Sunday, October 23, 2016

It's Not A Tuba

This is a lightly edited version of the piece I performed in The Encyclopedia Show's October 16th edition at Kieran's Irish Pub in downtown Minneapolis. This month's theme was "Marching Bands."

As I began 7th grade and moved up to middle school, which would prove to be the longest 2 years of my life, I transitioned from playing the cornet in the school band to playing the tuba. (For those of you wondering what a cornet is, it’s a slightly shorter, stockier trumpet.) This decision was made partly due to periodontal surgery, but mainly because I figured tuba parts were way easier than cornet parts. (I turned out to be right about that.) I wasn’t playing a musical instrument for enjoyment or to better myself. I was playing it to get my mom off my back while putting forth the least amount of effort.

She had tricked me into joining the band in 5th grade, promising that if I didn’t like it, I could quit at the end of the year. This charade played out over the next 5 years. At the end of each year, I’d beg to quit, and every time she’d force me to stick with it.

It’s not that I hated it. There were many times when I liked it, but it was work and, therefore, the enemy. As my hero, role model and personal savior Homer Simpson once said, “TV gives so much and asks so little. It’s a boy’s best friend.” After a thorough cost-benefit analysis, I realized I’d rather be watching TV than practicing. It was the only thing that banished the demons of loneliness and self-doubt that lurked in the shadows of our basement in the evening.

The tuba was a pretty good instrument for someone who didn’t want to stand out and shine, someone who preferred to blend into the background, someone who was scared to death of making a mistake in public. Sure, it was big and loud, but it was clearly a supporting instrument that was rarely exposed by the limelight.

There was a price to pay for such anonymity, of course. I consigned myself to nerd-ery. But I was already painfully insecure and in band; my fate had been sealed long before this choice. I would never get laid. I was in my early teens, though, so I probably shouldn’t have been worrying about that.

To put it bluntly, the tuba is not a chick magnet. It’s not like the guitar, the drums or, for some reason, the tambourine. The only role the tuba might play in your quest to get laid is that of an obstacle.

Adding to the degree of difficulty in my attempt to appear cool was the release of the film Kindergarten Cop, which I’m sure proved to be the bane of adolescent tuba players everywhere. My bandmates could not resist telling me, “It’s not a tuba.” Although the comic appeal of this joke was limited even in its first iteration, they would continue to employ it, driving its comic value into negative territory.

As someone who goes by the nickname “Mickey,” I’m well-acquainted with the phenomenon of people beating a bad joke into the ground. (I think it’s worth noting that the video for Toni Basil’s hit song from 1982, “Mickey,” features a cheerleading theme, rendering this digression germane to the subject of this show. So this is more than just self-indulgent bitterness.)

Since I could count on one hand the number of kids from middle school I ever wanted to see again, I decided to opt out of the public school system and into the nearby Catholic high school, where my mom was a guidance counselor. Her job meant that I, and later my sister, could go there for free.

If I’d gone to the public high school, I might’ve had a lot more to say about marching bands. Their band practiced (seemingly) every day over the summer. You could hear them from our house a mile away. All the Catholic school had was a puny pep band that didn’t march. As a tuba player, pep band allowed me the opportunity to play those cool sousaphones that wrap around your torso with the big bell on top, but eventually they dig into your shoulder and the novelty wears off.

The pep band songs were pretty cool: “Hang On, Sloopy,” “25 or 6 to 4” and other classics from the 60’s and 70’s, although they had all spent enough time in the mainstream to be stripped of their original cultural significance, thereby meeting the Establishment’s standard for appropriate levels of youthful exuberance. They were also performed in the stilted, lazy style of teenagers terrified of being ridiculed for displaying any kind of individuality. We sounded like a pack of insecure, acne-riddled zombies.

After 9th grade, my mom finally let me quit band. It was the end of an era. I was no longer a band nerd. I was now free to be some other kind of nerd. But never again would I know the heady rush of being told, “It’s not a tuba.”

Friday, June 3, 2016

Trump Picks Renegade Cop as Running Mate

This is an Onion-style parody.

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK - Sergeant William “Bill” Hannigan of the New York Police Department’s 79th precinct has been chosen by Donald Trump to be his running mate on the presumptive Republican presidential ticket. Trump made the announcement outside the 79th precinct station in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

“This country needs leaders who won’t let the rules get in the way of doing what’s right,” Trump said. “That’s what Sgt. Hannigan is all about. He doesn’t play by the rules. Never has, never will. That’s why he’s the perfect choice to help me turn this country around.”

