I've been wanting to write to you guys for awhile and let you know that I am still hard at work on my finale podcast episode. It has been, I believe, almost two months since I started this one and, as I mentioned before, it has consumed my life.
But I believe I may be in the home stretch now. I have another 1-2 minutes to write and then a curtain call before going through another run-through to put in supplemental sound effects and what not. My pragmatic estimation is that it may be ready in a week. Hopefully no longer than that.
I will be grateful to have this completed. I feel so out of touch with the world, sometimes it makes me sad to realize it has been so long since I talked to you.
I force myself into periods of isolation to create because in that isolation I get to meet my subconscious face to face. He/she is the wellspring of all creativity.
This project is. . .well, I don't even know how I feel about it anymore. I don't feel like I wrote it. I feel like it's being written through me. It is, in short, a violent explosion of the subconscious lasting 60 minutes.
It is probably the darkest piece I have ever written--or was ever written through me--and, to me, that means it is one of the funniest. I have always found such humour in the dark.
I don't know what else to say right now. In the coming days, I may post another blog on how it should be listened to or what the general theme or concept behind it is. Right now, I still don't want to give away anything.
To be honest, I am surprised I am still alive. This work is so emotionally taxing and I have never learned--or have never wanted to learn how to "balance". I like the dirt and grime that comes from starvation and obsession. Showers mean so much more when you haven't had one for days. Food tastes so much better when you've skipped three meals in a row. And I can't tell you how good sex is gonna feel one of these days.
Well, that's all I have to say for now. I am tired, but I am going to work for another two hours before resting.
I love you all and I will speak to you again very soon.
Friday, April 18, 2008
To all the new-age prophets of global commerce, repeat after me:
"The US Marines who landed on Iwo Jima were BRAVER than college students with clipboards,
The US Marines who landed on Iwo Jima were BRAVER than college students with clipboards,
The US Marines who landed on Iwo Jima were BRAVER than college students with clipboards."
Now, roll over and assume Raped Lamb position. Repeat after me:
"The Japanese empire was a greater threat to American security than carbon footprints,
The Japanese empire was a greater threat to American security than carbon footprints,
The Japanese empire was a greater threat to American security than carbon footprints."
Now exhale and repeat:
"Al Gore is a politician, not a scientist.
Al Gore is a politician, not a scientist.
Al Gore is a politician, not a scientist."
Doesn't reality feel nice?
Posted by Will Franken at 11:46 AM
Monday, April 07, 2008
I am back in San Francisco for a few more days after having performed over the weekend at the Purple Onion in North Beach.
My trip so far: (PERFORMANCE-WISE)
1. The 8pm Friday show was aces. I felt very comfortable and was having a lot of fun acting my stuff out. Really in the moment, you know. Even got a standing-o. That was nice.
2. The 10pm Friday show was interesting. Putting together the set list for this one was tricky. For some reason--and I didn't realize this at the time--I had written a fifty minute set that dealt very heavily with gender in the first half and very heavily with race in the second half. I believe this is because I am being called upon by my own subconscious to publicly dissect and ridicule the absurdist gender/race circus that postmodern liberalism has devolved into. The set was extremely dark in content. I didn't realize exactly how dark until I was midway through delivering it. I will have to explain more in a later blog. At any rate, my subconscious seems to be crying out in loneliness at some unnamed phantasms and the snowballing cries of disenfranchisement from tightly-knit "communities" make life all the more lonely as a rugged individualist scrounging in the dumpsters of a globalized marketplace.
Following the scripted portion of the show, I "riffed" (as we call it in the world of comedy) for almost 40 minutes. Since moving back to New York, I have started to enjoy riffing immensely. And I have done enough riffs by now to be able to judge them on an individual basis. That is, I can look back at each riff and honestly answer the question, "Was I just blowing off steam in fitful and ugly bursts of anger or did I have something valid to say?" On this particular night, I felt that I could comfortably stand by everything that I said in my riff. The only problem was, I seemed unable to shut up. I did not want to leave the stage. This is because I am very lonely these days. I look at a good audience like a best friend I don't want to say goodbye to just yet. But eventually I had to.
Afterwards a bunch of people went over to a bar called Spec's (sp?) and I felt very alone as I found myself ping-ponging back and forth, through no effort of my own, between numerous conversations of which I wanted to have no part. I only wanted to be alone. When I am alone I only want to be alone. And I was very alone that night, surrounded as I was by many people.
