Yesterday came and went without much fanfare. I looked on the calendar and it said, “your AA birthday… 1982”. I smiled and posted on Facebook that 32 years ago my life changed for the better and I thanked Bill… and then a couple of hundred people stopped on my page to wish me well. A couple of hundred!
I wish I could explain to you what my life was like 32 years ago. If I said it was a complete shambles, I would not be lying. I had lost my child… my marriage was over… my self esteem was over… my career was so badly damaged that it would take me over a decade to regain the respect of those who would work with me. It was a horrible, horrible time in my life. But then my Eskimo came and said to me, “You’re an alcoholic and you need AA.” Why had he said that? You see I had fallen in an aerobics class…one I had gone to stoned… and I had broken my ankle. My leg was in a cast up to my knee and I was chain-smoking pot. I called my Eskimo and told him I couldn’t stand the cast on my leg anymore and I was taking it off with a pair of toe nail clippers. All he said, is, “Wait, I’ll be right there.” And he came over and we talked and the next day I sat in the very last row of the Radford meeting house, by the door, listening to everyone tell their story.
The first person I saw that day was a friend from the Comedy Store. She was there… and it made sense… she was a huge drunk. I was glad to see her…and she welcomed me with open arms…”Steve, there’s a seat for you here… sit down, listen and enjoy.” I did listen and the one thing I noticed was how happy everyone was. I was not happy. As a matter of fact, I had never been so miserable in my life. But there was something in that room that called to me and so the very next day I went back to that meeting… and I went back every single day since then for 32 years. Now when I say I went back every single day, it does not mean I was at a meeting every single day, it means that I kept the principals in my heart and where ever I went, I carried a meeting with me.
So how has it changed? I’m not miserable anymore, not to the extent I was 32 years ago. I still have my days… but I know today that my worst day today is nothing like the worst days I had 32 years and two days ago. My head is clear. I’m allowed me to do things I never felt “enough” to do… like write. So far I have written seven plays, two films, two books and a blog. The joy I get from writing has far surpasses the joy I got from standing on stage telling jokes. To tell you the truth, there was no joy there… there was only fear. I remember doing a TV show and my heart was pounding so hard that I began to have pain in my shoulder, like a heart attack. It was a horrible experience. I never forgot it.
But with writing, I can sit in my office, alone, quiet, and spill my heart out and then read the comments on Facebook. Facebook, where my second career has taken hold, where over 3000 people have friended me, where I seem to have an endless stream of comments on ever subject and know not where they come from.
The gifts I have been handed these last 32 years are huge. I was someone who was so miserable some days I could not get out of bed. That doesn’t happen anymore. People have been placed into my life, like Judy Robertson, of Coogee Beach, Australia, who have picked me up, held me close, given me love and then passed on to show me that I could stand on my own two feet without them. I met Judy in Sydney, Australia at a meeting. She came along just when my sobriety needed a boost. And we had many wonderful years together… she gave me the strength to carry on without her. I know that if she was here today, it would be Judy who would be shouting from the housetops… “MY MATE STEVE HAS 32 YEARS!!!” She loved me, like no one ever loved me. She loved me the way I always wanted to be loved. And I loved her for loving me like that.
And so this last paragraph is for the person out there who has no hope, who can’t stop drinking or using drugs, whose life has fallen apart and they can understand why. I am here to tell you it works if you work it, there is a solution if you live your life one day at a time and just keep coming back. I came back… I came back from despair, from ruin and from self-hatred. I still hate myself but at least today I can do it with a clear head. It’s a good thing… a very good thing.
Love you, Judy, always.
It was a perfectly normal day in Bel Air. The sun was shining, the maids were walking up the canyon to their jobs, the Keurig was making coffee… and then it happened. The most horrible thing that could ever happen to anyone ever… in Bel Air…besides having your Mercedes keyed….. the lights went out. We had our own personal blackout. Oh LORD NO….
There I was standing at the sink getting ready to go out to an appointment when all of a sudden the lights flickered and died. The telltale hum of little motors all over my house came to a ghostly silence. I ran to my phone. Nothing. Deader than Anson Williams’ acting career. I went to my cell phone… there were the words that strikes fear into every techie’s heart… NO SERVICE. I was trapped in my own personal hell…. A home with no wi fi.
