Friday, September 28, 2012

Loring Park Episode #14B: Wake Me Up When September Ends

Previously on "Loring Park " ...

With a few minute exceptions, I realize I took a month off from writing. September was a weird month, you guys.

During the last week of August, I found out that I had made the semi-finals of the ACME Funniest Person in the Twin Cities contest. This meant that my score was in the top 25 of the over 200 participants. My semi-final date was the last Friday of the month, and we wouldn't find out the scores until Labor Day weekend.

I, of course, went to The Saloon that night, as I found it to be my last day of summer. None of my usual club buddies were there, but I was happy nonetheless as I walked out of the bar, and reflected on my "summer of love". My summer of love wasn't about hook-ups (I really only had one). The love was in other forms, like going to the grocery store with Chuck and Peter and making them hold my bags because I was too busy holding up my shorts, and Joey coming over at the time I had told him to and then I wouldn't even have showered yet, and roller coasters with cute strangers, and late-night kiki's with the neighbor girl, and gay softball games, and Jared and I singing Salt 'n' Pepa at 3 A.M. on Hennepin Avenue, and doing stand-up in pubs in Duluth and garages in Northeast Minneapolis. I felt happy. I felt alive. I looked at my phone and found out that I had made the finals of the Acme contest. I wanted to tell everyone, but then I realized I didn't know anyone standing outside of the bar that night.

The finals were on Tuesday. I only knew one of the other finalists, but she was a girl who I've seen on a regularly standard basis at open mikes, and I felt comfortable with her. While everyone else was silent and walking on eggshells, she had no air of competition about her. "I have chap stick, lozenges, breath mints, anything you need," she announced when I walked into the green room. I saw Colin Kane's name on the wall. I couldn't believe that Wendy Liebman was the headliner! I remembered watching her "Pulp Comics" episode dozens of times when I was a kid and Comedy Central would show it at 2 in the morning. Yes, children, there was a time when Comedy Central actually showed stand-up comedy. Like how MTV used to show music videos.

Short story long, I won the damn thing. And for a few days I was on a high, as the Facebook "likes" kept pouring in, and I got some publicity (a sentence that sounds sooooo douchey to say, but there it is). And then, not counting a show at The Saloon in front of 20 gay guys, I didn't do stand-up again that month, because the weirdest thing happened.

I got really fucking depressed.

Was part of it disappointment? As I have written before, not even 24 hours after I won, another comedian made sure to tell me that "Winning the ACME contest doesn't really mean anything". Maybe I expected certain things that didn't necessarily happen. I didn't get gigs or offers from the sky (was I supposed to?). I still didn't know what open mikes to go during the week, or who to talk to in order to get on stage A on night B. The boy I liked could have given two shits (to be fair, I should have promised him something more appealing than a dinner at Embers when I texted him of my winning). Then I felt guilty for being depressed, because there were at least 200 people in this town that wanted the proverbial title I now possessed. I had also hit a wall at my real job, the one that actually pays my bills, as my two closest work friends got promoted while I could not get past the judgmental 22-year-olds with clipboards holding the velvet ropes. If you are obsessed with divas of professional wrestling, especially from the years 1998-2006, an apt analogy would be that I was Ivory in the summer of 2002, doing bikini contests with Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler on Smackdown house shows, while I got to watch from afar as Molly Holly, Trish Stratus, Victoria and Jazz get to go out there and have actual wrestling matches on every episode of Raw is War. For 98% of the population, I am not even going to bother to explain that. Just trust me when I say that it felt like my soul was dying. I drank excessively because I was depressed, I was depressed because I was broke, and I was broke because I drank excessively.

But my identity crisis didn't fully make sense to me until I re-read "Guts" by Kristen Johnston (an amazing memoir, by the way). Kristen Johnston won two Emmys for 3rd Rock from the Sun, and she writes that at the height of her fame she became deeply depressed, because she realized that she had lost her ambition. That makes so much sense, right? You have a goal, you meet your goal, and then you have no idea what to do with yourself because you didn't plan on anything after the goal was met. I also realized that, superficial qualities be damned, it was Kevin's relentless ambition that I had grown to admire most about him.

So I tried to go back to real life two weeks ago. "Loring Park". Gays of our Lives. I went to three different birthday parties in one night, a fact that would have made third grade me sooooo jealous. Joey was in town and there is a slight chance he is going to move in with a group of muscle gays in the suburbs, and I hope they allow him to have friends with body fat in the double digits. We showed up at The Saloon at 1 A.M., booty-danced but did not make out, and Star Quarterback was right there and saw the whole thing, but I still sprinted far away from him every time I made eye contact with him, because I am good at flirting. Chuck came over several times and taught me how to do grown-up things like clean the bathroom and vaccuum under furniture. I lost my cell phone again. Jared got mugged and got his cell phone stolen. I lost my cell phone a *second* time, but mercifully it was in Markie's car and Liam delivered it to my workplace the next day.

Last night I was going to recognize my budget, but Piano Man asked me if I was going out to The Saloon, so I ended up there at 12:30 A.M. I was in line right behind Star Quarterback, because you can't make this stuff up. It is gay high school, and I have decided that Piano Man is the popular Student Body President and I am the chunky girl with the three-ring binder trying to convince all the cute boys to join the drama club. He flirts with me, and I flirt back, but then he tells me he can't have his arm around me because people will think I'm his boyfriend, and I have to fend off the three boys drooling over him, but after my fourth Three Olives lemonade I realize that maybe I like Piano Man too, but I am closed for business, and that is putting it mildly.

"You're past closed for business," Jared told me on his last day at work. "You're like .... bankrupt."
"I know!" I cried. "It's like when you drive by an abandoned Hardee's and it's boarded up!" I'm surprised I don't notice tumbleweeds when I take my clothes off.

But the people I have met! I met a newscaster who drunkenly accused me of thinking that I'm better than him (couldn't have been further from the truth!). Jared called him out for wearing colored contacts, but then we bonded over our love of Esme Murphy. I met a drunk man at Lush who announced, "I know you", and I was hoping he recognized me from stand-up, but apparently we would talk about pro wrestling on adam4adam. "Your picture was of you in a yellow shirt against a white car," he slurred. That was scary accurate! "You lived off of University and you were going to come over and fuck me!" he yelled so loud that the entire patio, if not all of Northeast Minneapolis, could hear it. That was not accurate.

I had my proverbial summer of love. I don't know what my autumn will be of, but I'm more hopeful now than I was before. It's like the saying goes: You make plans, and God laughs. It's like the other saying goes: You win your city's biggest comedy contest, and then a week later you're sobbing at your mother's kitchen table because, even though you just won $1,000, you somehow have no money in the bank (okay, I did splurge on clothes, such as Vince cords and a Cardigan t-shirt and two Quiksilver sweaters. Judge me not).

It will be my first autumn in Loring Park. I will change and mature with the leaves, and hopefully that doesn't mean that I will be totally bald by winter, because I'm still telling everyone I'm 24.

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