Listen Barry, that was your name right, Barry? I know you want to be funny. Everyone wants to be funny. I want to be more funny. I want to be the funniest. But honestly, I just don’t know if it works like that.
You can take classes on how to write a joke. You can take classes on how to write a sketch, create a character, write for late night, stand-up, improv and basically every other class you can think of, and maybe that works. I just don’t know. It’s helped me become a better comedian that’s for sure. It’s also developed my taste and my technique. But I also came to it with something.
My theory is this, my parents developed my humor as I grew up, and then I chose friends that continued to develop it. Until it was no longer something I was learning but something I was. It’s woven into the fiber of my being. This is of course a totally subjective view. While I view myself basically as funny, there are people who don’t see me that way, and sometimes I don’t see me that way.
There are so many layers to what makes people laugh. Was it a joke? Are they laughing at you Barry or are they laughing with you? Are they totally oblivious and that’s what makes them so funny (old people, babies, cats)?
We laugh at truths, at pain, at surprises, and grief, at joy. We laugh at dumb stuff, smart stuff, small stuff, big stuff, and all the in between stuff. A little part of me laughs at the name Barry. I just want to say it over and over again in a nasal voice. Would you find it funny if I did that over and over again? Maybe that’s the key if you want to develop a sense of humor, I say start by laughing at yourself. It’s the person you spend the most time with. Might as well think he’s hilarious.
A friend asked me if I remember the first time I really laughed hard. I can’t remember the first time.
I do however, remember piano lessons were riotously funny to me when I was around kindergarten. I was taking them from Jimmy Pitts, Mrs. Pitts’ son. She was also a piano teacher, and I can only assume at the time she was full with students. So I got the son, but man I thought he was funny, and if I really ponder it, I doubt he was a comic genius, but that I was five, incredibly present in the moment, and without a judgment. I don’t remember much about piano with him, but I do remember just laughing and laughing. Could have just been the focused attention even. Listen, a 5-year-old girl isn’t dumb. If she’s getting attention, she knows it, or at least I did. Jimmy went to off to college, and I switched to Mrs. Pitts. Mrs. Pitts is an amazing musician and has taught hundreds of kids how to be musicians too, but I wasn’t really interested in theory or practice or scales. I didn’t laugh with her, and I don’t know if that was her or me. That if I’d found her when I was little I would have laughed with her too, but suddenly I had become aware there was a goal, a good or bad, a desired result and expectation. And that, that’s what made me stop laughing...having to do it right.
I haven’t thought about “piano laughing” in…ever probably. Normally when I think of piano lessons, I think about how I quit it. It’s that warning you hear from a million adults when you’re a kid. “I took piano, but then I quit. Don’t quit. You’ll regret it.” I remember being annoyed at being told what to do, but they were right. I wish I hadn’t quit. I have the regret, but the more I think about it, I should cut myself some slack. Maybe it isn’t that I was a quitter, but on a quest to find the laughter again. I went looking for that thing that would make me cry I was laughing so hard.
It’s ironic that I am in the comedy business, but not totally sure I can remember the last time or at least “a time” I laughed really hard without the influence from some kind of chemical assistance so to speak. What do I remember is people. People make me laugh. The people I’m closest to, and it’s never because they told a joke or because they’re a comedian. It’s because we get lost experiencing a moment together. It’s exactly the same as piano when I was five. I’m able to be totally present. I stop thinking about time, what I have to do, why we’re laughing. There is no desired result from the experience. It’s a moment of letting go. I wish for so many more of those moments, and so far all of them seem to come from the people I’m closest to, and more often than not, have to do with the absolute mundane. I'd love to say my sense of humor is elevated, but not really. It's stuff like someone desperately having to pee on a road trip, or farts in public, or inside family jokes, or tickling. I spend so much time professionally trying to create the laughter, and when I create relationships, that's when the laughter shows up.
So I'm having one of those days where I just want something better, and I'm having a hard time keeping the faith. I get it, "First World Problems". But I know I'm not alone in thinking I spend a great many of my days being particularly uninspired by the day in day out. Yes, Yes...I'm the only one that can change this. I mean, I am trying. You can bet your ass, but honestly I don't know how to make it go any faster. I read the mantras about "massive immediate action" and surrendering into abundance, but that feels like a poop stick, like "getting ahead" is some kind of evil plot dangled in front of our faces by politicians, libertarians, fiscal conservatives, advertisers, rich people, and religion. "You can do it, and if you haven't done it, then it is you fault. Pick yourself up by your boot straps. Do it!"