While many in the NYPD praised the choice, Hannigan’s immediate supervisor, Captain John Brewer, expressed reservations.

“Hannigan’s a hothead,” Brewer explained, becoming more agitated as he spoke. “One of these days he’s gonna get himself killed. I just hope I’m not around when it happens. He’s already shot up a children’s birthday party in the process of busting a drug ring, blown up a cargo ship while infiltrating a smuggling operation on the docks and collapsed a bridge to expose mafia corruption in the bidding process for public infrastructure projects.”

“But, Captain,” Hannigan interjected. “That bridge would’ve eventually collapsed under the weight of traffic, killing dozens of innocent people!”

“I don’t wanna hear it, Hannigan!” Brewer roared. “See? That’s what I’m talking about. He’s always flying off the handle at the drop of a hat.”

Brewer then sighed, taking a moment to collect himself and reflect on the long, checkered career of his subordinate. The captain’s voice became hushed and contemplative, as if the storm of his fury had passed, leaving only a sad world-weariness to survey the wreckage and wonder if it had all been worth it.

“I don’t always agree with his methods,” Brewer admitted. “But you can’t argue with the results. He’s a loose cannon, a ticking time-bomb, a man whose demons may eventually destroy him and everyone he holds dear. But he might be exactly what this country needs.”

“I look forward to joining Mr. Trump in his fight to clean up this country,” the shoot-from-the-hip, no-nonsense Hannigan told the crowd. “I have no doubt that, even while campaigning, I’ll still have time to keep the streets of Bed-Stuy safe, raise my daughter, find the man who killed my wife and take the first tentative steps toward getting back on the dating scene.”

Sgt. Hannigan is notorious for his hard-drinking, shoot-first-ask-questions-later style, which provides a striking counterpoint to his heartfelt devotion to his daughter and his indefatigable pursuit of justice for those people who have fallen through the cracks of our judicial system.

While visibly weighed down by the burden of his wife’s murder, his personal vendetta against criminals who think they’re above the law and concern for his downward-spiraling teenage daughter, Hannigan still seemed determined to see this mission through to the end, even if it kills him.

“I’ve worked too hard to watch this country go down the tubes,” he solemnly intoned. “The fat cats have been getting away with murder while politicians turn a blind eye in exchange for a new Porsche. I’m sick of it, and I intend to do something about it.”

Suddenly, Hannigan’s demeanor switched from steely resolve to gentle warmth as a rare smile stole over his face. “But all that will have to wait until tomorrow,” he said, “because tonight I have a date with my best gal.”

Hannigan strode serenely through the mass of reporters and headed to his car. It’s believed that Hannigan’s “best gal” is his daughter, the troubled but good-hearted and beautiful Corrine.

This simple, tender gesture filled the press corps with such fondness and admiration that they immediately broke out in thunderous applause as Hannigan drove off.

Trump Taps Dr. House for VP

For your perusal, I submit another Onion-style parody of a news article.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - Dr. Gregory House, the fictional title character of the former FOX primetime medical drama House, has been selected by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as his vice presidential candidate for the 2016 general election. This choice is yet another curveball thrown by Trump, who has confounded pundits repeatedly by defying conventional wisdom and boosting his poll numbers with each supposed "misstep."

“Dr. House doesn’t care about rules or about the way things are normally done, and neither do I,” Trump said at the campaign event in New York City where he introduced his running mate. “He’s the best at what he does, just like me. We’re the perfect combination of people to get this country back on track. He’s very smart. I’m very smart. What more do you need?”

Hugh Laurie, the actor who portrayed Dr. House, appeared on the stage in character, staring daggers at the back of Trump’s head throughout the introduction. When Trump offered him his hand, Laurie glanced down at it derisively and limped by him with an air of utter disdain. Trump smiled and remarked, “Get a load of this guy! I love it!”

Laurie stepped to the microphone and surveyed the crowd with a mixture of revulsion and pity. “Either by some miracle of grace or through the machinations of a cruel god, I’ve agreed to join Mr. Trump’s twisted, proto-fascist charade of a presidential ticket,” Laurie began, each word dripping with disgust, although it was hard to tell whom he loathed more: those in attendance or himself.

“Believe me when I tell you that I have nothing but the utmost contempt for this man,” Laurie explained. “But he’s paying me a boatload of money, so I’ve agreed to go through the motions in order to enrich myself and keep this sick joke of a campaign afloat.”