3. The 8pm Saturday show left something to be desired. This was one of the "staring and smiling" crowds that I get from time to time. With my type of performance, I get a lot of smilers and starers. This used to bother me, but not so much anymore. I realize now that I move very fast on stage and leave little time to laugh for people who don't want to miss the next few lines. But sometimes, when an entire audience is composed of smilers and starers, it can make me a little. . .oh, nervous at first. . .then sad, I guess. Curiously, the one thing that did get laughs was the one piece I thought wouldn't get any: my new impersonation of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
4. The 10pm Saturday show, like the 8pm Friday show, was aces as well, although I did recognize a lot of familiar faces in the crowd at this one. Therefore, the critical superego part of my psychology--the reigning one, actually. I have little in the way of id, contrary to many people's first impression of me--failed to let me enjoy the success to the fullest because I always feel it's a greater challenge to make complete strangers laugh. Although, again, I am grateful to what I believe was a top-notch audience at this show.
My trip so far: (GIRL-WISE)
About two or three months ago, I decided that I should probably just go ahead and deaden myself emotionally to women. There seems to be a lot of undefined sadness in that department for me right now and although I salute the efforts of the youthful purveyors of "hope", I find I can get along much better without it. It used to bum me out in New York when I would do shows and pretty girls would compliment me on my performance afterwards and I either couldn't ask them out because I was too shy or I'd ask them out and they'd say no--so I've discovered that the "being dead inside" approach to women seems to provide me with the greatest substitute for intimacy these days.
So I was still comfortably dead inside after the 10pm Saturday show. Following the set, I ran upstairs to have a cigarette and my friend Jim who had been filming said to me, "Hey, you know that pretty Russian waitress downstairs? You should go up to her, man."
I think I am a girl sometimes. Because when I hear stuff like this in reference to pretty young Russian waitresses in Italian North Beach clubs, I feel a kind of tingly excitement all over my emotional parts. My penis gets all multicultural. My ears perk up and I want to learn more.
But as a lonesome cowboy looking to survive another goddamn day in this miserable postmodern world, I carefully avoid registering excitement. I just kind of hunch over and smoke my cigarette and say something cynical like, "Yeah, whatever."
"No, seriously. I was talking to her and I was like, 'You're probably tired from the show running so late' and she said, 'No, I like being here. I like the comedian.'"
This obviously can't impress a comedian like myself who's dead inside, tumbleweeds a' blowin' o'er the yellow dust of his soul. "Yeah, she probably just likes my comedy. Whatever."
"Seriously, man. I'd go up to her."
I hunched over some more and squinted as I smoked, "Whatever. Life is bullshit." And then, not quite ready to throw in the towel just yet, "What else did she say?"
"You know, just that she liked the comedian."
"She liked the comedian, you say?"
I had told my friend Lev earlier that I would meet him and some of his friends at a nearby coffee and dessert place, "The Steps Of Rome", following the late show. So I went back downstairs and found Marina--for that was her name--cleaning up at the bar. Attempting a different approach for once, I decided not to ask Marina to do anything, but to tell her what I was going to do.
I told her that I was going over to "The Steps Of Rome". She told me that she had a friend who worked over at "The Steps Of Rome". I told her that when she was finished at the club she should come over to "The Steps Of Rome". She told me that she might go over later and see her friend at "The Steps Of Rome".
And so I went over to "The Steps Of Rome". Just like I told her I would.
There, I met my friend Lev and Mollie and another girl whose name eludes for the moment. I was also with another friend, Mike. (More on him to come). We entered into a discussion about my impersonation of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Lev had enjoyed the piece. The girl whose name eludes me for the moment had not. In polite tones, she told me that I had the cadence and the voice down, but, in her opinion, there really wasn't much in the way of a satirical statement. I explained the statement behind the piece by recalling one of its central lines:
WILL: (AS REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT)"We bombed Hiroshima! We bombed Nagasaki! We bombed the Nazis!"
I explained that by adding "Nazis" to the original litany of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the tables are turned on Rev. Wright's anti-Americanism. That is, if one still believes, as I do, that bombing the Nazis was a good thing. In addition, I was comically attempting to shed a non-relativistic light on what Hiroshima and Nagasaki were really all about. Not about racism against yellow-skinned people, as relativistic rewrites would have us believe, but about a war-weary America, sick to death of the continuous bloody fighting following a Victory over Europe and of an obtuse Imperial Japanese Army that persistently refused to surrender despite being told not only of the existence of an atomic bomb, but of America's willingness to use it.
The girl whose name eludes me for the moment disagreed and she, Lev, and I entered into a polite discussion about moral relativism versus absolute morality. For my part, I attempted to delineate the Kantian notion that "right" and "wrong" are innate ideas embedded within the individual like a binary code. And though societally, as "right" and "wrong" become amorphous over time, within the individual, they nevertheless remain fixed and permanent. Consequently, to truly ascertain what is "right" and what is "wrong", one must shed the accumulated layers of relativistic confusion in order to lay bare the absolute morality lying beneath the surface.