At first you are in denial. “It’ll come back… they always flicker but they come back.” Then ten minutes later when the lights have not come back on you are like 3rd class steerage on the Titanic… you’re running up stairs and looking out windows hoping that they are lowering the lifeboats, that EVERYONE has no lights or phones…that it’s just not you.
Wait! There’s movement in the street… a neighbor, in his pajamas, shaking his fist at the telephone pole. Look, we all vent in our own way.
I know. I’ll play scrabble on my iPad. Two games I got through when the flashing light said, BATTERY LOW. I can’t win… I might as well be Stevie Wonder on Dancing With The Stars.
I look out my window again and the neighbors are gathering to ask the same question, “Do you have electricity?” Just once I wanted to say, “Yes, I guess it’s only YOU.” The traffic lights are out at the end of the street and now I know why we have traffic lights. Because people are morons and think two cars can enter an intersection and turn at the same time. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I heard screeching brakes.
There’s a little country store down the street from my house. I go down there…the owner is sitting on the steps almost in tears… ten walk-in freezers or ice cream and beer defrosting before her eyes. I have a tray of ice cubes and I’m upset… this woman has enough food for an army and should be taking her life at any moment.
Wait a minute… there’s the DWP truck. The neighbors march up there like the truck is driven by Frankenstein and we’re the villagers. “WHAT GOING ON… WHEN WILL WE HAVE LIGHTS… DO YOU HAVE COFFEE IN THE TRUCKS.” It’s then we learn that tree trimmers had cut through the line and it should be about three hours before we have electricity again. I pass out cyanide pills as people tear their clothing off and weep openly.
But then… the DWP guy says… unless you are east of this house. Those lights will be on in 20 minutes. My house is east of this house. Moment of silence. I slowly slip away from my neighbors because I know if they find out that I have electricity they will turn on my like a pack of anorexic zombies.
Twenty minutes later the lights went on and I fled the house like the Republicans fled from George Bush after the election.
And so, as I write this, everything is back to normal in Bel Air… the latte machines are working… the maids are vacuuming, the instant hot water is perking… the world is as it should be.
Easter is over and it’s time to move on to the next holiday… Mother’s Day. What is it with Americans and their holidays? Do you realize we have a holiday for every single month of the year with the exception of one… are we that miserable that we need a holiday to give us something to look forward to? Look at this:
JANUARY: New Year’s Eve. This is a holiday where you pay 200 dollars for the same meal you had a week prior, in the same restaurant, only this week they provided you with 29 cent glitter covered hats. Then you sit around waiting for midnight like it’s high school and your waiting the bell to ring on the last period. Then you kiss the nearest person to you, find a designated driver and go home through a sobriety checkpoint… lots’ of fun.
DECEMBER: Christmas. The big Kahuna of Holidays… you spend more on giftwrap and cards than you spent on your college education. Then you eat shit you wouldn’t eat in August if they put a gun to your head… you have to fight for a parking space at the mall and max out your credit cards so that people you don’t give a shit about get a gift. Nirvana.
FEBRUARY: Valentine’s Day AND President’s Day. February is a doubleheader month. Two holidays. They do this just in case there is any money left over from December that we have not spent.
MARCH: St. Patrick’s Day. A day when Irish people go into a bar and celebrate that they are Irish. How do they do this, by getting completely wasted, hiring a designated driver and going through a sobriety checkpoint. (Who sees a pattern forming here.)
APRIL: Easter. The day Christ came back… what did he come back for? I think it’s to hire a designated driver and go through a sobriety checkpoint.
MAY: Mother’s Day. A day to worship your mother… because the monthly check you send her isn’t enough.
JUNE: Father’s Day. A day to worship your father… because the monthly check you send your mother isn’t enough.
JULY: 4TH of July. Independence day. Barbeques, parades, fireworks, alcohol… designated drivers and sobriety checkpoints. This shit has got to stop.
AUGUST: The only month to get fucked out of a holiday. All it has is NATIONAL WATERMELON DAY…. Something to offend every African American.
SEPTEMEBER: Labor Day. A day to celebrate our work… work we have to do in order to pay off New Years Eve, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and 4th of July. Anyone see the irony here?
OCTOBER: Halloween. A day when gay people can finally dress up in drag and go to Ralphs.
NOVEMBER: Thanksgiving… this is the day we give thanks for finally paying off last Christmas’s bills.
