Claiming Your Space

16 01 2017

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I have been running for over 20 years but won’t call myself a runner.

I’ve been playing piano since I was 7 but wouldn’t call myself a pianist.

I’ve been writing for 30 years but still hesitate to call myself a writer.

And yet with all of these things, I probably have reason to be more confident in those pursuits than I do with comedy, which I have been performing for much less time. Still, I am proud to call myself a comedian, if only reluctantly. It makes me happy.

The truth is, I am a working comedian. I am not working to where it can be my full time job and I’m not sure it ever will be but I get hired to do shows as if others comedians would and it goes well. As I mentioned to another comedian friend, I am at a place where even if it doesn’t go as well as I would have hoped, I feel like I have earned a right to take the stage and I can hold my own. This isn’t an ego thing. It’s just a hard work thing.

I don’t think that unless you have been part of this mind-game that is stand-up comedy you could really understand what that means. It’s like my daughter learning a new dance step. The whole step may take seconds but it can take weeks or months to even get to the point where it’s “in the ballpark.” It’s the same with comedy.

This may be the first positive comedy revelation I have had about myself and though I have no idea if things will progress or not, it really is ok. I am enjoying myself and meeting some really wonderful people and learning to be more confident based on what I know and not what others might think they know about me.

It reminds me a little of losing weight or “getting in shape.” The advice is to not focus on the scale so much (what the scale “thinks” it may know about your health) and focus more on how you feel and even may look (what you, yourself, know). I don’t know – I’m rambling. I just watched “Primal Fear” with my kids (saw it 20 years ago – what a great movie) and my mind is still sort of blown so this is what you get.

I guess the purpose of this blog is to say that we all have a right to claim to be who we are and not just what we do but why we do it. I am an artist, a songwriter, a writer and yes, even a runner, and all of these things funnel up to the dad, brother, son and friend I am. It sort of works that way. Don’t limit yourself. Claim your space. It’s yours. You own it.

Until next time,

Marc

 

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Riding in Cars with Budding Adults

4 10 2016

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My 8th grade daughter was talking with me tonight in the car. It seems like the car rides are when the best conversations with my kids happen. That’s part of the reason I never really mind schlepping them from one place to another (though that’s my secret).

She asked me if, when I was in school, I ever had any friends that I thought might be gay. I said yes. I didn’t ask her why because it seemed like a pretty transparent question.

We talked a bit more about it, maybe for 5 to 10 minutes with zero uncomfortableness. I told her how different it is now than when I was in school if you are different – not necessarily easier but definitely it seems a bit more acceptable, at least where we live.

Luckily, for me, she is not a boy crazy 8th grade girl. Her friends are over the house right now as I write this playing Adele on the piano and planning a silly dance routine to videotape with their iPhones. I love that this is her experience right now and am very grateful for it.

I didn’t press our conversation any further than she wanted to take it at the time, (something I learned from first experiencing the nuances of teenage-parent relations from her older brother). However, later in the evening, I walked upstairs to her room before her friends got here and told her that I just want her to know that I don’t care who she ends up loving as long as she is happy and a good person.

It was sort of funny because she knew I would do that. She confided she had a crush on a boy a year ago or so but, to use her words, “I have no idea what I’m going to be like.” That is one of the greatest gifts a dad could hear – the freedom your own child expresses when facing her future – a moment free from the never-ending mound of expectations that accompany so many children transitioning into young adulthood.

This is something I am learning to give myself, finally, and if, decades earlier than for me, I can help make my kids think that their sense of self is not something that is given but rather is a given, then I can forgive myself most of the many, many mess-ups I make along the way.

A world of people who feel good about themselves would be a much different place than the one we live in today.

Until next time,

Marc





Denny’s, LinkedIn and Lost Moments

30 09 2016

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I received a LinkedIn message a while ago that simply said “how are you?” Thinking this was just someone I had met at a conference who might be looking for a job, business, etc., I chose to ignore it. (Nice, I know.)

Then, a couple of days ago, I happened to see that this same person wrote another message. It went like this:

“I have to let you know, a lot of my success and my future adventures I owe in (part) thanks to you. When we all ate dinner at Denny’s you, Kim and Eric…I finally felt like I belonged for the first time in my miserable life, and I spilled my water and apologized profusely. Again later as we were all friends (you were all older than me) you sang “All the leaves are brown, the sky is grey” outside the libray (sic) with Kim and you took her teddy bear and pretended to Die againt (sic) the brick wall in such comedic fashion. These moments really became one of the many cornerstones in my life, about friendship and such enjoyment !! I just wanted to let you know you had an impact on my life, since highschool had been horrible to me. Then, my future exploded 🙂 thanks !!”