Therefore, I argued that the present postmodern societal definitions of "right" and "wrong" are as follows:
1) To be "wrong" in today's society is to believe in "right" and "wrong".
2) To be "right" in today's society is to not believe in "right" and "wrong".
At this point in the discussion, I suddenly noticed that the pretty Russian waitress Marina had come to "The Steps Of Rome"! Lev, myself, and the rest of us had been seated at an upper-level table in the cafe and so I had a direct view of the floor below where I saw Marina talking to her aforementioned friend--another pretty brunette Slavic waitress. All of a sudden, Marina and her friend both looked up at me and smiled and, boy, did I get nervous.
You see, I had just assumed, in keeping with my natural pessimism, that Marina wasn't going to come. And what's worse--I was really starting to enjoy this discussion on moral relativism. The girl I was arguing with wasn't bad-looking herself and I always get slightly turned on at the slim possibility of converting a relativist. However, my deepest fetishes will always be either a pretty girl who has all the right opinions or a pretty girl who has no opinions at all. It's too much foreplay to argue ontology.
I didn't know what sort of opinions Marina had, but she was pretty enough to make me want to learn more.
So I smiled nervously at both Marina and her friend and they smiled back at me.
And then appeared the most destructive enemy on any battlefield: Indecision. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do. Should I stand up and motion for her to join us? Or should I just be polite and let her talk to her friend? Why is she here? To see me or to see her friend? Goddamnit! Why is this shit so fucking difficult?
Ironically, I guess you could say that I didn't know what the "right" or "wrong" thing was to do in this situation. When it comes to the fairer sex, disdain for moral relativism aside, that particular morality has always been pretty amorphous to me. Between fliers for sex-positive erotic poetry readings and the "subversion of the reigning patriarchy"--who can really tell these days?
At any rate, I decided to let Marina talk to her friend and come up if and when she felt like it. I'm not sure if I decided this because I thought it would reflect some sort of old-world colonial politeness or because I am by nature scared of pretty women. Writing this now, I think I should have asked her to come up and join me. Mainly because, in the end, she did not come up and join me.
As a matter of fact, after sheepishly looking down at my cup of coffee following that awkward smile of recognition, I looked up to see she had gone. My eyes scanned the room as I sat in my safe perch at the upper-level table overlooking the main floor. Maybe she did just want to come up and say hi to her friend. Maybe she's taking a piss. And then, a very depressing and recurring thought, Maybe I should have stood up and motioned for her to join us.
I found that the unexpected appearance of Marina at "The Steps Of Rome" had rendered me useless in any further discussion on the validity of moral relativism. Where did she go? Should I have stood up and motioned for her to join us? Who can I ask? Aw, what's the point now?
Compounding matters, the DJ had just cranked up some digital vomit at top volume and those of us engaged in the discussion on postmodern ethics could no longer hear each other. This is why I've always lost arguments on absolute morality with young women in San Francisco. I can imagine some jealous DJ staring at us off in the distance. He sees that I'm just about to convert her out of moral relativism and back into the age of chivalry and romance and then--wham!--he hits us over the ears with the ultimate statement in cultural relativism: techno.
I am therefore rendered culturally impotent by the penetrating thrust of mass-market inferiority.
Good ol' Lev! He, too, was bothered by the noisome blast and so he settled up with the waitress at the counter downstairs. He then returned and suggested that it was pointless to continue the conversation given the present auditory climate. We got up to leave and made our way down to the main floor.
And, to my surprise, obscured by a large potted plant, there was Marina the pretty Russian waitress! Right there the whole time, sitting by herself at a table for two, drinking a glass of red wine!
I nervously approached her, unsure if I was supposed to have been down there with her the whole time or, again, if I should have stood up and motioned for her to join us in the first place. I cleared my throat and tapped her arm. "Hey! " I shouted, "it's funny. . .we. . .we were trying to talk about moral relativism up there!"
"But then they turned on this music and now we. . .we can't really talk about moral relativism!"
She continued to smile. She might have even nodded politely a few times.
"Cause it's hard to. . .you know, to talk about moral relativism when it's so loud!"
I couldn't gauge anything from her expression. She said nothing. She just kept smiling the whole time. Real perty-like.
"So I think my friends and I. . .you know, we're gonna go somewhere else that isn't so loud. . .so we can, you know. . .talk about moral relativism!"
Again, she smiled and said nothing.
And so I left "The Steps Of Rome" very confused about what had just transpired and where I was ultimately heading in this wretched little life of mine.
