Thursday, March 19, 2015

Misery Loves Misery

Truth be told, I am going through kind of a tough time with comedy writing. 

The comedy gravy train has slowed to a trickle out of a rusty spigot. Wrote a bunch of stuff, jokes, stories, articles and the like, and sent it out into the ether. So far the only response has been one polite rejection e-mail. Not even a letter.  

For some reason, this reminds me of a tough time I had when I first came to California. 

The Fall of my freshman year in college found me living alone in a Long Beach studio apartment with a fold-out couch for a bed, a Formica kitchen table with two chairs with holes in the padding patched with duct tape (one more chair than I needed) and a transistor radio. (Cue: Neil Diamond's "I Am, I Said")

The other song that kept coming on my little radio to complete the soundtrack of my utter sorrow was Bob Seger’s “Night Moves.”

The apartment had the general dank smell of Irish Spring soap, a strawberry scented candle and a mildewed dishrag. If sadness has a smell, this was it. To this day the sight of a popcorn ceiling can hit me with a wave of angst.

Everyday, I would go to class. Every afternoon I would train for the Decathlon (my only salvation) on the track. At night I ate by myself in a fast food joint, did homework, read, wrote letters to my high school friends - whom I missed so much - and went to bed. No TV, no stereo. No parties. No booze or drugs or sex. No friends.

At night, I was so lonely I was sick to my guts. It was miserable. I was miserable. 

But I remember thinking all of this hard work and loneliness has to pay off, right? That’s what everyone tells you. All of this monastic tortured discipline and misery has to come with a reward. Everyone from my minister preaching about god, to reading about Jesus in Sunday school to my parents pounded that into my head.

So it has to be right. Right?

Cut to: two years later. It is a sunny, warm Saturday Spring afternoon and I'm lying on the deck at the Sigma Chi fraternity apartment at UCSB with several of my Sigma Chi brothers and little sisters. While I had trained on the track that foggy morning - my frat brothers had surfed - this bright, blue afternoon we were lounging, telling jokes and drinking icy cold beers.  And I was getting suntan lotion rubbed on my back by not one, but two gorgeous bikini-clad, long-haired little sisters. 

The Cars “Moving In Stereo & All Mixed Up” blasted on the house stereo.

Was this the karmic reward for all of that loneliness and misery of my first horrible year in California? Was all that sadness being paid back? 

No. Not at all. It doesn't work that way. 

My fraternity brothers, scattered around me in their post-Hollister Ranch surfing blissful stupor,  grew up in San Marino, Newport Beach or Marin County, living every day like this. They never had a lonely day in their lives. Their days were filled with surfing, beach volleyball, washing their convertibles and laughing in backyard barbecues. They expected their life to be a long, glorious party and so it mostly was.

Misery has no responsibility to pay off later with happiness. Misery merely breeds more misery. Loneliness breeds more loneliness. Bad luck breeds bad luck.

(Although I can say unequivocally the lonely time in Long Beach helped me appreciate happier times when surrounded with friends)

Don’t get me wrong, there is no doubt hard work, studying and working out pays off, it just doesn’t come with any obligation to pay off due to accompanying agony, self-pity and misery.

Happiness breeds happiness. You just have to grab happiness over misery and go after it as hard as you can.  

Now somebody straighten up and fly right and pay for this stuff.

I'm flinging pearls here . . .