To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.
I knew that my writing might hurt some feelings of those in my family, but I naively believed that the things said for comedic effect would be taken with a grain of salt, and that the things said about my dad, though painful but true accounts of growing up, would be taken with the with the overall message of forgiveness that I was certain was pretty clear.
My dad texts:
Just watched your video, was very impressed and hurt but I know it’s all true, and your understanding of what I really thought I was doing for you is also true. I always believed being extra hard on you was the way to make you succeed. I can’t help but believe that some if it did help. I’ve always been very proud of your accomplishments and you amaze me even more with each of these shows. I told you before that a comedian that can write his own stuff and keep an audience entertained is probably the hardest thing to do, yet you do it, you are really amazing. The show was great and I really do believe you’re going to make it in acting in your lifetime. Love you, hurt a little but laughed a lot more than hurt.
I cried. I broke down in tears as I read what he wrote. He got it. He could see that this was my way of coming to terms with what’s happened in the past and that me being able to write about it was my way of saying I understand why you did the things you did and regardless of it all, I still love you.
Fast forward two days to a phone call received by my mother.
But I’m a humorist. I’m not a reporter, I never pretended to be a reporter.
Written and performed by Gary Walker
Developed with David Ford
David Fords Solo Class Performance, August 12th, 2013 The Marsh Theater, San Francisco
So today was a shit day. All around. Well, maybe not ALL around, but the majority of the day was an “Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day….” kind of day.
Thank god I didn’t get gum in my fucking hair.
My boss was out today, and gave me a handful of errands to run around the city. I nearly killed a bike messenger (twice…the same bike messenger both times on two different streets….) and had the absolute worst parking karma one could even begin to fathom.
I texted my boyfriend while out to say, “I should not be driving today….it’s not safe for me or for anyone else on the roads.”
Fast forward to the end of the work day, and me driving home through Chinatown to go home to feed my cat.
I took my eyes off the road for no more than 10 seconds and I find myself up the ass of a Honda Civic. I wasn’t going more than 15 mph, but her damn bike rack was installed in such a way that when I rear ended her, it shattered her back windshield. It sounded like a glass balloon popping.
“Are you drunk?!!?” she asked when I walked up to her window. Nope, not drunk. But a margarita is gonna be really fucking good after we deal with all this bullshit….
No one was hurt, thank god. And she was actually pretty cool. And I’m not just saying that because she told me I had great teeth. Only after she asked me if they were fake.
They’re definitely my real teeth.
She was cool, regardless of her being jealous of my teeth.
I’ve been working on getting some stories about my Grandma on paper. Below is a first pass of what I read for class last week. Quite frankly, it’s WAY too choppy for the stage, but there are some great things in here that I hope to be able to sprinkle in here and there to be able to include my Grandma in the big picture.
When I was just a boy, 6 or 7 years old, my grandma would take me to the Koffee Kup, spelled with two K’s. This cozy, old school diner in the heart of our little town. This was back when Hartford was still a bustling community, before Joe’s Pizza went out of business, before the drive-in had closed down, before the dozen or so family owned business that lined Main Street had closed their doors and shut down for good. This was when your neighbors were familiar faces that you’ve known for generations. This is when you could tell the waitress, “The usual please.” and she’d come back with a cup of coffee, decaf, for my grandma, with a plate of two eggs, over easy, two pieces of bacon, crispy, and two pieces of wheat toast with a small serving of smuckers grape jelly. And for me, an empty bowl and a small box of Kellog’s frosted flakes with a glass of milk…and a cup of decaf as well. As we ate, friends of grandma’s would say hi, “Mighty fine Grandson you got there Shirley, he’s gonna be quite the heartbreaker when he grows up, now isn’t he!”
GRANDMA: “Oh, he’s a good little man. Growing up so fast. Already drinking coffee too, don’t know where he got that from. Nice running in to you too Gene….Oh, and tell May that I’ll bring that book over to her this week. I’ve been meaning to drop it off. (will do Shirley, have a good day) You too now, you too.”
Grandma and I, we were thick as thieves. My dad had a rule, eat all your vegetables, or you’ll sit at the table until you do. I refused to choke down what my dad called, ‘green bean casserole’, this pig slop of soggy canned green beans, campbell’s cream of mushroom soup and those disgusting french fried onions. The longer I waited, the more I convinced myself that it was actually a mixture of 2 part human vomit and 1 part puppy diarrhea, making it absolutely inedible. I’d pout at the table for hours, and as soon as dad turned his back, my Grandma would swoop in with a fork and gobble up what I had only been able to spread around my plate.
Or the time my brother and sister were playing in the community room of the apartment building she lived in. The Woodside Apartments, a building for senior citizens. They would hang out down there, playing games or putting together puzzles and would sometimes get a little rowdy. One of the residents, a crotchety old woman who never really got along with my grandma to begin with, finally filed a formal complaint and we were no longer allowed to be down there without adult supervision. Grandma got so mad at the woman that she crept out of her apartment at 3:30 in the morning and sprayed a bottle of ketchup and a bottle of mustard all over the woman’s front door.
And, if I didn’t mention it to my dad, she’d let me buy a Butterfinger bar when she had me run in to Mitchell’s Market to buy her a new pack of Misty Light 120′s and a half pint of Jim Bean. Dewey Mitchell would tell me to hold the front door open so he could make sure to see my grandma parked outside, and she’d smile and wave at Dewey letting him know I was with her.
And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
I say that I can’t make anything up. I think of myself as a collage artist. I’m cutting and pasting memories of my life. And I say, I have to live a life in order to tell a life. I would prefer to tell it because telling you’re always in control, you’re like God.