And then the cycle starts all over again. Just when we see a light at the end of the tunnel, Hallmark looms it’s ugly head.
I hate the holidays…every single one of them. They force us to do things we wouldn’t naturally do… it’s like making someone pay child support for someone else’s child. Ooops. Been there…done that.
So here’s what I propose… a new holiday… On August 16th… one super holiday, one day to cover them all… we’ll call it… New St Christine Labor Day for Mom and Dad. Get all those fuckers done in one day, hire one designated drive and go through one sobriety point… AND THEN GO ON WITH OUR FUCKING LIVES.
Who’s with me?
A whole new me? That’s how I see this phase of my life. For so many years I felt that if anyone really got to know me, they would know what a horrible person I am. And so I hid. I hid behind the character I played on stage, that tough New Yorker. I attacked from the microphone because if I let my guard down they would see the real me and no one would like that. Then, I started a blog, which later became my book, and the whole world changed. Why? I let me guard down. I let you in to see the real me. And what you saw you liked. I don’t understand it, I don’t get it, I’m simply trying to grasp what it is that you see that I don’t.
It takes a lot of years of being told you are no good to have this kind of self-image. Being told you are a horrible person while being told you are loved can fuck you up big time. That’s what happened to me. There is a story that I didn’t tell in either book. But I’ll share it now. Because my parents were divorced I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s. She was not a warm fuzzy kind of person. She was a bitch on wheels and I got the full brunt of her hatred. My mother was her favorite child and she hate my father for not being the kind of husband SHE thought her favorite deserved. My grandmother then lumped my father and I in one big pile of shite. She reminded me that I wasn’t as good as the other kids, that my father wasn’t as good as her other son-in-laws, that I should worship the ground my mother walks on for being such a good mother. And she reminded me that as often as she could.
On this one particular Friday night my mother had to work late and I was alone with my grandmother at her house. She was screaming at me because my mother was working and I was not. I think I was 14 at the time. I was fighting back…fighting for my own existence…. Fighting to be heard as a person… Fighting for my dignity. I couldn’t take it any longer and I ran out of the house, down the street to the corner. I looked back and saw my mother entering my grandmother’s house and so I turned around and went back. She would make me feel better. She was my mother. As I entered the foyer of my grandmother’s house I heard my mother yelling to my grandmother, “I know, Ma, he’s a son of a bitch, what do you want from me? He’s Ben’s son.” It was like someone had taken a knife and shoved it into my heart. I turned around and left the house to walk the street for hours. My grandmother acted as if she hated me, my mother agreed with her and my father was nowhere to be found. Unless you know what loneliness is, you won’t know how I felt as I walked those streets. After a couple of hours I walked back to my grandmother’s house and met my mother… “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?” Is all I got. But the damage had already been done, the internal damage. I think it took 45 years to get over that night. I still haven’t gotten over it to some extent. I mean, the pain is less than it used to be but the memory lingers.
That brings me back to the blog. I started writing my blog LIFE SUCKS WHY NOT SHARE IT… and suddenly, I was surrounded by the arms of strangers. Stories that I kept hidden deep in my psyche for decades I trotted out like I was at the Nuremburg Trial. I emptied that well of self-hate and loathing that I carried around with me my entire life and I shared it with others. And what did I get; unconditional love and support. And the support kept growing… it grew exponentially. The more I shared, the more love and support I got.
Do you know why I never had a web site? I never felt I deserved one. What could I put on a web site that anyone would care about? But a wonderful lady was put in my life, Marilyn Johnson, and I told her I had no materials. And I told her I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. And I told her and I told he and I told her and all she said to me was, “Let me see what I can do.” And what she did was bring me back into the world again. I remember the first day the web site came on line. I looked at it and said, “I’m back.”
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I feel like a new person, because I AM a new person…. a little stronger, a little wiser, a little more self-confident. And I wanted to say it now because I wanted you to all know I couldn’t have done it without you. I wanted to tell you my grandmother was wrong. I wanted to tell you that some day I’ll able to say that with conviction…and… I wanted to tell you…. THAT THE NEW RALPHS IN THE VALLEY IS FUCKING INCREDIBLE.
I’m exhausted. You’d think I just fought the Six Day War. I don’t understand it. My people did so well in the desert… they wandered for 40 years. I only went for four hours and I think I need a blood transfusion. Jews and the Desert, it’s supposed to be a match made in heaven… all I did was go to Palm Springs and I think I want to kill myself.
