Overheard at an AA Meeting 7, “It sucks better sober.”

A guy said that today.

A friend once said, “I have had a few better days drunk than sober.” Clichés need to be contradicted now and then.”

Today I did the old, “Please don’t let me leave worse than I came!” I laid down my burdens. Felt much gay better! Yay!

I also asked if we could do the Serenity Prayer instead of the Our Father since not all of us are Christians.

And the earth did not devour me.

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Overheard Subbing 10: Phone Calls in the Middle of Class

These kids today with their “MTV” and their “marijuana cigarettes!”

Now, before every class every day since the first incident, I say, “You may listen to music when you finish the first 10 problems. I don’t want to hear it so keep your earphones on and the volume down. No texting. If you take or make a call, I will call the office to come take your phone. This is your only warning.” (I say the last sentence because they must “receive a warning” on the first offense of just about everything).

Then I get to listen to “Why are you so mean?” “You can’t tell me what to do!” “Our teacher lets us!”

I’ve had four incidents where a kid makes or take a call in the middle of class and they all took place in the last month. The worst thing (okay the second worst thing) is often they make no effort to hide it.

1st Episode Blah Blah High School:
Me: What the…? I said not to take calls! I’m calling the office to come and take your phone.
Not So Respectful Guy: Let them try to take my phone! Snitch!
Me: I’m a substitute teacher. I get paid to snitch.

2nd Episode Yadda Yadda High School:
Me: I’m calling the office.
Victim Girl: But she called me!
Man: OMG, are you cereal? Are you totally cereal? I’m not going to take the bait and explain what you already know by saying, “Well, you know you just because she called you during class you don’t have to take the call…. Oh wait, I just did.”

3rd Episode Whaaa? Middle School:
Me: Busted! I’m calling the office.
Only kid who bothered to try and hide his phone call from me: I was calling my mom.
Me: Let me see your last call. It says, “Emily.”
OKWBTTAHHPCFM: That’s my mom’s name.
Me: Tell it to the judge.

4th Episode: Whaevah High:
Me: I’m calling the office.
Girl who left an explicitly sexual message for her boyfriend in a very loud voice: I didn’t do anything! Sick of teachers thinking they can tell me what to do!
Two other peers: She didn’t do anything!

The assistant principal came. (How do these people do that job?! Saints I tells ya! Saints every one of them!) I got called names as she left insisting she was a victim and didn’t do anything. She also said I was ugly. The noive a dat goil!

(I’m not ugly am I?)

Within the next two minutes both of her friends stormed out acting like I was a tyrant and they were victims. They chose In Class Suspension (ISS) over the couple worksheets the teacher left them. Damn my evil dictatorship!

I do want to say that I’m good at diffusing conflict and winning kids over with my insanely charming wit. I say, “Make sure you start rumors that I’m cool too.”

“We will.”

“You kids are the greatest. Now let’s pass around the marijuana cigarettes and put on the MTV.

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Grandpa

I’m filling out applications to teach Theatre and Speech. They asked who was my hero and I wrote about my grandfather…

My grandfather was the warmest, kindest, most peaceful and compassionate person I’ve ever known. (Yes these people do exist!) He kept my grandmother in their home and cared for her through her slow and heartbreaking ten year decent into Alzheimer’s. Another ten years after her death he began a much more rapid three year process of losing his personality along with his memory.

He carried himself with an effortless dignity. He truly loved everyone and had more friends than anyone could count. “I have a wonderful family. Ain’t a rotten apple in the bunch.”

Two years ago, I drove from Austin to Donie, TX, the tiny town in which Grandpa was born and where he and Grandma retired to take him to Mom and Dad’s in Houston for Christmas.

All the next day he was disoriented and asked several times, “What day is today?”

“It’s Christmas, Grandpa.”

He seemed sad and depressed and Dad asked if he was okay. Like always, he smiled and said, “I’m fine. Fine.”

Dad said, “My father could be on fire and still say he’s fine.”

The day after Christmas, as we approached Donie on the drive home, he said, “Exit 180. I do remember that.”

“We’re going to your new place in Teague.”

He pointed at exit 180 as we passed.

The northbound rural route to Teague meandered southward and I said. “I think I might be lost.”

“Well I cain’t help ya there.”