Laurie had the press corps rolling in the aisles with each surly, curt answer to their questions. The more abuse he heaped on them, the more they loved him. By the end of the question-and-answer session, he had them eating out of his hand.

Afterward, the actor held a separate press conference, out of character, to discuss the project. “It’s the role of a lifetime,” Laurie told the assembled throng. “This will give me a chance to work my improv muscles, which have gotten rather flabby after working in TV for so long.”

“This is stretching the boundary between art and life, arguably past the breaking point,” Laurie continued. “We’re really creating a new kind of meta-theater here today. Donald has assured me that he won’t interfere with my creative process, which was all I needed to hear.”

Trump will pay Laurie an undisclosed sum to perform at campaign events, and any vice presidential debates, in character. Reports put the figure north of $100 million, believed to be the largest payday for an actor in the history of entertainment.

When asked if he would continue in the role if elected, Laurie responded, “That was part of the deal.” It was pointed out to him that his foreign birth and lack of U.S. citizenship preclude him from serving as vice president. “We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it,” Laurie replied with an impish grin.

Some reporters expressed concern that, in acting out the satire of an egomaniacal demagogue’s sidekick, he may become complicit in the death of American democracy. “I have too much faith in the American people to worry about that,” he assured them breezily.

Andy Rooney Unable to Rest in Peace

This is my attempt at an Onion-style parody of a news article. Enjoy!

RENSSELAERVILLE, NEW YORK - America’s favorite curmudgeon, the late, great Andy Rooney, has apparently struggled to find respite in the afterlife, despite the cessation of his earthly toils and bodily pains. The evidence of his continuing annoyance has been mysteriously appearing in the studio where 60 Minutes is produced.

Every week since his passing in 2011, without explanation, a digital videotape has materialized with a recording of what sounds like Rooney’s trademark nasal whine, accompanied by a blank screen. It seems that Rooney is still submitting installments of his signature 60 Minutes segment, “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney,” from his burial plot in upstate New York.

“Did you know your hair and fingernails keep growing after you die?” Rooney laments. “Instead of being buried with some of my most prized possessions, I should’ve told them to give me a pair of shears and nail clippers. Sure, no one can see my hair getting shaggy or my nails getting long, but it would still be nice to keep up my grooming regimen. I always feel better when my hair and nails are short and clean.”

Even in death, Rooney has kept his award-winning sense of humor and turned his rapier wit on the absurdities of the grave.

“Look at what they put in my pockets,” Rooney deadpans. “Two dice, one lighter and a cameo with a picture of my wife inside. They’re all lovely mementos with a lifetime’s worth of sentimental value, but I wish I’d brought a book or a magazine. I’ve only been down here a month, and I’m already running out of things to reminisce about.”

The tapes are a testament to the timelessness of his comedy as he takes us on an irreverent tour of the mundane minutiae of mortality.

“And here’s my lucky money clip,” he continues, “because, obviously, when you’re about to cross over into the afterlife or whatever follows that mortal coil, you want to keep your money organized. You never know if slipping St. Peter a twenty will help get you into heaven.”

CBS has posted the segments on its website after receiving permission from his family. The pieces will air on 60 Minutes in a special episode in the fall devoted exclusively to the dearly departed humorist.

Even though the tapes just recently came to light, they’ve already generated early Emmy and Peabody Award buzz. Critics have called them some of the best of his career.

“His flesh may be dead and rotting,” wrote Mike Hale of The New York Times, “but his funny bone is alive and well.”

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Wha' Happened in Oaxaca: Epilogue

From March 10th until the 20th, I was part of a delegation of Land Stewardship Project members, organized by Witness for Peace, who met with farmers and non-governmental organizations (NGO's) in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. The account of that trip begins here.

There was a presentation on the Oaxaca delegation at LSP’s Minneapolis office a month ago. Terry, Aaron, Charlie, Chris, Sylvia, Sue Ellen and I were there. Afterward, Sue Ellen asked me why I hadn’t blogged about the fact that we couldn’t flush our toilet paper in Mexico. It had to be thrown in a wastebasket next to the toilet, which lent our hostel bathroom a strong scent after a few days, what with all the diarrhea and people throwing up in there. (That’s a bit of an exaggeration.)

That wasn’t my only oversight, of course. I forgot that a bunch of us went out that first night (Day 0) to the zócalo for beers. I even ordered food. It’s strange to think how uncomfortable I was that night. I don’t know what I was afraid of.