I feel like Cameron in Ferris Bueller, totally dis-enchanted at the moment, but unable to do anything about it.
HOW DO I GET OUT? How do I get out of the office job? How do I get the audition that changes my life? How do get freedom? How do I become inspired? I guess I just need to go pick up Ferris and drive my dad's Ferrari though our house.
Orrr...sit in the gratitude that I have everything I need and more, and let go of the things that are out of reach. Orrrr...literally drive a car out of a house.
Dr. Pepper has a new soda out. Dr. Pepper 10. The slogan, “It's not for women.” You know what else isn't for women, dumb ad execs who think they will make them money by insulting more than half the population. I don't know if you've seen the ads, but basically it's the GI Joe that is driving around fighting villians in a jeep and being superhero cool while he drinks DP 10. You know what else would be superhero cool? A soda called, Pepsi Infinity, “For people infinitely smarter than Dr. pepper drinkers.” I mean this is unbelievable to me. I just stood in 7-eleven watching the TV screen with my mouth open, like “Are you fucking kidding me DP?”
A lot of bad things went down in Waco, but being the birthplace of DR. Pepper has now moved to the top.
I love that this idea had to come from somewhere, like a bunch of dude Ad execs are out to lunch...
Male Exec 1: I'll have a diet soda.
Male Exec 2: What are you GAY?
Male Exec 1 thinks to himself: I will NEVER be made to feel this way again. Rather than telling that guy to shove him homophobia up his ass, I WILL invent a new diet soda, that is so manly even women won't drink it. (Slams diet soda and exits.)
Dr. Pepper I have one question for you. Why did you just take a poop on my face?
So, I acknowledge that I have been endlessly blessed to have been born into my family, to have been born in America, to have been born into a middle class educated demographic.
All of these things are gifts to me, and also sometimes give me a bit of a elitelist filter. But I will tell you right now I hate being limited in funds. I refrain from using the word poor, and you better believe I looked up the actually statistics, but I do not qualify as poor; which is unbelievable. I can't imagine squeaking by more than I do now. I can't imagine trying to raise a family on what I bring in. Hell I have a debate with myself at the grocery store about "how much I really love mayonaise". I love mayonaise. I also love brand names. I've taken to shopping at "Super King" an independent grocery chain that I've never heard of but has the cheapest produce this side of Mexico. They also have brands I have never seen, or want to try, and a meat section that actually smells like rotting carcass.
I know I get it. I'm a snobby little brat that wants my meat to smell like lavender. Yes, yes I do. I would also love organic choices. I would also love for the grocery store to not be another version of the emergency room with giant carts and ice cream. Kids screaming, everyone pushing, people, people, people, everywhere.
I want my big aisles, elevator music, and pre-made food I want to eat.
There is this battle that goes on inside of me. I reflectively think, "You should see the world around you and pray with gratitude that you have been blessed in so many ways." Then the other part of me comes out and says, "I want."
I want to finish furnishing my apt. I want to go out to eat when I want. I want to buy new and not second hand. I want to fill up my tank, rather than drive around until I literally run out of gas on the 170.
I'm trying to maintain perspective. I am trying to breath deep and see the abundance around me, to know I have a job when I might not. I have a car and an apt and a family who is the eternal safety net. But there is still that loud voice that says, "I want it all."
I went running today and I dedicated my run to letting go of wanting, and now I send it out into cyber space, a quiet plea, something bigger than me, help me let go of wanting, and instead of seeing holes, see the abundance I am swimming in.
I don't really have a ton of moments where I live out Sheryl Crowe's lyric, "This is LA." But Wednesday, different story. I went to a hip LA eatery to have dinner with a friend and visit another that works there. To preserve their identities I will from thenceforth call the person I was meeting for dinner, Candelle, and the person who works at the eatery, Maveed. I had wanted to go to dinner at around 7pm. Thinking, "Well that's sort of pushing my stomach but it will probably be fine." 7pm is super late in Bellinger dinner time. Normally we are a 6pm sharp kind of folks. When I told Maveed we would be arriving at 7pm, he laughed and said they don't start to fill up until 8ish. Fill up? What in the heck do these people do that they can start dinner at 8pm? Seriously. I want to know. WHAT DO THESE PEOPLE DO? Maybe I've lived in hippieville too long.
1) Who goes out on a school night?
2)Who spends money on a school night? 3)Who starts a Wed. night at 8pm?
I guess you can take the girl out of Waco, but ...you get it.
