Sunday, July 11, 2010

The house that wasn't quite as abandoned as we thought

Today we were in Connecticut for a family party: A surprise for my great-uncle who turned 90. He was thrilled. It was a mostly fun party.

Towards the end, however, I was desperate to get out of there. I can only handle so much humanity before I need to excuse myself. We went down in my sister's car so as to be responsible citizens of the world - and also not to arrive by ourselves to a party where most of the people are just this side of strangers. For this reason, we ended up being there longer than we would have been otherwise. This is the price we pay for trying to do right by the earth.

(Aside: Doesn't it feel so silly to carpool to a party when billions upon billions of gallons of oil are pouring into the gulf? Are the couple pounds of CO2 we're saving by driving together making even a tiny difference? I hope so.)

Once we hit the open road, Tesia thought it would be a fine idea for us to take a drive by the old homestead, where we lived until 1987. I was 12 and Tesia was 10 when we moved to Springfield. I generally don't drive by the house because every time I have, I end up crying and carrying on. Not in a nostalgic way, but in a pitiful and sad way. It's totally fucked up and so I try to avoid it.

That said, I did drive Scott by the old house a year or so ago. He had driven me by his old houses when we were in his growing-up areas and I thought maybe seeing my house might be a good step. When we got there, it looked terrible - yard completely overgrown and a mess. We thought the house was abandoned. Even with the Count there, I cried a tiny bit for my growing-up times.

Today, when Tesia suggested we do a drive-by, I was actually interested. I wanted to see how much further dilapidated the house had gotten.

Holy crap. It was way worse. I said to Tesia, "I think I want to peek in the back yard." She admitted she wanted to as well. Scott offered to pretend to be our real estate agent. Because it's important to have a cover when you're scoping out an abandoned house.

So we got out of the car and decided to just play it cool. We whispered to avoid drawing attention to ourselves. We got out to the backyard and the patio my parents had installed themselves was still there, but it was a mess. The little retaining wall had caved in and the pavers had spilled out and over. There were weeds so giant they were pushing some of the pavers up and over.

I started to tell my niece about how Grandma and Pop had built this patio all by themselves. It used to be really nice. Blahblahblah. I start thinking that I wanted to climb up the back stairs and peek into the windows when Scott suddenly stopped and pointed up.


"That air conditioner is running." Zoinks!

"Holy shit, let's get out of here!" I whisper-shouted as my niece and I took off for the car.

Scott and Tesia were laughing so hard they couldn't move.

When we were all back in the car, we couldn't stop laughing. Tesia, in particular, was pretty much beside herself. And I didn't cry one bit.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hey, look at this strangely unhealed part of me!

Scott and I had a stupid fight earlier this week. Not a fight exactly. A misunderstanding? I don't know what. He was laughing at me (like, really hard) and I wasn't taking it well.

We ended up having this really, really serious talk about mockery. I mean, I mock him from the stage all the time. And even though it's mockery, I think the undercurrent of my jokes about him really is that I love him very much. I think it's true of my jokes about anyone I joke about (my mother might argue that point).

He was mocking me at home and laughing so hard that he fell on the ground. Plunk! Right over.

When we got to our serious talk about what happened and why I was so upset, I had a really hard time articulating what the problem was. I mock Scott all the time, so why does it bother me that Scott mocks me? Part of the difference for me is that I mock Scott with his full permission and it's clear that it's all jokes - and that he's in on them.

Scott started asking me questions about my growing-up times. Was I mocked as a child? Uh, yes? A lot. Mercilessly. And it turns out I'm a little bit tender-hearted about it. Or a lot tender-hearted, as it turns out.

And that's when I realized that I turned funny so I could control the laughter. You can't laugh at me if I'm in on the joke. And it blew my fucking mind.

Last week, one of my friends was telling me about a teen-aged relative who had to have brain surgery that was risky but 100% necessary. I wondered what grade the child was in and when I found out that s/he was going to have to go back to school with his/her head shaved, I started to cry a little bit. The part where the child had to have his/her brain cut open? Scary, but okay. Fine. I don't have to cry about that. The part where s/he'd have to face his/her peers with a shaved head? I couldn't bear it.

My niece started wearing a camelbak this past spring. Apparently, she wants to stay fully hydrated. When I found out she was wearing it to school, I started having total anxiety. Kids are the worst. And when you do anything that makes you different from the other kids, you're basically asking for it. I asked my sister if the other kids were making fun of my niece for wearing a camelbak and she said no, that the other kids thought she was cool for having it. I asked if the other kids were getting camelbaks and she said no, but they thought my niece was cool.

I guess that means that we're doing something right with that kid that she decides she wants to do something, does it, and doesn't have the least bit of anxiety about it. That, my friends, is sweet success.

But coming back to my point here. Just when I thought I was a pretty whole and balanced person, somehow I found, with Scott's help, a terrible unhealed part of me lurking where I least expected it.

I was part of an interesting Facebook conversation tonight with some other comics about the Joan Rivers documentary (which I haven't seen yet), in which Joan's daughter says that comics are insecure and need reassurance. One of my comic friends said that it's just an old stereotype. I said, "I'm insecure and need constant affirmation. I assumed we all did." When pressed for more information about if my insecurities are the reason I started comedy, I said, "For me, it's all about controlling the laughter. People have been laughing at me my whole life, and I just needed to be in charge of it."

Anyway, this is a total breakthrough.

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