I pulled into a parking space in front of the Teague rest home. Grandpa said, “Where’s this?”

“This is where you live.”

“Cain’t we just go home?”

“This is your home now, Grandpa.”

He squinted. “My… mind…”

“You sad Grandpa? I’m sad.”

He waved the question away.

I walked him to his bed. He slept about 14 hours a day now and said, “I love you Grandpa.”

“I love you too.”

“Grandpa, I have to tell you something. You’re my hero.”

He smiled as he closed his eyes, “Thank you. Thanks.”

It was our last conversation.

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Overheard Subbing 9: Hey, Mister, r u married?

Why do all these high school kids ask if I’m married?
Is it THAT obvious?

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Overheard on the Road to Hollywood 2: Lily Tomlin and My First Open Mike

Spring, 1987

I saw a documentary called Lily, about the making of Lily Tomlin’s groundbreaking, one-woman Broadway play, Search for Signs of Intelligent Live in the Universe written by her longtime collaborator and life partner, Jane Wagner. I can’t find it on IMDB or Netflix, both of which list a TV special titled Lily from the early 70s but neither of which mentions a late 80s documentary of that name. I just facebooked Scott Dinger who owned The Dobie Theatre back in the day to find out if the doc had a different name. Update to come.

Aside: From 1992-1994 worked with one of the people responsible for launching Lily’s career. That crazy as catshit person wasted three years of my career I’ll never get back! More to come.

Around ten years prior to Lily, I was obsessed with the soundtrack of her first Broadway one-woman comedy, Lily Tomlin: Appearing Nightly. (“Would you please stop talking about that caaaaaaake!”) I do what I do today because of Appearing Nightly and Search for Signs.

Back up to seven years old. I memorized Bill Cosby’s “The Chicken Heart” routine from Wonderfulness and loved to perform it for my family and friends. I sucked at so much—school for instance—that I got my strokes from being funny. I do standup today because of Bill Cosby. Three-ish years later, Appearing Nightly launched my dream of creating a one-man show of my own. Ten years after that in 1987, Lily directly inspired the first incarnation of that dream.

Aside: In 2000 after the world hadn’t ended (we all know that will happen next year) I saw the Broadway revival of Search with my best friend Greg Walloch who’d just befriended Tomlin. A few weeks later, she came and saw Greg do selections from his White Disabled Talent and one of my earlier drafts of Senioritis at WestBeth Theatre, which went on to be the fourth act of Holy Cross Sucks!

I GOT A CHANCE TO TELL MY IDOL, THE MOTHER OF MY CAREER, THE LILY TOMLIN THAT I DO WHAT I DO TODAY BECAUSE OF HER!!!

Back to 1987, sexually liberated from the repressive chains of the Catholic Church, I left Lily, and went straight home to write a first draft of “Father O’Connor” in which a priest journeys from spouting the Church’s official stance on masturbation to a “Jacking off is a gift from God” rant after the third and final Onanist tells his story of sin and degradation.

“Father O’Connor” marked the first character driven comedy piece I ever wrote.

I usually performed him solo, but twice I did the sketch with my friend Mark Flores who just facebooked me saying he still has the VHS from an audition for a Kids in the Hall contest we did back in college 24 years ago. We didn’t win. Fucking Canuks!

Quite creaky from taking a 7 year hiatus from all things theatrical, my performance clunked along while Mark’s stole the show. I played the straight man Fr. O’Connor and he got to be 3 masturbators confessing their sins. Of course his performance beat the shit out of mine!

But it was back in July of 1987, that Father O’Connor and I made our virgin voyage on a Monday Open Mike Night at The Laff Stop (Now the Capitol City Comedy Club where open mike goes up Sundays). I packed the small cabaret room with coworkers from Birra Poretti’s on Riverside where The Austin Lyric Opera now stands. Now I know that many first time open mikers stack the room, receive lauds and ovations from familiars then exit the stage thinking they’re the new Robyn Williams (whom I soon went on to learn that most comics consider an unfunny thief of other comic’s material) only to go up next time in front of strangers and die that slow painful open mike death that separates the devoted from the dabbler.

With an audience full of shills, of course I was a smash hit smugly shaking the hand of each BP employee and everyone else as they filed out into the parking lot as if it were my show.