I get a message from Candelle that she wants to meet up at 8pm. 8pm?! That's even later. Then she's late, so around 8:30 we finally order. The place is starting to fill up, as promised, and I'm looking around realizing I am in a United Colors of Benetton ad. People could not have been more attractive. It was that tight seating where you can hear everything the table next to you is saying. You really should be friends but everyone tries to pretend there is an imaginary wall between the tables. On our left was an extremely good looking model type couple. Candelle told the woman she liked her shoes, and a lovely conversation ensued that the shoes were from Spain, and very cheap at only $120, her Coco Channel diamond earrings glittering, while her teeth made that "ding" sound.
[Deep Breath] $120 is not cheap. I get it. I live in hippieville and she lives in modelville. There will come a time when indeed $120 will seem cheap to me, but given I do pretty much all my shopping at "Ross Dress for Less" the idea of $120 shoes from Spain being cheap, had me feeling like I had finally entered the bubble that is LA. Mr. Model made a comment about his shoes, slightly miffed Ms. Model was getting all the attention. Oh the Model family...their Christmas cards are always so pretty.
Dinner continued and I was struck by a coughing fit towards the end. The very charming gay couple to our right recoiled with disgust. I caught the eye of one of them, and apologized, and then out of no where told them I was a smoker. I'm not a smoker. I don't know why I said it. I think I liked the idea of being someone else in the bubble, and that it might be comforting that I wasn't carrying the Bird Flu, but just emphysema. The well built one of the two, explained he was a dancer and couldn't get sick.
I chatted with the two men about what they did, and the other was an actor, "I'm an actor!" I said. "Have you been going out much?" For those of you that don't speak actor that means "auditioning". "No not really." Refraining to say I hadn't been going out at all, because I don't have an agent. But in this fake world, I have an agent and emphysema.
It just funny you know, how all the pieces fit together. This restaurant is in the same world as VFW in Mandan, North Dakota and Libya and Walmart. I guess I need to be flexible about my dinner start time.
Okay, so in general I don't think of myself as very Texan, but I have these little moments where it flies out of me. I love Styrofoam cups, and boots, and BBQ, and heat, and SONIC DRIVE-IN. Sonics aren't everywhere. Minnesota where I went to college, nope. Chicago where I lived for 5 years, nope. California where I live now, only 3 Sonics. But hot damn on the way to a gig in Claremont, CA I stumbled upon a Sonic. I literally screamed out-loud. It's like discovering a wad of cash in your purse. It's hidden treasure, a magical place where Styrofoam cups the size of my torso are filled with tea and chili cheese coneys the size of my arm are scarfed up.
We had a Sonic right next to our high school. I have memories of leaving rehearsal and going to get cherry limeades and tots. I didn't even realize Sonic would end up on my list of things I miss, but what do you know? Those onion rings are burned on my brain.
So, you can understand my joy, bliss, delight in finding one right before my eyes. On my way back from my show I programmed my GPS to take me back to this blessed spot. I had forgotten to eat dinner, so I was there at the perfect time, hungry time.
I ordered my extra-long chili cheese coney, onion rings, and Route 44 unsweetened ice tea with limes. Sonic was packed! The drive-in filled with people eating in their cars and high school kids in packs eating ice cream. I was flashed back to these moments I had. Nothing to do in Waco, Texas, go to Sonic.
I waited, and waited, and waited. Hunger starting to force me to loose sanity. Well, hunger and a deep love of Sonic. I knew they were busy. I knew they had my order, and rather than press the button to irritatingly inquire, "WHERE IS MY FOOD?!" I instead just sat in my car screaming every few minutes, "Where is my food?!" or "I'm hungry...Bring me my food!" On the few moments I could distract myself, I watched a charming high school couple in an SUV go from lovey dovey to fight with each other to not speaking. Man, high school drama was AWESOME! Over and over I yelled out until finally a car hop showed up with my meal. She missed a screaming bout. Thank heavens.
They got the order slightly wrong, but I wasn't about to send it back when I had onion rings staring at me. My Route 44 was regular sized. The gall of those people. When someone is serious enough to order a Route 44, they mean it. But tea is tea, and that sweet chili cheese coney looked up at me with it's fat face just asking to be eaten.
I'm glad I was alone in the car, for I am certain that if ANYONE had come between me and that dog, I would have eaten them. I am a little lady, but I pounded almost all of it. DELICIOUS. All of my values about eating organic and growing your own food and conscious buying flying out the window sailing around the car hops on skates.
I couldn't finish everything, but couldn't bare to throw it away. So I took it home. What does it say about a person who takes Sonic home as leftovers...? That I am one bad ass mother sonic lover.
