Sunday, September 11, 2016

It still hurts.


Two days ago, I received a tweet from a fan named Scott Cleere who told me that he missed me on AGT and that he could sure use a laugh on Sunday (today) because it wouldn’t be a good day for him. At the time I didn’t piece the dates together and I simply thanked him. Yesterday, he clarified his first tweet by telling me that his Dad, James, had been lost in the towers and that no remains had ever been recovered.

Until yesterday, I had only known one other person lost on that horrible day. But like all of us who remember it, all of those families and victims came out of the rubble and found an indelibly etched place in our hearts and psyche. We shared their pain and offered our prayers and love to them in the hope that somehow, however futile, we could ease their broken hearts.

I don’t know Scott, but I do. I can’t feel what he feels, but I try. After fifteen years, I still can’t watch the memorial without crying and wondering how anyone could hate that much.

Scott, I wish I could say something to make you laugh away your pain, but there is nothing in my heart today to enable me to do so. In the days which will follow, that will change of course, but for now, no, there is no laughter.

When I think back to those horrible days, the one bright spot in it all, was the sense of unity we shared. Our collective family had been attacked and for perhaps the first time since Pearl Harbor, we stood as one people, one nation-indivisible. I wish I could say that is the case today, but I can’t. But that is for another discussion on another day. For now, my heart and thoughts are with the Cleere family and all the others who lost a loved one.

The rubble is gone. The dust has settled. The memorials are built. History has been written. If we extract one thing from it all, let it be that the love and kinship we felt for one another in the aftermath prevails once again. That’s what I wish for Scott Cleere, his family, and the world.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

It ain't always sunshine and bon-bons!

I’ve been very blessed in my life, with hard times and now, it seems, some very good ones as well.  But I want to share this story with you, especially those of you who want to give up your life’s dream and cave in to despair.

Around 1983, when I was a very young and new comedian, my friend (and fellow fledgling comic) Nick Carmen Cosentino were roommates. I had a small, failing, graphics business at the time and my ‘office’ was located in a converted house in northern New Jersey.  My marriage had just ended and I was sleeping in a photographic darkroom in the back while Nick spent his nights sleeping on the floor in the outer office.

During the day, we would write and try to book ourselves into some of the “Jersey’ gigs which had just begun to spring up outside of New York City.  At night, we would pile into my smoke belching, oil leaking, 15 year old Volvo and head into the city to get some stage time at the many little clubs around town. We didn’t care that we had no money (and sometimes no food). We were comics with dreams and that sustained us.

Money, as most newbie comedians know, is non-existent, so we made some sheckles here and there, Nick by traveling to NYC by bus (tools and all) doing odd jobs and me, still taking graphics art work when it was available. Any money I made went to child support and so we fell behind in the rent; WAYYYYY behind.

One night, when Nick and I had returned from the showcase clubs, we arrived home to find a big, fat, red padlock on the door with a very official eviction noticed tacked plastered on the door as well. We were officially homeless, with all of our worldly belongings locked inside.

 We knew our days of living there were over, but we went around the side of the house and snuck inside through a window which had always conveniently been left unlocked. We grabbed what we could, shoved it in the Volvo, and got the hell out of there before the police came.

Times were hard then, but we survived with the help of friends. Eventually, comedy got better for us and before long we were making a living in the business we loved. It was a boom time and life was good.

Since then, we’ve both had other hard times, but that experience in the house made both of us realize that we could survive anything; thus the blessings part. In the years to come I’ve had to go back to that memory many times in order to make me realize that I didn’t ever have to give in just because life was pushing back and pushing down.

Now, with things breaking the way they are, I am feeling blessed once again in ways I never thought possible. And so I just wanted to share some thoughts with you if you are feeling down.

 Every event, good or bad, is a story unto itself. It has a beginning, middle and end. Look at your current story. Where are you in it? You will survive no matter how bad things seem and you will be stronger for having endured it.

Listen to the still, calm voice inside you. It won’t lie to you. Believe in yourself.

Pay forward any goodness you’ve received. Help others up the ladder when you can.

Understand that life, if lived properly, is scary, dangerous and frightening, but it can also propel you to soar to the heavens if you just look it in the eye and say, “I’m getting up again and again and again until I get to where I want to be.”   

Surround yourself only with positive things and people. Walk away from those who tell you that you can’t do something.

Dream like you did as a child. Dreams don’t die, spirits do. All things are as possible today as they were when you were little.

Lose your expectations of how things should be and stay in the moment. There is no past or future, only now.

Finally, love everyone. You don’t have to be around someone you don’t like, but don’t hate. It’s toxic and it hurts your insides. Love is the only absolute thing in the universe.

I have no idea what compelled me to write this. You have no reason to read it. If it bores you, then move on. But if you are suffering or feeling down, maybe this will help ease the pain a little.  Just don’t do anything stupid, okay?