I thought this was a fantastic message (and though he went on to be an Emmy nominated computer animator and this seemed like an interesting contact to have), he had clearly thought I was someone else. Although Denny’s made me think of college (and many post drunken escapade patty melt excursions) plus the fact that I am a huge fan of the Mamas and Papas, I had convinced myself that he had the wrong person. These facts were merely coincidences. Feeling bad that this person reached out to me with such a heartfelt message that was misdirected, I felt compelled to email him back to let him know both that he had a case of mistaken identity and to not feel as if he were being ignored:

“Hi (name withheld)- that is a great email – I only wish I were with you, Kim and Eric but I don’t think it was me! In any event, I am glad that you have a memory to hold onto that helped to transform you to a better place. Continued success, Marc”

A few hours later, he replied and guess what? It was me!

I actually lived with both Kim and Eric at one point in college and it still didn’t connect with me! I have long lost contact with both of them, but still, how did I neglect to connect all these dots – me who will spend hours on google investigating the stupidest of things yet, in this case, though every single clue pointed in my direction, I didn’t give it a second thought that he had the wrong guy? (That sentence was way too long but I’m too lazy to address it right now.)

It actually made my day to know that something I couldn’t even remember from more than 2 decades ago stuck with someone still. Isn’t this the case more than we actually realize?

When we review our lives, there are moments that provide meaning to us in ways only we could understand in the broader context of our own personal experience. I know that is the case for me. Rarely are they the vacations or “big” events. More often, they are the small moments that probably only stick in our heads – sitting in the back of the orange, Chevy Impala asking your mom to ask your dad to have “the talk”, running through the field to your grandpa to tell him you’re learning trumpet, or sliding down the sloped doors in the backyard that lead to the basement… and the dentist after cracking your tooth.

These moments have no postcard images and even in today’s smart phone obsessed world, would probably not even have an Instagram pic to upload. These are the moments that remain imprinted solely in those internal cranial crevices that are only reachable by those who know the secret pathway to get there – the one that no one else knows about. When they’re shared with others who long forgot about them, they could be a gift.

You matter. You never know when some small innocuous moment could have a great meaning to someone that might look you up on a social media site decades later. Now only if I could get a message from that girl from Junior year who dressed like Suzanne Vega and introduced me to Robyn Hitchcock.

Until next time,

Marc





Naked & Afraid

12 04 2016

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I should only look so good in my state of nakedness and fear.

There is nothing more vulnerable than putting “it” out there in the world. And by “it”, I am talking about that thing that you have been keeping to yourself and have finally given up on trying to hide from the universe for whatever reason.

Maybe you can’t live with yourself refraining from telling that person how you really feel. Maybe it’s been 3 years of working on the same damn manuscript and you can’t bear to look at it one single, solitary second longer. Perhaps you’ve practiced that solo over and over again, or that pitch you have wanted to try out but were afraid would fail miserably in front of the coach or the audience.

For whatever reason, you have decided the price of living in fear is far worse than the price of any potential embarrassment and you have put “It” out there.

This is what I refer to as my “naked and afraid” moment, or moments. It starts when you’re in junior high school and your chubby, pimply and less-than-macho self cannot resist from asking out that girl to the dance even though every guy likes her. Sure, the advanced math part of you knows the odds but damn those hormones. It just grows and gets worse and worse from there.

For us creative, angst-ridden types, it can be pure torture. Though, as I write and talk to more people, I am convinced that it is in all of us. Many of us are just better at maintaining clearer lines between our inner and outer voices.

I have given presentations on such exciting topics as market share growth and competitive market analyses in front of people who could single handedly decide my career trajectory and have felt way less vulnerability than sending a 100 page script I wrote to a few friends “in the biz” to get their feedback.

Why? Simple. It matters to me. It matters a lot; more than it should. I don’t envy those poor souls who received it and consider their friendship with me too good to actually provide me with the truth, though that is what I need the most.

Here is what I say to them and to you, should you ever be on the receiving end of one of those “can you let me know what you think” requests – be honest. Apologize in advance for the criticism if you have to. Be kind but be honest. As much as it may kill us (slowly) to realize that our biggest fears may be true – that we suck, it’s a bad script, she’s not into you, etc. etc. etc. – it’s only going to be worst later on.

I finished my first full-length screenplay in April of 2015. I sat on it until early this year to even start to make any revisions. After the 5th or 6th time, I just had to let it go into the universe. It was doing no good, just sitting there on my computer any longer. I know it’s not perfect. Hell, it may not even be good. Even worst, it might be the hokiest, cliché, boring piece of shit that anyone has ever read. I’m not totally sure yet because I haven’t received any feedback from those I sent it to (hint, hint).

In seriousness though, I want them and you future reviewers out there to know that it’s ok. You can start of your feedback email with something like “I commend you on working toward your dream” or “I am so happy your day job seems to be working out for you.” We get it. In the meantime, some constructive feedback might actually turn that stinker into something of real value one day. You know the story – piece of crap athlete turns it around after reading coach makes link between learning style and his pitching. Something like that anyway.