For an American I'm not particularly American. For an American traveling in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, I'm SUPER American. I will admit it. I ATE MCDONALDs. I did. I am so sorry, but I just couldn't force another weird egg or strange meat down my throat. Coca-Cola was my best friend, and toilet paper my boyfriend. At the end of my trip I tacked on 5 days in Bali. I foresaw these last four days as a sweet and relaxing journey into bliss. Alone.
I will tell you right now. Elizabeth Gilbert is a liar. Bali on a budget is not bliss.
All the research I read said you need someone to drive you around, a guide if you will. Driving yourself was a bad idea, and everything I read said DO NOT RENT A SCOOTER. Had there been another person with me I might have been more likely to throw caution to the wind and hop on a vespa, but images of my dead broken body on the side of a Balinese back road floated across my brain. My parents sitting at home wondering, why, why oh why did she insist on that scooter. CNN running a "backpacker slain" story in irritating repetition.
I had a theater instructor in college that would visit Bali yearly. He worked with Balinese masks. It was not my favorite class, BUT it was my only connection to Bali. I sent him a facebook message and he sent me the name of Yasa.
It took me forever to get out of customs. Finally I extract myself from bureaucracy and standing among the hordes is Yasa, a good looking mid 30s Hindu holding a sign with my name on it. I walked up and said, "Hi Yasa I'm Gillian."
"You are a girl."
"I thought you would be a man, but you come out, 'Hi Yasa'"
Yasa speaks English pretty well and taught himself. He doesn't however quite understand how to say my name so he just calls me Gill, not Jill, but Gill like on a fish. He was always asking me "Gill, are you tired?" "Gill are you hungry?" Over and over. "Gill did you sleep?" Gill did you shower?" "Gill are you still on your period?" This of course drove me nuts, but I figured out eventually it is a cultural way of asking, "Are you okay?"
One day out of my trip Yasa had been kind enough to invite me to his family’s cremation ceremonies.
The ceremonies work like this. A person dies. They are buried and then a few years later when family has saved enough money they dig the body up, and cremate it and grind the bones into dust. Then they carry the remains around to multiple temples all over Bali so that the spirit of this individual is brought to these temples to worship. It is a Hindu ritual, but apparently Bali Hindu and Indian Hindu are very different. Same gods but different customs, no bindis, different clothes. You know a catholic versus Baptist deal.
The ceremony goes all day. 4am until 12am.
I had to be in traditional Balinese dress. Which means, batik sarong, a batuk this like lace shirt, and a sash. Basically Victoria Secret asked me to model when they saw me, but I didn't have time because I was doing ceremonies.
Did I mention I was on my period? Turns out this makes a lady unholy. You can't enter a temple on your period. The problem was if I didn't go with Yasa I would be stranded in a fishing village in the middle of Bali. So I decided to take my chances with Shivah. I begged for forgiveness and lied. I metaphorically sucked my blood back up me.
No one spoke English except Yasa. When I say the “family” I mean about 30 people. We are in a caravan of three cars, one minivan, one pickup, and the SUV Yasa has been driving me around in. All the women were carrying boxes and banana leaf baskets of offering. So many offerings. Eggs, fruit, live chickens, incense, small banana leaf bowls of flowers. Rice. Rice. So much Rice.
Each temple is passed on through families. So families have been the priest and priestesses for generations of the same temple. It's hard for me to describe what a Balinese Hindi temple looks like, think Indiana Jones, or Inca. It is a stone compound in the jungle. There are different walled areas for different things. Statues galore, all ages old and covered in green moss. Seriously it looks out of Indiana Jones. The weird thing is, these places are super sacred to the people, but there is litter everywhere. It is built into the culture to litter.
So the ceremony starts and the priest begins to make a series of intricate hand gestures while saying prayers, the women are singing chanty music, the offering are all laid around and incense is flowing. Then everyone picks up little pieces of flowers from the banana bowls and holds them to their third eye, lips, and then their hearts. This is done three times and then the priest sprinkles everyone with water and goes to each person, puts water on them and puts water in their hands and they drink three times. I imitated everything that happening and all 30 people watched, rapt to see the American participate. I kind of faked drinking the water for fear of parasite. Then I suddenly became terrified that there was going to be a curse placed on my head. I was trapped between the Gods and a parasite.
At the end of the ceremony they leave all of the offerings at the temple. Which to the untrained eye looks like a whole lot of litter, but I guess to the Gods it looks different.