On top of this, Lev and his friends had to leave anyway and so even the current argument on moral relativism would have to wait until another day. Yet--small mercies--I was grateful to be away from the techno, or whatever bastard offspring sub-genre that had been. I entered a nearby deli and bought a pack of cigarettes and felt very alone.
So I made my way to another place in North Beach, "The Grasslands". There, I met my friend Jonah and his friend Andrew. "The Grasslands" is one of my favorite places in San Francisco because the jukebox plays good older music at a level where you can actually have a conversation, the bartender is a kindly Asian woman named Diana who puts spicy beef jerky and peanuts out for the customers, and the best part is, despite being in the heart of tourist-heavy North Beach, there's never anybody else there!
Even on a Saturday night!
It's the ideal social situation for me!
Its green awning is the best part. In pidgin grammar, it reads:
Grasslands: Where good friends and girls meet.
The implication is comical. That is, read one way, it seems to say that girls cannot be good friends. Either between themselves or with men. Don't get me wrong. I don't think that was the original intent behind the phrasing. I just think the owners didn't know their English that well. Still, reading it out loud always makes me chuckle.
Inside, myself, Jonah, Andrew, and our friend Mike (More on him to come)--along with Diana the bartender and Grasslands regular Kim, (an elderly Asian man extremely well-versed in movie and music trivia)--were the only ones there on that Saturday night.
We all watched a movie on the bar television called The Beguiled. I had never seen it before. It takes place during the Civil War and stars Clint Eastwood as a wounded Union soldier who's being cared for by members of a small Southern all-girls boarding school. Eventually, Clint seduces the young girls who are looking after him as he convalesces, evoking the headmistress's jealousy--who somehow manages to amputate his leg in revenge. It's a pretty thrilling roller coaster of pre-feminist cinema that I later discovered had garnered more than a few positive reviews in its day.
During the movie, I told the guys about what had transpired earlier with Marina, the pretty Russian waitress, and how I wasn't sure if I should have stood up and motioned for her to join me. They all proceeded to tell me that yes, I should have stood up and motioned for her to join me and that I was a fool and that I had blown a chance and that it was too late to do anything about it now.
I felt extremely lonely at this point. I wished at that moment that I could be as courageous with women as I was with my comedy.
I temporarily took my mind away from the sad thoughts by focusing on the movie.
Clint Eastwood eventually strikes back at the women for stealing his leg by killing the youngest girl's pet turtle. The women later get revenge by feeding Clint poisonous mushrooms for dinner. Shortly thereafter, he dies.
It was comforting for me in my melancholic mindset to see a very sinister portrayal of females at that moment. Ha! I gloated internally, I'll never be fed poisonous mushrooms by pretty girls in the Confederate south! I'll be here in this little hole-in-the-wall bar with my good friends watching Clint Eastwood get fed poisonous mushrooms by pretty girls in the Confederate south!
Yes. A Pyrrhic victory indeed.
My trip so far: (GETTING TO WHERE YOU'RE GOING-WISE)
After The Beguiled ended, Diana closed up the bar and my friend Mike offered me a ride. "I can take you back to where you're staying on Pine Street if you don't mind walking a little bit to my car."
That sounded good. I never turn down a free ride in San Francisco. The hills are atrocious and the public transit system isn't much better. Especially being as how it was near 2 a.m. and the public transit system was shut down anyway. (More on this later)
So I walked with Mike to his car. Straight up the steepest hill I had ever climbed. It never ended. It took fifteen minutes to reach the top. And when we got to the top, we walked some more. A whole lot more. And it was all uphill.
I was lugging a bunch of props in a Macy's bag with one arm and holding on to a large sketchpad with the other. It was freezing outside. That deceptive San Francisco cold that always hits you when and where you least expect it.
After twenty-five minutes or so, Mike stopped. I assumed this was a sign that the car was near. Instead, he scratched his chin and said, "Let's see. Now this is where the streets zig-zag a bit. So if I remember correctly, I think the car should be--"
It was at that point, that I regrettably realized I could have walked to and from where I was staying in the same amount of time.
We continued onwards, going towards the direction of the ocean, at least two entire neighborhoods away. After every block, Mike would say something at once ominous and encouraging like, "Yeah, if we keep going, I'm sure it's on this next street over--"
After twenty more minutes of scaling the streets, I suggested the possibility that I might need to call a cab. I've been doing a lot of drifting over the past year and whenever I get a stable place to crash for a few days--like the place I'm staying at right now on Pine Street--I like to spend as much time there as possible, because God only knows where I'll be tomorrow. More and more these days, I feel time slipping away from me. I was anxious to get back, lie down, and read some more of William Manchester's The Glory and the Dream, perhaps the greatest narrative history of America I have ever read. I truly think Manchester was an unrivaled genius of non-fiction. But this is a separate blog entry altogether.
