Tuesday, August 1, 2017

"Michiana 2017 - Things That Surprisingly Came To Mind"

In lieu of doing anything interesting, as there was nothing interesting to do, and besides, one of us was recovering from bronchitis.

There was no TV in the cabin.  There had once been a TV (left behind by the cabin’s previous owners) equipped with a coat hanger antenna that did not work very well. And besides – the second “and besides” of this offering – we did not want a TV in the cabin, so we tossed it out – delivering it to a Salvation Army depot willing to take a malfunctioning coat hanger TV off our hands – and we never replaced it.

Then, the week before our arrival, a visiting daughter Anna and her husband Colby purchased a TV for the cabin.  So we had TV again. 

Note:  I cannot say I approved.  Nor did the meandering deer outside our window.  “He’s going to watch Law & Order reruns instead of us!  But my daughter, now an adult, felt it unnecessary to consult Dad, figuring that, as a grown person, she no longer required parental permission to buy electronic devices.  And besides – look at that!  A third “and besides” in three paragraphs! –

“You don’t want to watch, just don’t turn it on.”

(Personal Note:  Although if that strategy fails at home, why would it possibly work in the cabin?  Can you imagine how smart I would be if I had never watched television?  People would not be able to stand me.  So I guess it is marginally better that I did.)

And besides – oh, my God!  I have used up my “and besides” allotment for an entire month! – it was not exactly a TV.  It was just a computer-screen-sized TV monitor, inaccessible to ballgames, reruns of dramatized procedurals and peeks at the latest presidential atrocity.  But, since the cabin had been… mysteriously…  connected to wifi, we could watch Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc. 

(Note:  “Etc.”, being not an actual delivery system, does not receive any italics.  If it ever subsequently becomes an actual delivery system, I shall unquestionably revisit “etc” and duly italicize it.  It sounds like it could be an actual delivery system – broadcasting what other delivery systems didn’t offer.  Sort of like the “Beyond” portion of Bed, Bath and Beyond.)

Which – long story considerably longer – is how we got to watch a Dave Chappelle comedy concert at the cabin.

I was not a regular follower of Dave Chappelle during his Comedy Central heyday, occasionally dipping my toe in to see what was happening, and dipping it back out again after watching a sketch where a white family arrives at a restaurant, informing the MaĆ®tre D’ confirming their reservation, “We’re the…”, their last name synonymous with a derogatory racial epithet beginning with “N.”

Not for me.  Although, from a creative standpoint, I gave the man points for “gratuitous boldness.” 

I knew Chappelle had abruptly abandoned his successful series and ostensibly retired from show business for, like, ten years.  And then he came back. 

And now – a personal assessment – he was wonderful.

Relaxed.  Confident.  Demonstrably humbled by his turbulent hegira.  He talked about an early comeback performance in which a local newspaper reported he was booed off the stage.

“That was a lie”, Chappelle insisted.  “I was booed.  But I didn’t leave.”

Chappelle’s concert performance displayed a layered depth and understanding lacking in his earlier incarnation.  He agonized about Bill Cosby whom Chappelle worshipped as a performer but whose unfathomable behavior he was now was obligated to confront.  Chappelle analogized his dilemma with his loving chocolate ice cream, pondering,

“How can you love chocolate ice cream when chocolate ice cream raped fifty-four women?”

I enjoyed this Dave Chappelle.  He was funny.  And, more to the point of this offering, he was funny in a way that reminded me of…


Not the actual me – the “me” who didn’t do it – “it”, being stand-up comedy.  (Which I, to some degree, do here, minus the facing an audience and the possibility of booing.) 

The next morning, fueled by the Chappelle concert experience and the suffusing calmness of a cabin in the woods, I found myself imagining ten impeccable minutes of a monologue I might have delivered at the beginning of my career on an “Open Mic Night” at The Improvisation in New York, where, trying to be comedian, I had actually performed and was borderline terrible.  I mean, how entertaining can you be when your first onstage utterance is,

“Try not to scare me, okay?”

(Redeeming Note:  At a subsequent performance a month later at The Village Gate, I did so well a manager of recognized comedians offered to represent me.   Recalling my first performance, I said no and went back to Toronto.  And the rest is non-history.)

You are going to have to take my word for this because, as is the nature of “soap bubble” evanescences, the routine I performed in my head has, except for scattered fragments, now entirely disappeared.   Suffice it to that, in that fantasy interlude, I was everything I ever wanted to be as a comedian.

Honest.  Insightful.  Spontaneously improvised, and as conversationally natural as me and you, sitting in a living room.  (The exact opposite as the previous sentence.)  I was really rolling.  And they seemed to totally “get” me.  Not peals of laughter, perhaps.  But they were definitely into my authentic approach.

I remember confiding to the audience that I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to be a comedian, explaining that, although my older brother was a comedian – he was at the time Lorne Michaels’s comedy-team partner – that did not mean I had to be a comedian myself.  And then immediately confessing “Yes, it did.”  And not just a comedian.  But a better comedian than my brother.

(Final Assessment:  "Incomplete.")

I just told it just like it was.  And the audience was warmingly receptive.

I remember a partial version of my ending where I explained that I was getting the signal that my time onstage was over and I hadn’t gotten to my act yet.  I asked the audience to remember this night because if I eventually got big, they could say they were at my first performance when I stunk. 

I then explained I had no ending – I mean, I had an ending, but it was at the end of the act I had not even begun – saying, “I hope this wasn’t too terrible”,  and I left.

To appreciative applause.

Moments later, my glimpsing fantasy went “Poof”, departing as abruptly as it had previously arrived.

I count that unscheduled interlude as “having a wonderful time at the cabin.”  Nothing tangible happened.  But that “visiting nothing”, courtesy of the pressure-free terrain that surrounded me, was as sweetly delicious as the coconut-almond fudge ice cream at (nearby) Oink’s.

And the ice cream at Oink’s?

It’s the top of the line.

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