when you don't obey the law? Man, I've been telling that story for years. I worked out how to give it a beginning, a turning point, and an end (meaning, I told my story, lol) timed it with inflections, etc. and was ready to go.
I have to say, I was feeling pretty good about it. I have the best eagle screech-dog yelp sound ever.
The show starts. The first guy tells his story, mild laughter. (They don't have to be funny stories, I think people just are more comfortable with them. I know I am.) Another, and then another tell their stories, and they're funny, cute, one girl talked about potty training her 3 year old - had great timing, etc. - then got a little too precious on us, how motherhood was the best thing ever, blah blah blah. She quickly turned it back around and it turned out fine. Then this one guy gets up there and starts talking in a cadence that I'll call "Poetry Slam."
"And the WAH-TER
I am not a fan of those kind of poetry/public readings, they seem so affected, and as if they've O.D'd on Maya Angelou. And you can tell that this guy memorized his intro from a page, and we all settled in, politely. I thought I knew where he was going, but that's because this guy was a freaking Jedi and wanted us to think that. "This is not the story you are looking for."
It's about how he was a good boy growing up in the hood, obeyed his parents without question. One rule? Don't open Mom and Dad's bedroom door. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Except the sounds he described didn't sound like they were having sex. And he opens the door (he's 9.) And he sees his father sitting on his mother beating the ever loving shit out of her. And he sneaks into the kitchen and finds their gun.
Needless to say we were all spellbound, shocked into silence as he finished his story, tears in his eyes. And honestly, it feels like I'm telling a secret talking about his story, because we all became family in that one moment, we all were privy to something that really needed to be handled with kid gloves. He finished his story with "I have never spoken of this since that day. This is the first time I have ever told anyone about that night."
I turned to my friend and said, "Well, I guess we know who won tonight." Obviously this guy didn't tell his story for a plastic crown and a free beer, but damn. Talk about courage - it could not have been easy to rip something so ugly out, but what a great place to have done it, because he just made 35 friends that hung on his every word, and every one of us shook his hand or hugged him at the end of the night. People can be good.
I also said to my friend, "If I have to follow that, I'm out of here." And boy, was I ever glad that I hadn't gone with my original, "My dad's an asshole and strict because I had to pay tithing and wear sleeves and I said fuck to him once, the end." Uh, that would have been like the Torros doing their cheer routine to the music that just played before. I felt badly for the guy who did follow - his story was about using a bad word in Greek school. Again, I was quite thankful I changed my story.
A brief intermission and then it was my turn. "I don't have any stories about myself being disobedient, because I was raised a devout Mormon." A beat. "I got over it. Back in the 90s when I was in college, I spent my summers working for the National Park Service at a place called Signal Mountain Lodge..."
And I told the story of Miss Crumpet, of the eagle preserve, of how puntable that dog was. How horrible its behavior was. Told of her tiara and rhinestone collar and the horrible people that owned her. And of Miss Crumpet's demise by eagle talon, complete with eagle cry and dog yelp. I finished. "He ripped off the ticket, handed it to the shrieking woman [who had been threatening lawsuits, etc.] and bade her a lovely rest of her stay in the Grand Teton National Park." Moral of the story: don't bling out appetizers if you're not going to share.
I got a pretty good response, lots of laughing, gasping, and applause as I made my way off the stage.
And I came in second. *beams* If ol' 9 year old with a handgun defending his mother hadn't gone... Lol. I was pretty pleased with how the whole event turned out and really REALLY hope that more people come to the next show (first Tuesday of every month) because it's a great forum. It's a performance, but it's not. It felt very intimate, like you were making friends at a small party and sharing yourself to get to know people better. We all mingled afterward and praised the performers, listened to the audience members talk about how they wanted to do it next time... Great stuff.
And of course, an older woman (in her 60s, wearing a kitty cat appliqué sweater) approached me and said, "You said you were single and Mormon, and there's a lovely single Mormon man at my table, I want to introduce you!" And I replied politely, "No, ma'am, I never mentioned being single," I showed my ring, "I'm married with children and I'm also no longer Mormon." Smile. She huffed at me, then stormed off. LOL. A note to anyone curious: a Mormon dude in his late 30s that isn't married? He's probably gay. :D
A great experience, I couldn't sleep hardly at all last night, my mind was whirling so much. And I'm looking forward to next month, and really hope to see Steve there, sober.