I’m old. I don’t look old. But I’m old. How do I know? The people I went to high school with are moving into nursing homes. That’s an indication I shouldn’t go skate boarding. It’s time for me to find a place to retire to and possibly die in my sleep . Have you looked at California real estate… if you want to live by the ocean you had better be a seagull… not a Siegel cause properties are so god damn expensive you’d think the ocean was made of gold. So I looked for an alternative…the anti-ocean…the desert.
I had heard from several people that Palm Springs is very reasonable… sure it is… it’s an oven with a toll road. Who wants to live where it’s 120 degrees in August? No one… so it’s reasonable. However, I looked on line and found some wonderful places… big spacious places… three story townhouses with two car garages and exterior spaces… 20 foot ceilings… fireplaces… 3 bathrooms… and they are in my price range, entry level poverty. So I called a real estate broker and I drove the two hours to the desert. We went to my dream home. I opened the door and I looked at her and said, “Are you kidding me?” It was like Barbie’s Dream House and just about as big. I said to her, “Who was the architect, Billy Barty?” It was literally the smallest home I had ever been in. I walked up the stairs, my elbows rubbed both walls. I took out my iPhone and looked at the website. Yes, this is the same unit but in the picture the living room looked like a bowling alley. In reality it was a little larger than the box they give you at J. Crew for your socks. (Yes, that’s right I buy my socks at J. Crew..wanna do something about it?)
It was then I learned that they shoot these places with a fisheye lens. It make them look larger. What it actually does is false advertise them. It Bait and Switches you… it makes you drive two hours. I was furious. But I had been warned by the real estate broker that the places were bad… but I poo-poo’d that… after all I had seen the website…these place are huge. “What does she know.”, I said to myself. Turns out…she knows a lot.
We were walking back to the car like we had just buried a relative when we were approached by, how can I put this… Belle Barth in a muumuu. And in a cigarette graveled voice said, “Want to see my unit?” The very thought brought my lunch up to the back of my throat. “Oh wait… she means her house.” So we went inside where I just don’t know how to describe this place to give it the right amount of disrespect. It was sort of a cross between THE GOLDEN GIRLS meets MIAMI VICE meets NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Everything was power blue and pink. EVERYTHING!!! It looked like a flamingo had thrown up in there. And just as you couldn’t believe how horrific this room was there was that room… a room that had been sand blasted so the walls looked like they had been in a nuclear explosion. It’s at this point the owner points out the white Formica built-ins. “There are sixty thousand dollars in built-ins in this place.” To which I whisper to no one, “How unfortunate for you. It’ll take eighty thousand to jack hammer them out.”
We couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I was getting seasick. We thanked the owner and with a straight face the real estate broker says, “You have a lovely home.” This negated everything she ever said to me.
We look at eight homes in two hours. I’m wearing long denim jeans, which are heating up like a ceramic kiln. The last house we saw had lots of potential… I’m interested but the complex keeps screaming, “assisted living”. I’m not sure that I should buy this one and I have to think it over. I have to ask my friends. I have to get out of the desert and into my air-conditioned car.
I head back to LA… the drive is uneventful until I make a wrong turn and am taken to downtown LA where the freeway is literally at a stand still. Three hours later I make it into my home. I am exhausted. I have never been this exhausted in my life. I crawl into bed at 8 p.m. and open my eyes at 8 the following morning. I am drained, like someone has taken my blood and given it to the Red Cross. I take two more naps… and have a tuna sandwich. As I write this I’m still feeling woozy… it’s like all the energy has been sucked from my body. But I have to go back… how can I? How can I face the Golden Girl Suite? I’ve been back and forth with the broker all day. I’m coming back to Palm Springs in a week or so. I’m going to put myself through this again… or… I could just come out of retirement, go back on the road, pretend I never had to retire…. And live out of suitcases for the rest of my life.
No, that won’t happen. So… in a week or so, I’ll go back to Palm Springs and find a place I can call my home away from home, my place where the dish washer doesn’t work, where the ants have set up an express lane from the outside through my kitchen into my freezer, where lizards sit on rocks going, “Fuck it’s hot.” Yes, I will return to the desert and find my retirement villa…. I will… and when I do… you all have to come and visit me…and bring furniture because who can furnish two whole houses?????
Goodnight my Tesla Dream where ever you are!