In the village of Teotitlán del Valle, our host “mother” Petrona called me “Miguelito” and would periodically ask how I was doing. She was probably concerned by my quietude. I was moved; she was acting like a mom. I wish I’d shown them more warmth and affection. I guess I just wasn’t ready yet.

It’s been a not-that-long, not-that-strange trip to this point in life. I feel like Dante at the beginning of his Inferno:

“Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.”

I’ve been wandering in the wilderness for too long. I need to retrace my steps and find my way back to civilization, to humanity, and reclaim my place in the human race. I need to get back to life, back to reality, back to the here and now, oh yeah. (That was for my fellow Soul II Soul fans.)

I have the capacity to do great things, but fear holds me back. Spring has brought a surplus of energy and, along with it, the annual anxiety. My springtime angst is a vestige of childhood and adolescence, when I didn’t have many friends. I dreaded the summers, because I didn’t have any structure or anyone to play with. This wasn’t due to a lack of kids my age; it was just my lack of confidence to ask the neighborhood kids if they wanted to play.

I was hoping the trip would help with my anxiety, and it did. But I didn’t have a safety net to catch me when I got back. I was floating along fine for the first week with my parents on vacation and the house to myself. But then I hit a wall; an anxiety attack really shook me on the first full Sunday after returning. I’d been too isolated, not going out much or getting much socialization. My internship kept getting cancelled because of illness in my boss’s family.

This afforded me a lot of time to work on the blog, but I kept procrastinating. I think I was afraid of finishing the travelogue because it would force me to say goodbye again: goodbye to Oaxaca, goodbye to my fellow travelers, goodbye to the experience. It also meant I couldn’t live vicariously through my memories anymore. I’d have to get back to the business of building a new life for myself.

I felt myself clinging to my memories of the trip. I have a love/hate relationship with them. When I was embroiled in the blog, I luxuriated in them, letting them wash away thoughts of my predicament. But the rest of the time I kept them at arm’s length. I didn’t want to be reminded of the possibilities they opened up to me, because my life is so disappointing and has been for a long time. I didn’t want to be reminded that I could always be as alive as I was in Oaxaca, that I could always be that happy, that engaged, that surrounded by kindred spirits, like-minded people who actually give a fuck.

But finishing the account doesn’t mean I have to leave the experience behind. I can still keep it alive in my head and heart. I’ll just have to live to the standards I set for myself on the trip. I’ll have to change. I can’t go back to my safe, old routine. I must finally have the courage of my convictions. I was reluctant to make the intention with the corn kernel, to live a life "devoted to service to those who need it," because I wasn’t sure if I could live up to it, and I’m still not sure if I can. But I don’t want it to be just another one of my empty promises, another grand scheme condemned to exist solely in the mind of a “champagne socialist.” (This was an epithet flung at Karl Marx and his wife due to their fondness for luxury.)

The truth is I don’t have much choice anymore except to “follow my bliss.” My options are dwindling. In video game parlance, I’m running out of lives. My body keeps telling me to help people and write and do comedy and act and sing (literally). But the world (and my parents) keeps telling me to play it safe, make money and save those dreams for my spare time. The problem is, when I worked those corporate jobs, it sucked all the energy and life and hope out of me, so I had nothing left to give to my passions and other people.

I’m trying to figure out what I can do. The corporate world no longer seems to be an option even as a fallback. I may have burned too many bridges there. Organic farming still holds plenty of allure, but my body doesn’t seem up to the challenge. My neck and back are often stiff with pain, although I think that’s a product of stress induced by anxiety over my situation. Farming would also hurl me into the countryside, where I’ve heard it’s lonely, and Lord knows I’ve had enough of loneliness.

That seems to leave me with just one option: to stay in the Twin Cities and get a desk job or a McJob, a food service/retail job. But I’m loath to work for a Big Box store or any chain, so I’ve applied to non-profits, including Salvation Army and Goodwill. One problem is I have no retail experience and my food service experience is limited to being a cook at Pizza Hut in high school, so I may not even be able to take that step down the socioeconomic ladder.

I’ve had some interviews for non-profit desk jobs, but so far those haven’t panned out. Tomorrow I have a phone interview for a job at a warehouse that accepts donated furniture and delivers it to people who can’t afford their own. It sounds intriguing; I just hope my back can hold out. My prospects in manual labor may have more to do with emotional health than physical.

I’ve been overwhelmed by my own pain, shame and guilt, leaving me no emotional bandwidth to feel the pain of others. I was paralyzed and afraid to allow myself to empathize with others for fear of being completely overcome by despair. But I’ve gradually learned that opening up to others gives me energy, hope and strength in much greater proportion than pain, fear or despair. I just had to take the risk of making new friends, without worrying that they would leave me high and dry, like my old friends did.

