Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Excerpt 06

(Excerpt #6 firm "It Seemed Funny at the Time) rough
-New Years Eve 1990-

The evening progressed and more drops hit more tongues, as more comedians showed up. Danny Woodburn graced us with his presence and promptly grabbed a wand I had carved, which was a staff for him, and launched into a four-hour improv performance. At 4’1” tall, his impression of a Captain Kirk doing Shakespeare was impossible to not laugh at.

Each performer had to make a signature entrance to announce that their comedy brand was in the house. Holztman came in with a contingency of Bay area comics. Among them were Lance Solo and Jim Tripp, who had just moved to town. He entered, looking at the room like a cop busting a party and started his rant: “What have we got here? A bunch of freaks! Dope smokin’ ass grabbin’ degenerates. Animals! Each and every one of ya! Holtzman in this mode had the presence of a bear, likely spiking the adrenal glands of those uninitiated in the Holtzman experience.
-rare photo of Holtzman in the wild-

We had a fire in the fireplace and there was a big circle of people in the living room involved in a good “crack” session, as the Irish would call it. Stories, banter, good-natured jabs and witty exchanges flew back and forth and around the room in rapid fire. I sat next to Tommy and Dale to check in. They were both having a good time, sporting perma-grins and beers on their chins. Tommy seemed more relaxed though. Dale was tight; legs squeezed together, arms to his side, and he had lost his neck somewhere.

(The next day I discovered the reason for Dales rigidity. As the drug began to take effect, Tommy kept sniffing the air. Eventually Dale asked him what he was doing.
“Just checking” Tommy replied.
“Checking for what?”
“Didn’t Dark tell you?” Tommy asked sincerely.
“Tell me what?”
“About the acid-shits.”
“Acid shits? What are you talking about?” Dales concern rising.
“Dark said that sometimes when you laugh on acid you shit your pants. “
“Don’t worry about. Apparently all the trippers know about it, no one will think any less of you if it happens.”
Tommy had dropped a mind bomb on Dale who spent the rest of the night on a permanent keegle.)

The out of towners were happy to be relegated to audience, except Daphne’s boyfriend Theo, whom I didn’t know so well. He had strong self-esteem for no reason that I could discern. He was an honors student at Colorado University, and probably an only child. He seemed to have no real interpersonal skills. Every time he would open his mouth the banter ball would drop out of play. He would try to match the energy of the exchange, but with no relevance. Finally, after Theo had demonstrated his oblivion to the scene beyond a doubt, Woodburn suggested that Theo take a few steps back. Theo smiled and did so, placing him close to the fireplace. Woodburn suggested that he take a few more steps back, and, delighted to be at the center of attention, he steeped up to the edge of the ashes, smiling. Woodburn directed him to step back just a little more, and he did, pushing the heels of his boots into the hot coals, still smiling. Mind you, he was one of the few that weren’t tripping. This left Danny a little stumped, as Theo’s back was against the chimney. Then someone said, “Too bad he’s not your size Danny, then the joke would have a punch line. Everybody laughed and the room resumed the joviality.

The next time Theo brought the room to a pause with some randomness, Danny started taping the wand on the floor, chanting “Geek’s in the fire! Geeks in the fire!!

Theo decided to pick on the most obvious target in the room to crack on, La La Land. His comments were unmemorable, but had the mean undertone of judgment and pettiness. La La was a diplomat and neutralized his comments without returning the energy before Danny would tamp and chant “Geek’s in the fire “ again.

The boys form Boston had been locked shoulder to shoulder on the couch all evening, wide eyed and smiling at the psychedelic circus before them, until they saw Theo picking on La La. They were prepared to take him into the yard and teach him some respect, but La La neutralized them as well. At a particular high point in the room rantings, Theo did it again. There was a nice topical ping-pong session rolling on, when Theo announced that he could name all the contents that were pumped out of Elvis’s stomach the day he died. There was the usual stunned pause, then the tamping and chanting by Danny. I told Theo that I was very interested in that information and grabbed a mock pen and paper. He smiled and started listing pharmaceuticals. I mimed writing the list, hoping he would get that I was mocking him, but he didn’t. He was the center again, and glad to stay there as long as he could, no matter the means.

La La and I went into the kitchen for a drink and a puff. I apologized for Theo’s behavior and expressed my desire to fully trounce him next time he jabbed at her. La asked me if I’d ever had problems with bullies in high school.

“Sure, I was a nerdy beanpole and got shoved around by the football players on occasion.’
“They were stronger than you?” she followed.
“So they were abusing their power at your expense, then?”

I knew where she was going. La La worked the late hours as a psychic hotline operator. She was used to dealing with the gullible and dimwitted, and she did it with grace. Sometimes I would hang in her living room in the wee hours and listen to her sessions on speakerphone.

“I wanna know who my girlfriend is with, where they are, and what they’re doing!” one caller belted out one night. La managed to broaden his concept of the psychic world, placate him, and actually give him useful information (about himself), and the guy hung up feeling better, in spite of the $1.99 a minute he’d been shelling out for the last half hour (and not finding his girlfriend).

To win against a weaker rival was no victory. You become what you fight. She made her point.

It was approaching midnight and the atmosphere was peaking. When I returned to the living room, Woodburn was in the middle of the circle with the wand performing dramatic mute theatrics to the classical music blaring on the stereo. I leaned against the doorframe with Laszlo and took in the whole scene. I became a perceiving unit taking in the whole environment. I could focus my hearing on one bedroom and hear their conversations, or the kitchen, or the other bedroom.

I asked Laszlo how he was doing. “Man, I was looking in the mirror and I became Bruce Springsteen! I’m really serious!” As I was laughing, I looked through the living room window and saw a couple of low-riders with their headlight off pull slowly up the street. Laszlo noticed them as well and we watched as they stopped in front of our house and just sat there. Then, at a climatic rise in the Wagner piece, skinheads came running down the driveway across the street and the Cholos burst forth from the cars into a street brawl. Woodburn didn’t see the fight, but spontaneously launched into a fencing scene with the music. One Nazi’s head went through the back window of the station wagon of the neighbor family. “Is this really happening man?” Laszlo said, transfixed. I had to wonder myself. The silent race riot in the street was framed squarely in the picture window. Viewed from inside it seemed far away and removed from the raucous noise of the engaged jokers ringing the fencing dwarf, who was engaged in battle with the invisible.

Flight of the Valkyries couldn’t drown out the shots fired a moment later by the family man standing in the toys. The low-riders loaded up and reversed into the New Year with smoking tires, and the comedians had fresh fodder for the next hour.

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