So then we move on to the next temple, and things repeat themselves. Then the next temple.
It’s at the base of a volcano by a lake.
So it all starts again. However this time it starts pouring rain. I mean pouring. We are all clinging to the sides of the huge temple structures to stay out of the water that is flooding the worship space, which is of course filled with old offering. So that is all floating up as the water is rising. We are trying to use the hutched roofs around the alters to protect us. In shifts people are taken back to the cars under umbrellas.
Then it's off to the next temple. We go through the whole process again. I wait in the car because it pouring still. I do at this point have to pee, and of course there are no toilets. I had watched the women just lift up there skirts and go. So I just went for it. I did okay. I didn't get pee on the sarong. :)
So we finally finish, and then move on to the temple located at the deceased parents' house. So a Balinese house. Oh man. Basically walls, a tiled, floor and a TV. Very little furniture, and dirty. DIRTY. The temple was in the front yard, and the women preformed the ritual while the rest of us sat in the living room on the floor. I spent the next hour being told I needed to eat, but I just couldn't make myself do it. Literally everyone would come over and have a rudimentary conversation with me about eating. I refused enough for them to just run out of time.
Then the last temple, the big family temple, and the rights were again preformed. This time the temple was in a rice field and it was pitch black. The rice field was filed with the sound of frogs. I honestly couldn't tell at first if it was frogs or music. It sounds just like music. The ceremony was finished and the remains were left in the family temple.
Yasa and I then had an hour and a half drive back to Ubud. We start driving and we are trying to stay awake on these jungle mountain roads. Yasa loves English speaking music. So we start to sing. I'm racking my brain for every Beatles song I know. He tells me what he loves is Rock n Roll. I'm trying to think of Guns and Roses songs and Bon Jovi, and eventually we do a rousing rendition on Bohemian Rhapsody. Neither one of us knows the words entirely, nor does Yasa actually know what the words mean, but who gives a shit. We rock it. Guitar sounds and all. :)
Then we ran over a dog.
I know it's a sad detail but I feel like it's important because it feels like Bali in a way. Beautiful moments surrounded by harsh life and death.
We finally make it back to my Homestay. A homestay is a room inside a Balinese home compound. A home compound looks a lot like a temple. Think Indiana Jones. I finally make it into my room and take a shower in the limited hot water.
I pull down the covers to sleep, and the bed is covered in gecko poop. COVERED. There is just nothing to be done at this time of night so I pull out my wipes and just wipe off the entire bed. I begrudgingly go to sleep.
Maybe that’s what happens when you are unholy. You end up sleeping in shit.
Okay, not entirely sure how to feel about this whole Osamabama business. On one level it certainly helps Obama for the 2012 election, but are we really celebrating someone's death? Are we really holding up murder as an act of justice? I heard a US Senator say that on NPR this morning. "This is justice for the victims of 9/11." So what exactly is justice for all the people we have killed or bombed in Iraq and Afghanastan? Should they take out our figure head, Charlie Sheen (jokes!). I mean Obama.
How exactly does our behavior make us different than a terrorist or vigilante? When was it exactly that we had a moment of reflection about our role in the rest of the world's perspective of America? We were one step away from standing in the street holding up our guns and shooting them into the air last night. For us, it was just cell phones and American flags.
The US doesn't negotiate with terrorists, as Tropic Thunder reminds us. So would we negotiate with ourselves? Because we have certainly reigned down terror on a few too many countries (shock and awe anyone?).
I recognize that I really have no concept of running a country. Nor have I ever been directly confronted with Spock's epic statement, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." But I do know that I want to be proud to call myself an American. That assassination is not a celebration, and that justice is not death, but choosing to uphold due process, evaluate the complexity of the story, to be guided by truth reason and fairness. To recognize that villainy is often a question of perspective.
Otherwise how in the world are we going to make sure that our future ends up being like Star Trek. Don't we all want that? The Federation doesn't just run around shooting people. Just saying.
Dear Car Gods,
Please stop attacking me. I'm pleading with you. I will get my car registered with the State of California. I have an appt May 18th. But you know there is this whole money thing. I know you are angry but throwing an awning off an Arby's at my windshield just makes it take longer. Or putting a cop on my previously un-policed street to give me tickets two days in a row, just makes it take longer. Or the strange rattling sound that now comes from the bottom of my car. Or the fact that I can hear my brakes when I just got them in August. Or Or Or. Grace me mighty ones with just a moment to catch up. One moment or a winning mega millions lotto ticket. You're choice. But I would go with the lotto ticket.