Monday, December 23, 2013

No Wings For Clarence

I recently performed in a show dealing with mental health called "A Stand-up Mind - Holiday Edition" at the Salvage Vanguard Theater. The following is the transcript of my part of the show with some additions. Happy Holidays!

Something that happens to you when you are in treatment or therapy (for whatever reason...mine was alcohol/drug related) is that you have a hard time opening up in group and individual sessions in the beginning. However, you then find yourself on the other end...where you are completely upfront and uncomfortably honest all the everyone.

"How are you?"
"Oh, just dealing with emotional detachment and intimacy issues as well as accepting the inevitability of my own death. I mean, FINE. I'm fine. Can I get a venti vanilla latte..."

I think about that when I prepare to go visit my family for Thanksgiving or Christmas. You don't want to be honest with your family during the holidays, if ever. They love you and all, but they don't want a buzzkill during turkey. "Don't ruin my Christmas with your reality!" Just say you're fine.

My mother has always been "the organizer" for family gatherings. Every get together needs one, and she's good at it. She always makes sure everyone is included in the one is left out. Every Christmas with my immediate family would have a stocking for each person. This included one for my significant other, so there it was with my exwife's name on it...then it had a girlfriend's name...then a different girlfriend's name...then it was blank. I suggested just putting "Young Childless Hussy" on there and be done with it. Sure, it sounds harsh, but it would look stunning in glittered calligraphy.

For the bigger family gatherings that included all my aunts, uncles, cousins and their kids, Mom would dole out the food assignments based on finances, reliability, and possibly family status. Granny is cooking the turkey...Aunt Denise is bringing green beans, Uncle Richard is bringing pie, this cousin is doing a salad, another cousin is bringing all the plates, cups, cutlery and bread...

Me: "What should I pick up?"
Mom: "How grab a bottle of soda?"
Me: "Soda. Right. Well, I hope I can pull this off."

Couldn't really blame her. I've been pretty sketchy for years.

I'm not really a huge fan of Christmas. The music is awful, I'm poor so I hate buying gifts...and I haven't been impressed by lights and ornaments since I did a bunch of psychedelics 15 years ago. "I saw my roommates torso dislodge from his body and his soul fly into the fireplace which was morphing through every fireplace I've ever seen in my life...but sure, that's an impressive tree with lights on it."

Not a big fan of Christmas movies, either. We would watch one every year as a little tradition. Never "Die Hard", though. Too bad. Usually it was "A Christmas Story", which I liked, or "It's a Wonderful Life."

I've seen the last half hour of "It's a Wonderful Life" many times, but I've only seen it all the way through maybe twice. It's 2 hours and 10 minutes long. There's no call for that, especially since they spend the first 90 minutes setting up one thing: George Bailey had big dreams of traveling the world, but instead he gave and gave and helped everyone else and let his dream die as he settled on a failing business and a family. So Clarence has to show George that his life is worth living in order to get his wings. He shows him what life was like if he had never been know the movie.

When I saw the movie about 5 years ago, something occurred to me. I really liked Pottersville way more than Bedford Falls. Instead of a suburban nightmare, Pottersville was a strip of bars, pool halls, strip clubs and pawn shit. If I had been George Bailey, I would have said to Clarence, "Let me get this straight. I'm not running a bankrupt business and loan, my dumbass drunk uncle didn't lose 8 grand, and I'm no longer married with 4 kids, one of them named fucking Zuzu? Heh, you're shit out of luck, Clarence. MERRY CHRISTMAS, POTTERSVILLE!!" (starts running through the street)

"Bars, strip clubs...this is awesome...I mean, awful. Right. This is awful."
Also, Donna Reed in the alternate universe was supposed to be a librarian "old maid" or "spinster"...which is 1940's speak for "cougar". But she was like 24 in that movie and hot, so...nice try.

But I digress. I like seeing my family once in a while. Getting together just for the hell of it instead of a required holiday gathering has been better for me, though. I don't know why we put pressure on ourselves during the holidays. Maybe it's because it's better when we want to as opposed to when we have to? Regarding anxiety and stress, the easiest Christmas I went through was during the worst time of my life when I was strung out on heroin. A friend gave me a couple of xanax to make it through a couple of days. So I showed up at our huge family gathering with tons of kids running around, and I sat down on the couch and fell asleep. I woke up, got food, fell asleep. Woke up, people were opening presents, fell asleep. Woke up, it was time to go. That was pretty awesome. Relatively speaking.

Last year, I was locked up in jail and then treatment from September until March. That means I missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and Valentine's Day. And it was...a relief! WHEW! Let me tell need a break from the stress of the holidays, get yourself into custody! I didn't have to buy shit or fake small was beautiful.

I did miss seeing my family in the end. Also, another benefit of being locked up is the bar is set really low for you at the next holiday gathering.

"So, John, are you working?"
"Yes, I wash dishes."
"Oh, look at you! All employed and not incarcerated!" or "Nice to see you upright and conscious!" or "Look who's breathing!"

If you're like me and you aren't a fan of the holidays...just remember to see your family if you can...for them. It's not for you. I know a lot of you enjoy the holidays after you see your kin by going to your bar and swapping "my family is insane" stories with your bar friends over pints and shots. Do that. Make that your tradition, because that's what makes the holidays great...being with those you want to love...after you spend time with the ones you have to love.

Just remember...when your family say "I'm fine."