At any rate, Mike and I kept walking in search of his elusive car. Still, after each block, just as I was getting ready once again to politely ask to borrow his phone so I could call a cab--(my battery had died earlier)--he would beat me to the punch, "Maybe if it's not on the next block, you should call a cab."
So I held off for a few more blocks, gritting my teeth at that point. Soon, we found ourselves at the intersection of Hyde and Lombard Streets, one of the highest points in San Francisco. Under any other circumstances, the view would have been breathtaking. Yet it was now three in the morning. I was freezing and exhausted. And way down below, twinkling as mere specks, I could see the depressingly distant lights of North Beach--the neighborhood where this doomed search had all began. How I longed to be even there at that moment! For now I was so far removed from my place on Pine Street, it was hard to be grateful for the offer of a free ride anymore.
The lonesome sight of those distant neighborhood lights sealed the deal. I borrowed Mike's phone to call a cab. I'm not sure if he ever found the car.
My trip so far: (NEW YORK VERSUS SAN FRANCISCO-WISE)
This is the point in the story where I complain a little bit.
When I arrived at the San Francisco airport, I had to take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) into the city. I have always been very anti-BART from the first day I came to San Francisco back in 2002.
Unlike the NY subway system, the BART shuts down at midnight. True, after certain hours, the NY subways run a little slower. But the BART shuts completely down. Therefore, if you happen to be visiting friends in Oakland or Berkeley and you're relying on the BART to get you back into San Francisco, you've got to be Cinderella and get to the station before it turns into a pumpkin. Otherwise, you're pretty much fucked. Even worse is when your plane lands at the airport after midnight.
Native San Franciscans have always tried to sell the fact that, yes, the BART may not run all the time, but at least it's "clean". I don't care about clean. I like filthy trains with fast-food wrappers and piss stains that run twenty-four hours a day.
Also, the BART does not charge a flat fee. You pay more according to how far you're going. This is why you have to hold on to your card in order to get off at your destination. If I buy a ticket to Civic Center Station, for example, and a friend suggests I wait two stops and get off with him at 24th Street Station, I can't leave the station at 24th until I go over to a machine, stick in my BART card, add some more money to the already overpriced ticket, and then swipe it through the turnstile just for the privilege of leaving the station.
I've always thought this was stupid. This is why I generally jump the turnstile in situations like these. The attendants in the glass booth are usually asleep anyway. When they are awake, their only job, as far as I've been able to figure it out, is to point at a row of machines and say, "Go use the machines."
I have been told by many BART apologists that the reason the BART does not stay open around the clock is because there aren't enough people to keep it running 24 hours a day. I always point out that the BART employees don't really seem to do much work besides pointing at machines and saying "machine". And anyway, why not give the city's massive homeless population some jobs?
For San Francisco is literally infested with homeless people. I'm sorry. I don't know of any polite way to put it. It is an infestation. Almost every neighborhood, barring perhaps the more fru-fru gated communities of Pacific Heights, is infested with the homeless.
And I've always known why this is: San Franciscans are extremely polite to their homeless people. Nowadays in New York, homeless people are proportionally rare given the size of the city. When they are visible, propped up against the wall of a Times Square subway platform, commuters simply step over them and keep moving because there really isn't any time to stop and engage in any sort of meaningful dialogue with the homeless. In a New York minute, it's almost inconceivable to devote precious seconds to a dreadlocked girl sitting on a skateboard tending to a mangy dog on a rope.
Yet here, young Mission hipsters know their local homeless people by name and give generously. Upper-class middle-aged women in Nob Hill open their purses and when they find they can't give more than a dollar or two at that very instant, they end up apologizing to the homeless person. Periodically, whenever it's a slow news day, the Chronicle will write a front page op-ed piece on the problems facing San Francisco's homeless (as if the homeless themselves weren't a problem). In 2002, there was a city relief program implemented called "Care Not Cash", the gist of which was to eventually replace monetary assistance to the homeless (often spent on drugs or booze) with housing. Many homeless advocates complained the program was unfair and incredulously asserted that diverting cash relief into housing projects would undermine a person's basic "right to be homeless". Yes, there has always been a great deal of confusion on what to do with the homeless in this town.
