So, apparently the Canucks are engaged in some pretty meaningful hockey games right now? I haven’t really been paying attention [Editor’s Note: This is a lie.]. Too many more-important things in my life of late.
That last sentence was true when I first wrote it, close to a month ago. I’ve been meaning to write this entry for a while, in part because it was a minor milestone in my life — a night that will stay in my mind forever — and I want to write down the details while I still remember them. Mainly, I think this will be legitimately interesting. I hope so, anyway. But other things have come up. I became terribly ill, getting the flu and strep throat at the same time (a real treat, that was). Then my computer decided that being sick seemed kinda fun and got a virus of its own. A month later, here I am, trying to recount the first time I did stand-up comedy for a paying audience, profiting off my own written words. But as per usual, I’m getting bogged down in preamble.
I ran into an old acquaintance from high school at a house party recently. “I read your blog,” she said, throwing me off guard immediately. “You’re funny.” I smiled awkwardly and thanked her for saying so, but internally I struggled to see how the two comments were in any way related. #Humblebrag aside, I wanted this collection of ramblings and reviews to be at least partially comical when I set out to start it, and maybe I’ve been somewhat successful. But all of the most notable entries that spring to mind when I think of what I’ve written here are all… Well, depressing is the wrong word. Emotionally raw? I try to be honest. It usually leaves me feeling more forlorn than funny, unless you’re the asshole who laughs at that kind of thing.
And so here I am, attempting to write about comedy. I hope this will be funny, but I suspect it won’t be.
It’s a Saturday night in mid-September and I’m heading downtown by myself to a birthday party for someone I barely know. The first semester of my program has barely begun, and while I could happily spend the night on the north shore in the company of friends, I’ve made the potentially misguided decision that at this point in the game, it’s probably a good idea to get out and get to know the people I’ll be spending the next two years with. This is a risk, assuming that a fair amount of people from the program will make the same choice as I, coming out to celebrate the birth of someone we’ve just met. It doesn’t pay off, as few schoolmates take the plunge and I spend the night mingling with people I’m unlikely to ever meet again. Still, a chance encounter on the SeaBus heading over town makes this night a pivotal one.
Boarding the boat at Lonsdale Quay, I run into a pair of Daves that I haven’t seen since high school. We exchange hello’s and banter back and forth about what we’re doing with our lives. It has, after all, been many years. “I’m going to school for Broadcast Journalism,” I get to say, feeling fancy, as if my life has some semblance of direction. “Just booked a trip to New York City. Life is good.” D-Mac’s eyes light up like I’ve just mentioned I’ve become a fully trained Jedi Master since we last met.
“New York? Sick! When are you going to be there?”
“Less than two months from now. November. Around Remembrance Day weekend?”
He tells me he’s waiting on word that his contract has been renewed, and there’s a good chance he’ll be back in NYC by then, working for the United Nations. Pffflllfffflfflllttttssssh — that’s the sound of the air deflating out of my J-school balloon. “Give me a shout before you head east,” he says. “If I’m in the city we should definitely meet up, I’ll show you around.”
“For sure, man! That’d be awesome.” I genuinely mean the words coming out of my mouth, but something in the back of my mind is chipping away at that sincerity. Dave talks about a bar he’s heard about but has never been to that operates like a modern day speakeasy: You phone in a reservation in the early afternoon the day of, and take that reservation to a hotdog stand downtown, where they pass along the night’s secret password. Later that night, you’ll come back to a phone booth near the hotdog stand. Step inside the booth, lift the receiver and speak the correct password, and the back wall of the booth slides open to let you into the club. I like to imagine it having an old-timey brass band, but my mind may have invented that part. Regardless, he wants to use my visit as an excuse to finally check this place out, and the more he talks about it, the more stoked I am to see him again in New York in a few months.
But something’s still not right. As much as I want to pick up passwords from hot dog stands and slip into prohibition-era pubs, a nagging voice in the back of my head tells me none of this will wind up happening. It sounds great in theory, but I haven’t seen D-Mac in what must be four years. This will just amount to being one of those things you talk up with people that seems great in the moment, but never comes through. Impromptu plans have a habit of falling apart. “I’m only going to be in New York for what basically amounts to three and a half days,” my brain starts to rationalize. “I probably won’t have time to catch up with him, and he’ll probably be too busy to want to hang out with me anyway.” As the boat docks at the other side, I keep my pessimism to myself. The Daves head off into the night for a long overdue catch-up of their own, and I walk in the rain to my mystery birthday, all smiles.
In the end, the nagging voice is half-right. I never do use a secret passage or take in a big brass band. But it doesn’t really matter. This proves to be one of the most important conversations I have all year.
COMING UP: In the city that never sleeps, you have to make your dreams come true.