(OMG! The spell check just suggested I change “were” to “was” in the previous sentence! It’s called “the subjunctive tense” Microsoft!!!

(OMG2!!! Now there’s a green squiggly line under “’was’” above!!! When talking about a specific word, one puts said word in quotation marks, Bill Gates! Why don’t you bundle your software into your computers, kill all word processor competition and teach the world some incorrect English, ya heartless Philistine bastid!)

I performed Father O’Connor to tepid audiences in comedy clubs a handful of times including the following summer when the booker at The Comedy Workshop in Houston (RIP) told me not to do it anymore and to do standup.

The historical Comedy Workshop was the first comedy club in Texas and possibly in most of the states south of the Mason-Dixon Line. So long ago, Jimmy Walker headlined a few times. (Honky please!) The CW birthed the careers of the Texas Outlaw Comics, most notably Bill Hicks and Sam Kinison).

I wrote my first standup bits including some recovering alcoholic jokes—I was clean and sober 5.5 years in college before I took 12 years off from sobriety. (Clean and sober 6.5 years and 4 days from the date of this post). I also wrote some out gay comedy but audiences generally didn’t seem to take my outing seriously.

Today and a quarter century ago, many comics write punchlines in which they ended up at the receiving end of… something… gay, so back then audiences didn’t consider that such jokes could be serious statements. From the beginning of my standup career I did out or at least one foot in, one foot out of the closet standup.

Soon: “Possibly the first out gay comic playing mainstream clubs from the southern US.”

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Overheard on The Road to Hollywood 1 My first trip to NYC Winter or Autumn, 1993

I did 3 weeks of standup in PA: The Funny Bone in Pittsburgh and Monroeville and The Italian Villa in Lancaster. Between the Monroeville and Lancaster gigs, I took the Amtrak to Manhattan to surprise my cousin Aimee who was studying theatre at NYU. She lived in a 5th floor walk up on 4th Street and McDougal in the heart of Greenwich Village. $1400 a month for a two bedroom?! Larceny! Probably 2.5K or so today?

Her roommate said she wouldn’t be in till tomorrow. I went to the TKTS booth and got half price ticket to see Cats! one of the few running on a Mondays as The Winter Garden went dark on Thursdays.

The gorgeous set of a skid row alley on spilled of the stage and flooded the house. The lights went up.

WHY THE FUCK DID NO ONE TELL ME?!!!

CATS IS A BIG, FAT STINKY BAG OF CAT SHIT!!!

My first Broadway show! Never get that opportunity back! Gay God Dammit!

The cat actress who played “Memory” sang like a pathetic, self-pitying whiny puss!

Fortunately the trip turned an abrupt sharp corner into awesome as I also saw the original cast perform Angels in America: Millennium Approaches (with the exception of Harper who was less than par). F. Murray Abraham’s Roy Kohn beat the shit out of Al Pacino’s.

And Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight Los Angeles, 1992? Dios de la Salve Maria! I decided, “If I can’t do solo theatre as amazingly as this, need to quit.” (I didn’t) but I did go shoeless in my next production of 12 Steps to a More Dysfunctional You (The Velvet Elvis Arts Lounge, Seattle, 1993). I’ve had the fortune of seeing her showcasing old favorites and works in development at Zach Scott Theatre in Austin.

I took Aimee (BTW we had a blast together!) to Circle Rep’s off-Broadway production of Larry Kramer’s The Destiny of Me with Hedwig and the Angry Inch’s John Cameron Mitchell (I still swoon!) performing the young Larry Kramer role, Ned.

I had played two miniscule roles in the Destiny of Me’s prequel The Normal Heart (A Different Stages production at the old Kidzacting space on 2222 and Burnet, Austin, 1987.) Like Heart, Destiny screamed sermons and lectures throughout the play’s entire course of action. The milk throwing scene at the end of Heart was echoed by a blood throwing scene at the end of Destiny. While today both really belong in a museum, they have earned an important role in the history of American Theatre and the history of AIDS activism.

Up soon: Curtain’s production of my 12 Steps to a More Dysfunctional You at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Scotland, 1993.

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Overheard at Mom and Dad’s 1: Tim Curry

Mom and Dad are watching TV.

MOM: Is that Tim Curry?

DAD: No, it’s 9:15.

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