I was about 16 when I met my first San Franciscan. He was a drifter in his early forties named "Jack" who was blowing through Sedalia, Missouri on his way someplace back East. We smoked a joint outside of a Fast Break convenience store. He told me his life story and I told him mine, which wasn't much at the time--basically just a lot of confusion and angst over what I was supposed to be doing with my life. Jack suggested that if I wasn't sure where I was going in life, I should go to San Francisco. He sold the city to me as a magical place where you could literally get off the bus and get right on city welfare the very same day. I don't know how much of that was true, but I find it telling now that the first sales pitch I received on San Francisco touted the city's tolerance for people who don't do anything.
The white homeless kids in the Upper Haight or the panhandle (appropriately named) of Golden Gate Park sneer and mutter "capitalist" when you don't throw them a few quarters or a cigarette. The black ones in the Tenderloin accuse you of racism when you refuse them spare change or express no interest in purchasing a copy of "Street Sheet" (the local homeless paper). And the middle-class body politic complains that you're unsympathetic when you express a desire to see the streets rid of them.
I get asked for a cigarette in New York about once every two weeks. In most neighborhoods in San Francisco, I have to shoo off an average of five bums in the seven minutes it takes to smoke one.
I remember once, as I was waiting outside of a Safeway supermarket for a friend, watching an able-bodied white girl in her early twenties, sitting cross-legged on the cement, asking every exiting customer, no matter how laden they were with groceries, for some money. Without fail, people would halt the trek out to their cars and unquestioningly hand her some cash. Finally, after seeing a young gay couple stop and meticulously set down their bags, pull out their wallets, open them up and hand her a few bills, my curiosity got the better of me.
As they walked by, I approached them, "Excuse me, do you mind if I ask why you just gave that girl some money?"
One of them let forth with a persnickety huff, "Uh. . .she asked for it."
"Well in that case, can I have some?"
For whatever reason, they didn't give me any. Just a quick snort at my evident insensitivity and with that, they were off to some undefined humanitarian haven.
This overly polite attitude towards the homeless also allows for another peculiarly San Franciscan societal phenomenon--the unsolicited conversation. There are no shortage of lice-infested black men wrapped in automobile carpets who won't shut up about how their granddaddy used to own the Bay Bridge or white-bearded and grizzled relics of the Woodstock generation who love to speak mysteriously to impressionable young college girls about "the three keys to the kingdom" that can "unlock the heart of the peace dragon" and "make the sunshine come beamin' through a heart-shaped eyeball!" Such Mansonesque soliloquies never fail to woo Berkeley or UCSF co-eds who feel like they're getting a real street-level education from an older and wiser generation.
The worst part, of course, is the assumption that you share the same politics.
"You're a comedian? Hey, you ever do anything about oil? I'd like to see a comedian talk about oil. About the whole oil thing, you know. Cause nobody's talking about the oil in all of this. I mean, the oil is what it's really all about. Oh, do you ever do any political stuff? Cause I'd also like to see somebody do something about how steel supposedly melted on 9-11! And put something about oil in it, too!"
My trip so far: (SAN FRANCISCO VERSUS NEW YORK-WISE)
In which the author speaks positively of San Francisco
But now here are some ways in which San Francisco is better than New York.
1. I got my start in this town. I think that's because San Franciscans have a thirst for things that aren't politically correct. Yet they don't necessarily know that they have this thirst. I've had this thirst ever since I first heard of the coming age of political correctness. I think I was around fourteen when I learned the term. I remember asking a friend what had happened to Andrew Dice Clay. (I was a big fan at the time, being only fourteen, and I noticed that the once-popular Clay seemed to be slipping below the comedy radar) My friend surmised that some new thing called "political correctness" was killing his career. (As it may one day kill mine. Or, who knows, perhaps yours.). So in many ways, San Francisco became a comedic battleground on which I engaged the two greatest nemeses of free speech: political correctness and her younger academic bitch-sister, multiculturalism.
2. Also, though I earlier railed against what I feel is an enabling attitude towards the homeless, I nonetheless have to acknowledge that when it comes to the arts, at least in my experience, San Franciscans are, thankfully, anything but stingy. In New York, everyone has an excuse for why they can't pay performers. High rent, bar expenses, some newfangled contraption called an "overhead". . . But the main reason they don't pay performers in New York is because too many performers are willing to work for free and too many club owners are more than happy to let them. The entertainment scene in New York, made even worse over the years by the proliferation of cable and the internet, is a whorehouse of indiscriminate thought.