Here’s some things for you hesitant “friend/reviewers” to keep in mind:

  1. We had to do it. We had to write, sing, draw, ask her out, and try to build that deck on our own. We just couldn’t NOT do it. It wasn’t in our blood.
  2. We know that we are all amateurs in this game and yes, we really, really, really want to do something great with “it” but chances are slim and we aren’t go to die from rejection or the truth. (I don’t think.)
  3. We feel bad for asking you. We spent hours – ok, months, with a draft email in our Draft Email box waiting to go out to you asking for this one favor. I made a bid on an entire house that I am not 100% sure I am eligible to buy in a ridiculously less amount of time than it took me to craft that email, by the way.
  4. We understand you are not an expert. We get that these are opinions. But for whatever reason, we need to hear what you think. In my case, I need to hear from people who write, who may have a female point of view (for the protagonist in this one particular script) or have a cultural knowledge that is woven through my script. Or maybe, I just need a friend to read it and say “wow – that was not what I expected.” I am not sure.
  5. If reviewing something is a burden or you just flat don’t want to, just be a mensch and say so. It’s totally fine. I Facebook messaged a comedian I know (peripherally) whose writing I admire. This dude has been on Comedy Central, Inside Amy Schumer etc. etc. – you get the picture. I was on a few shows with him (as I reminded him in my message) and am sure he has no clue who I am. I asked him if he would consider reading my script, fully expecting that he wouldn’t want to or be able to. Sure enough, I was right. But he messaged me back the same day, told me he was super busy and was totally cool about the whole thing. I hated asking him. Hated with a capital “H”. I did it though because how the hell does anyone accomplish anything without the help of others (besides Donald Trump, that is)? I am much more grateful that this guy just said no politely than tried to pacify me. That would only lead to him having to blow me off in the future or refer to me as “some dude who I told I’d review his thing” which is never good.

So, here is my lesson for anyone who is naked and afraid. Go with it. We are all naked and afraid. That Rico Suave looking dude with the French cut fit shirt, George Hamilton smile, perfect hair and huge 401K account? Yup. He’s way naked and afraid. Of what you might ask? Exactly! That’s how naked and afraid he really is. He’s still wearing his costume.

Go out there and show your cajones (figuratively, please) and your vulnerability (that one you can try literally) and it will feel nauseating, anxiety provoking and even a little liberating.

Until next time,

Marc





Don’t Come In

28 10 2015
When else am I going to be able to use an image like this?

When else am I going to be able to use an image like this? It’s a mother, not a father, but we do have the same hair.

I feel like the fact that there are technical difficulties right now as I sit here with my boy watching the World Series is a higher authority telling me to not let myself off the hook for writing tonight. So here it goes.

Tonight, I wanted to write about a text that I got from my daughter yesterday after dinner.

She plays field hockey, which just ended today, and on a weekly basis, a different parent sponsors a “pasta party” where the girls all gather to celebrate field hockey, friendship and homework procrastination.

I usually pull up with the other parents and walk to whatever opening I can find – a garage door, a front door, the back yard – and look for my daughter and her ponytail amidst a sea of other middle school girls with ponytails.

Yesterday, I was given strict notice by my daughter that she would text me when she needs to get picked up, rather than the agreed upon time of 7:30 unless I hear otherwise. I relented since it was the final party and they were celebrating her coach, who was very, very good.

We started our text exchange at 7:35 PM:

Her: “can u pick me up?”

Me: “On my way !”

Her: “k…..tell me when your outside. dont come in” (lack of punctuation excused)

Me: “Here”

Her: “don’t come in”

I’m not sure if you got it but she really, really did not want me to come in. I get it but I had to ask her why? She told me what I already knew – she didn’t want to me to “embarrass” her. (Who? Me?) I get it.

The irony was not lost on me that she and I are on different ends of the spectrum. She is defining herself, setting boundaries as any good teenager should and deciding who gets past the velvet rope and who stays behind. I, on the other hand, am finally taking the step to define myself as I am but saying “everyone come in and see because this is how I roll.” It’s an age thing and for us to take each other’s approach would be more like “Freaky Friday”.

It’s hard as a parent to see your kids silo off where, when and how they want you in their lives. It’s growth and it’s expected. It’s healthy but it’s hard. For me, I have been framing it in a different light, though. It seems that this is another force out of my control that is telling me that I have to think about myself and my needs more, too. It’s too easy for me to distract myself from my insecurities by relying on my role as a father. Being a dad is difficult but it’s also an easy distraction from facing who I really am sometimes. Believe it or not, it’s easier to get all the kids’ games, practices and rehearsals on a calendar than put it aside and force myself to write or anything else that I need to do to move the other parts of me forward.

I am not sure if this makes sense or not. I truly am figuring this all out in real-time, day by day, sometimes minute by minute. I miss those moments of parenting that escape as kids grow up. I am no less close to them, perhaps closer. It’s just the normal independence that all parents hope to see comes with the price of loosing both time with them and those long-lost parts of you that may have existed before they did. Maybe long down the road, we will merge again and when I’m visiting my kids in college, I’ll get that text that tells me where their apartment is followed by “come in.”

Until next time,

Marc








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