Now I can open up and hurl my innermost thoughts and feelings into the void of cyberspace again, because I feel that there are people out there reading this who understand. I feel I can make that essential emotional connection with people again, the one that gives (my) life meaning.

This morning I became an uncle. I’m more excited and happy about it than I thought I would be. It occurs to me now that kids can be a ray of hope, because they have that absolute faith in the future. They haven’t been let down yet. There are no memories of disappointment to haunt them. Their minds aren’t yet full of doubt and insecurity.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the poet Kenneth Patchen (whom I’ve otherwise never heard of): “Caring is the only daring.” It’s also the only choice. The other option is death, basically, preceded by a meaningless, selfish half-life. I no longer have the luxury of wallowing in adolescent self-pity, not if I care at all for anyone but myself.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Note to Future Scholars of My Work

Hello, and welcome to the wonderful world of Mickey Foley! You’re poised on the brink of a grand adventure. Count yourself lucky that you have the privilege of diving into my oeuvre. I can only imagine the boundless joy overflowing the banks of your soul as you embark on this quest! I hope it offers you, at the very least, a tiny fraction of the bliss I felt while I was being astounded by each brilliant, new idea as it burst into my brain. Prepare to be amazed!

It’s a good thing I started documenting my life and work at the tender age of five. You may wonder how I could’ve known from such an early age that, someday, the world would need the gift of my insight. I wish I could answer such an astute question, but, alas, not even my powers of perception are strong enough to plumb the depths of my own genius. Such is the tragedy of the outrageously gifted.

I’ve tried to make it easier for you to trace my intellectual journey. I didn’t want to lead future historians on a wild goose chase through boxes of randomly scattered notebooks, journals and Trapper Keepers. Therefore, I’ve organized and annotated my papers with meticulous precision. My autobiography fills more than a thousand pages, and there are hundreds of hours of interviews recorded for my self-produced autobiographical documentary. The truly dedicated Mickey Foley-philes will be relieved to know that I’ve preserved every second of those interviews on DVD’s, VHS, Betamax and Super 8 film. It took much self-restraint to keep the film’s running time under 6 hours, but I think the results speak for themselves.

While watching the interviews with my family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, critics, rivals, blood enemies and casual acquaintances, you’ll doubtless notice their confusion and incredulity that I went to such lengths to document my journey. It may be hard to understand how they remained oblivious to my brilliance, but this was commonplace. My genius was not fully appreciated in my own time; I would even go so far as to say it was criminally neglected. Indeed, in some quarters I was vilified for flouting the prevailing conventions of thought.

But don’t be too hard on my contemporaries in your analysis. They were blinded by the myopia, greed and ignorance of our historical period. It was my sad fate to be decades, centuries or perhaps millennia ahead of my time. Thank your lucky stars or whatever higher power you believe in (if such superstitions as religion are still practiced in your day) that you didn’t live during my era. It was a dark age utterly bereft of redeeming qualities.

You’ve surely noted how my areas of expertise are not limited to history, literature, theater and comedy. No doubt my thoughts on politics, science, philosophy, psychology, sociology and Dr. Who exegesis have led to earth-shattering breakthroughs in those fields. I imagine by now whole university departments have been set aside for the study of my work, given its Shakespearean scope, encompassing the whole of human experience and imagination. There is no nook or cranny of humanity I haven’t examined through the microscope of my own peerless perception.

Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if my work had inspired the establishment of a top-flight institution of higher learning devoted completely to the study of my papers, given the endless breadth and bottomless depth of my knowledge. I can only imagine what fanciful name you’ve given to this field of study. “Mickey Foley Studies” or “Mickey Foley-ology,” perhaps. Don’t feel as if you need to limit yourself to those options. They’re merely suggestions. You can probably come up with something better. I’m afraid my infinite gift of invention is failing me at the moment.

Now I bid you adieu from the Great Beyond with my signature signoff, anticipation of which has surely kept you on tenterhooks for the duration of this preface. And so, without further ado: toodle-oo.

(Editor’s Note: This piece originally came with copious footnotes, but they were lost in a fire at the U-Haul facility where they were being stored.)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Wha' Happened in Oaxaca: Day 10

From March 10th until the 20th, I was part of a delegation of Land Stewardship Project members, organized by Witness for Peace, who met with farmers and non-governmental organizations (NGO's) in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. I'll be posting a recap of each day on this blog.