The college kid who tosses off smirking references to 1980s pop culture or the deceptively cute little schoolgirl who talks about her penchant for dick get paid nothing. I have no problem with that. But I get paid nothing as well and that's a problem. The way I've always seen it--I should be paid something and they shouldn't. This is why I've always been a fan of some form of discriminate thought in the arts. In an arts scene not operating under a meritocracy, people like me tend to fail. It's like the illegal immigrant racket. Too many illegal immigrants are willing to work for slave wages and too many heads of big business are happy to let them. It's not about brown-skin, it's about economic viability. And in the comedy world, it's more economically viable to prey upon the whorishness of performers than to make educated and discriminating choices concerning the individual performers themselves. I didn't want to have to reveal my raging artistic ego and in San Francisco, I didn't necessarily have to. But New York has forced me to show an ugly side and I can't really say that I don't altogether enjoy this new liberated persona. For it has occurred to me over the past few months that I can say whatever I want about anything because nobody is paying me not to. That's how the game works: somebody pays you not to be original, somebody pays you not to ridicule Islam, somebody pays you not to say the word "nigger", ad infinitum.
For all future prospective New York bookers, my prices are as follows:
If you do not want me to say the word "nigger", the price is $5,000 for a six-month reprieve.
If you do not want me to ridicule Islam, the price is $5,000 for a two-month reprieve.
If you do not want me to be original, the buyout price for a period of two complete years of cookie-cutter material is $60,000.
If you were doing something original and good in San Francisco, it was possible to make some money doing it. Again, I say this because it happened to me. It wasn't a lot of money, but enough to encourage me to keep believing in this crazy dream until the next show. (The rhetorical power of money has always meant more to me than the money itself). Who knows--maybe if it weren't for the rampant politeness towards the homeless, I might never have succeeded out here. It's interesting to note that many of my early San Francisco reviews described me as "homeless-looking". I can't say that I would disagree. There'll always be time to wash myself later, so goes my line of thinking, but first I have to create something funny.
3. Cigarettes are cheaper. I plan on flying back with at least two cartons.
4. It's easier to find marijuana here, if that's your thing. I don't drink, so it's nice to be around a surplus of weed.
5. New York has no Mexican food. The best Mexican food I've ever had is at El Farolito near the 24th Street Bart Station. In fact, I may go back there tonight when I'm done with this.
Speaking of Mexican food, let me see if I can present a really good argument against globalization and multiculturalism in one fell swoop here. (This is my thing lately, illustrating the diabolical connection between the feel-good tenets of multicultural indoctrination and the culturally debilitating aspects of globalization)
In New York, it is not uncommon to see Chinese people selling Mexican food. A lot of people don't seem to mind the taste--black beans, some Pita-influenced tortilla bastardization, lots of unnecessary vegetables. But true Mexican food aficionados like myself want to see Mexicans cooking our Mexican food. Refried beans, deep fried tortillas and the whole deliciously unhealthy lot. This is one thing you can definitely get in San Francisco.
So here's how it should be: Chinese people make Chinese food. Mexican people make Mexican food. And as far as American food, any culture can make it, because that's what America is--a melting pot. Just don't melt it to the point where it becomes a meaningless, non-threatening, feel-good, tasteless gravy. After all, what do the Chinese know about burritos? And what do the Mexicans know about Dim Sum? Please, no more cultural erosion, I beg you.
My trip so far: (SUMMATION-WISE)
In summation, my trip so far has been filled with learning experiences. Here are two brief learning experiences I have enjoyed so far on my trip to San Francisco:
LEARNING EXPERIENCE #1
My friend Michael (no relation to Mike from earlier) offered me a place to crash over the weekend. He was going to stay with his girlfriend in Oakland and let me use his place to write out my set lists for the upcoming shows. He had only one rule: No smoking. At all. Even out the fire escape window.
Thinking he would be gone the entire weekend, I opened the fire escape window that night and held my arm out to have a cigarette. He came back early the next morning and smelled the smoke. "Will," he sniffed, "why does it smell like smoke in here?"
"It must be my jacket. The smoke gets all caught up in the fabric or something," I gulped. I don't like to lie, but I didn't know of a polite way to say that I had flagrantly ignored his one rule.
In no time at all, Michael discovered a pack of cigarettes near the open window and cigarette butts on the ground below. I confessed.
I learned a great moral lesson from this mishap. Not that smoking is bad. Hell, I'm gonna smoke until the day I die. Health has nothing to do with morality. For too many, health is a substitute for morality.
No, I learned that it's a bad thing to lie. Actually, I didn't really learn that. According to Kantian ethics, I already knew lying was bad because honesty has always existed within me (as it does in all of us) as an innate moral concept. That's the absolute morality I was attempting to espouse earlier. Honesty for honesty's sake. In my attempt at deceit, I selfishly acted outside of the parameters of my innate morality. And so, my clumsy human efforts to save face by claiming the jacket was the reason for the smell of smoke failed in relation to the underlying divinity within: the preexisting binary system of an absolute innate morality. God does not reside in the clouds, he resides within the human heart.
