(I see a lot of traffic coming in to read this post – in the event that some of you are interested in seeing the performing that I’m talking about, you can see that this Wednesday in NYC, just click the link.)
Five of my friends have had babies in the last two weeks. The birth of a baby is supposed to be a happy thing, but it can also be a funeral for a friendship.
It’s great that everyone I know is immediately, rapturously in love with their child, and I wouldn’t wish anything else for them. I see the joy and happiness that my sister and her husband feel now that my nephew is here, and I genuinely want everyone I care about to feel that, too. But it’s not like I stopped needing someone to hang out with, talk to, commiserate with about the crushing grind that is art and performance in NYC, get super baked on pot cookies and watch sci-fi flicks together.
I’m not suggesting that the emotional needs of a 36 year old man should never come ahead of a baby’s, either. If any of my friends kept hanging out like everything was exactly the same, that would be even worse. I’d hate to find out that a close friend was so into our friendship that he was willing to become a deadbeat dad just to keep our train on the tracks.
I think a lot more kids are accidents than people let on. After a certain age, people just go to a different doctor when they find out they’re pregnant than they did in their twenties. I think so, anyway. But after my run-in with testicular cancer a few years back, I’m not going to be surprising anybody.
So while I grieve for my lost – or suddenly, drastically changed – friendships, I’m also jealous. Not like, snatch-a-baby jealous, but with the option of sudden, natural conception behind me, it makes me a lot more conscious of my choices. And I don’t feel like my life is in a place where I could drop everything and support a new life.
I’m really, obsessively focused on writing and performing now. It takes up almost every waking hour, and it pretty much has to until further notice. It’s crushing and exhausting, but sometimes it works out.
For example, I was honored to be the only white guy in a tribute to Richard Pryor at BAM last month. I grew up listening to Richard Pryor records in my room, mimicking his cadence and timing and trying to learn how he could conjure so many characters in a story. Not imitating them, but just becoming them. I’m a storyteller, Pryor was too. And I’ve got a story about a guy who pretty much is the living embodiment of his “Mudbone” character. It was a perfect lock, and such a thrill to be there.
The room was packed, standing room only, maybe 300 people or so. I went on second, after a guy who just crushed it. He’s brash and sharp, grew up incredibly poor in Washington, D.C., and the crowd loved him. Then I went on, and things changed.
They weren’t trying to hear anything from a huge white dude that looks like most people’s boss, dressed in a cowboy shirt. Especially not if the story was a complex story about a friendship with a schizophrenic black man. A large Caribbean woman sat right in front of me, frowning a hole in my skull with arms crossed in front of her like two giant pythons guarding a gateway to laughter on the far, opposite side of an echoing room. I saw dates look at one another and mutually decide to wrap it up early and claim they had an early meeting the next day.
Some people laughed here and there, but I knew in 30 seconds that it was going to be a fight. Comics can go to backup material, but when you’re telling a story and it’s going bad, you’ve got to land that burning airline no matter what happens.
Phones were coming out and lighting up all over the place, and I could hear the audience start to chatter. I swear I heard someone say, “it’s cool, we can talk over this guy.” I zeroed in on a friend’s face and just started talking to her, just to get through it.
And then, also in the front row, I saw this:
A haggard, middle-aged woman pulled a sharpie out of her pocket, and drew a mustache onto her face with a very practiced motion. Then she reached into her coat and took her shirt off completely, unfurling her boobs like faded, trusty flags she’d flown a million times before.
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