I heard Nolan’s alarm go off at some ungodly hour and saw him get up. I, however, quickly went back to sleep. My alarm went off at 6:30 and I was in the lobby by 7. The taxi showed up a few minutes later.

I didn’t have enough Mexican currency for the ride, so he charged me $20 American, which was probably highway robbery in that context, but I didn’t care. It was still way less than I would’ve paid for a taxi in the Twin Cities.

I made a little Spanish small talk with the guy. He had a nice, middle-class kind of compact car. He was also dressed in a middle-class style.

The Bloodhound Gang’s 1999 hit, “The Bad Touch,” came on the radio, which I found amusing. For the uninitiated, The Bloodhound Gang was the U.S.'s preeminent novelty band of the late 90’s. I probably hadn’t heard the song in 15 years.

The drive to the airport only took 15-20 minutes, giving me 2 ½ hours to catch my flight. The United ticketing area was white and futuristic. I negotiated the digital self-check-in with a little help from an agent and went through security, which was much less of a hassle than in the U.S. I took off my shoes without needing to, which is ironic, since I usually forget to take ‘em off at the TSA checkpoints.

I walked down some long halls. Near my gate there was, basically, a fancy department store. It was much different from the previous 10 days. I wasn’t disoriented, just unimpressed and uninterested, not to mention a bit contemptuous and pitying of the done-up ladies hocking these wares.

I sat and journaled by the gate, wearing my “Never Forget” dinosaur T-shirt (classic), when a bunch of Kardashian kopykats sat down next to me. I was judging them pretty hard, but then I wrote in my diary, “I don’t know what’s inside her. I don’t know what she’s made of.” That was in reference to the one next to me, the group’s Kim. She may’ve been judging me hard too. I was lookin’ pretty schlubby.

On my plane’s ascent from Mexico City, I saw terraces that acted as elevation contours around the hills. There was also a strange sight that I took as an omen. “PROMESAS” (“PROMISES”) was spelled out in huge letters near the top of a mountain. That really struck me. It sounded like “Promises, promises,” like I wasn’t gonna keep my promise to turn my life around, to set a new course of working for good. It felt accusatory, like the land itself was talking to me, or the disgruntled common people who’ve been visited by many well-meaning Gringos and still have nothing to show for it.

At the Houston airport, I indulged in some over-priced Panda Express. It tasted good, actually. My palate hadn’t been completely transformed by 10 days on a Third-World diet. I was still susceptible to the temptations of sugar, salt, MSG and the million artificial chemical combinations thereof.

There was a March Madness game on a TV nearby. That used to be one of the highlights of my year, but in the last decade I’ve cut way back on my TV sports spectatorship. I was kind of interested, but when I went over to watch it took forever to get through the commercial break, so I left.

At MSP, I saw Ernie Hudson (who will forever be known as “the Black Ghostbuster”) striding purposefully through the terminal with ear buds in, apparently talking to someone on the phone. That was kinda surreal.

I was unable to use the Uber account I’d opened in Houston. The MSP wifi was suspiciously hostile to that app, so I took a regular taxi. The cabbie looked and sounded East African. I chatted him up, no longer comfortable with the First-World silences between strangers. He was going to school to be a medical lab technician. I told him about the trip, and he raved about what hard workers Mexicans are.

He dropped me off in downtown Minneapolis at Kieran’s Irish Pub. I was only 15 minutes late to “The Encyclopedia Show,” which was the reason I’d taken a cab instead of the light rail. I wasn’t performing until after intermission, so I had plenty of time to prepare mentally.

I felt very odd being there. The anxiety was giving me a strong sense of detachment and disorientation. I did well, not quite comfortable enough to be in "the zone," but I got a bunch of laughs. One of the other performers complimented me afterward on his way out the door.

I caught another taxi to get home. The cabbie (another East African, I’m guessing) told me he was buying a house. He was on the phone with his realtor near the end of the ride. I still tipped him generously, even though he seemed to be in a better economic situation than I. The cab rides totaled $90 with tips. Freeway robbery!

My parents had left for vacation in Spain just a few days before, so I was home alone. The freedom was nice, but I was also very anxious about it. Since quitting my last corporate job 2 years ago, I’ve developed a fear of being alone for long stretches, like the 2 weeks I was looking down the barrel of now.

That night I ate too much and stayed up too late, despite my fatigue.

Here ends the account of my trip, but I’ll be writing an Epilogue to try and sum up the experience.