And besides, lying is dishonorable. This is wartime. We need all the honor we can get.
LEARNING EXPERIENCE #2
Last Sunday, I was standing outside "The Edinburgh Castle", a pub on Geary Street, after seeing my friend Mickey (no relation to either Mike or Michael from earlier) give a reading of his literary works, The Penman Chronicles.
The reading had just ended, so I was outside by myself, having a cigarette, surveying the sad neon sign of a corner liquor store and the crack addicts who stooped pathetically in its pink glow. Suddenly, the cutest little hooker I had ever seen walked by.
She looked just like a "hoodie chick"--you know, those cute little indie hipster girls who wear those hooded jackets and tight blue jeans? In other words, she didn't look anything like a hooker. Short blonde hair, hoodie, blue jeans. . .she looked just like a college girl.
But I knew she wasn't a college girl when she gave me a smile and said, "Are you having a nice night?"
Oh, that's such a sweet feeling. God, do I love that impromptu friendliness. You never get that with a real hoodie chick. Real hoodie chicks don't have this sort of old-world colonial politeness. "Yeah, it's not too bad. How's yours?"
She turned around and walked backwards, her hands thrust deep inside her hoodie pockets, as she continued talking, "Pretty good. If you got some money, I got some time."
I made out like I couldn't hear her. I knew exactly what she had said. I just wanted to see her up close when she said it again. "What's that?"
She stopped and walked back towards me, never losing that cute smile for an instant. She was so very different from any other hooker I've ever encountered. Not yet as spiritually beaten-down as your garden-variety prostitute. Or at least if she had been, she had obviously weathered it quite nicely. "I said if you got some money, I got some time."
I thought for a second--and only a second, for I know that time, like money, is precious to a hooker--and realized there wasn't much I could do. After all, I didn't have any money. But I liked her and I didn't want her to think that I was cheap, so I said vaguely and with a wry smile of my own, "Maybe if you came back in an hour. . ."
"In an hour?" she asked coyly, shifting her weight from one foot to the other.
"Yeah, maybe in an hour. I'm just hanging out with some friends in here right now."
"Okay, maybe I'll see you in an hour."
When she left, I'll admit, I had an erection. But this wasn't entirely sexual. It was something else. Something primal, something stretching back eons, touching the absolute source of something.
But then again, maybe that could describe all erections.
You see, I wasn't expecting to find any money for a hooker in an hour. But I did want to see her again. If only to have her smile at me once more and ask, "Are you still having a nice night?" Yes, that was probably the highlight of the evening, if not the entire trip--being asked how my night was going by a really cute hoodie-chick hooker. Because I knew after that brief interchange, that though things may seem hopeless in this life and my self-perception may be at an all-time low, at least cute hoodie-chick hookers will still be interested in how my night is going.
Of course, her interest in me was purely financial, I realize that. But if I had had the money to blow on a hooker, I would have blown a lot on this one. She was special, all right.
After seeing her turn the corner, I went back inside and tried to compliment Mickey on his performance. I had enjoyed the reading and tried to tell him so, but he kept interrupting me:
"Now he's doing his shtick again. I can never tell when you're serious!"
"I am serious, Mickey. I really enjoyed it."
"Will, you're always doing some sort of routine! How do I know when you're being sincere?"
"I am being sincere! I thought the writing was excellent. I keep trying to tell you--"
"Everything's always a comedy bit to you! Seriously, what'd you think of my reading?"
"I'm gonna have a cigarette."
So I went back outside. People have always had a hard time determining whether or not I'm sincere. Most of them assume that my sincerity is just another character.
I kept on the lookout for that cute hoodie-chick hooker. I really wanted to see her again. Oh, I know, I know. She hadn't really been sincere with me. That is, she hadn't really wanted to know how my night was going. But at least I knew that. For I have a hard time determining sincerity in others myself, especially within the mores of conventional postmodern society. With a hooker, you always know.
And with a little bit of knowledge, you can turn anything into a fantasy.
And that's the beauty of absolute morality.
My trip so far: (UPDATE-WISE)
I am still in San Francisco until tomorrow night. I never saw the hooker again. I started this thing a few days ago and am glad to see it is near completion. It's three in the afternoon on a Wednesday and I'm starving. Perhaps I will go to El Farolito and get some enchiladas.
When I return to New York, I will have to finish my latest podcast episode. I have 40 minutes of it near completion with about another 10-20 to go. I estimate I will require three to four weeks of constant work in order to finish, polish, and present it exactly the way it should be presented.
Posted by Will Franken at 8:08 PM