Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Who the Hell do You Think You Are?

Be yourself.

You hear it all the time, right?

Going on a first date? Be yourself.

Job interview? Just be yourself!

Meeting the in-laws for the first time? Be mostly yourself, but throw in a little Anderson Cooper, like the sophisticated part (advice from my wife).

Seems like a pretty simple thing to do, this being yourself. Get out of bed and, BANG!


Who the fuck would wear this shirt? Oh yeah. Me. I was myself when I bought it, and when I put it on today, I was just being myself. The myself that is one of the few men in his 40’s who would wear a Rick Springfield t-shirt. Besides Rick Springfield. Who’s in his 60’s, so that doesn’t count anyway.

But it’s actually pretty hard to be yourself.

I thought about this after my last show. I realized in all the time I’ve been doing stand-up, I might have been myself for about 35 minutes. Give or take. I have rarely been the REAL me on stage. I don’t mean those few awful years where I went by Dave Lorayne at gigs from here to Bend, OR. HEY. No one could pronounce Mencarelli, alright? Hell some Bendites (Bendonians?) had trouble with Dave. I’m talking about doing material that I wrote hoping it would appeal to a broad range of people, from 8 drunk guys in a bar, to 300 people at the Improv, or even a bunch of Wal Mart employees at a corporate event. And it does work, to some degree, in most places (bite me Mammoth). But it’s not true to ME. It’s based on truth, sure, but it has no point of view, no passion and no edge. It’s not the Dave that my family and a few close friends know. It’s not the Dave that hates Burning Man, “Twilight”, and those assholes at mall kiosks trying to sell you skin cream. It’s a Dave that would’ve worked in the Catskills or Vaudeville. Silly, unsubstantial and bland.

When I realized this, I also realized that, I spend very little of my life off stage being myself. Work Dave isn’t really me. In fact, Work Dave is different from job to job. There’s Radio Dave, Chain Restaurant Dave, Intuit Dave (that guy was a disaster), etc. Facebook Dave is certainly not the real me, though Facebook ANYBODY probably isn’t telling the whole truth. If your life really is all “loookitmeandmycoolfamilyatDisneylandandmyhusbandcookeddinner-AGAINtonightblahfuckingblahblah” then I not only hate you, I‘m also jealous. Customer Dave aint even CLOSE to the real me. If I stopped pretending to be so understanding when the nitwits at Taco Bell put lettuce on my Enchirito, the things I’d say to them would probably get my ass kicked by said nitwits. Motorcycle Dave is so not the real me, he even has a different name. I’d appreciate it if, when you see me, you’d use it. It’s Spyder. Thanks.

All this not being myself is pretty tiring. It’s frustrating too. There’s things I want to say on stage and in real life that need to come out. I was chatting with another comic before a show recently and the subject of stage fright came up. I explained how over the last few years my fear of getting up there had gotten almost debilitating. I told him that I was sick to my stomach the entire day of the show, and sometimes longer. I told him how I sometimes felt like I was going to pass out on stage. I told him how difficult it was when I tried to tell people this and their response was always “Oh, you’ll be fine. You’re funny.” Because I sure don’t feel like I’m gonna be fine. I’m petrified that even one joke won’t work. Or that a line will offend even ONE person. I’m over thinking it so much, that it’s just me reciting lines, like a bad beat poet. Or a good one for that matter. Both suck.

It’s the same in real life. I’m scared that even ONE person won’t like me. Or think I’m smart. Or think I’m culturally, politically or spiritually unaware. I pretend to agree with things I don’t (Balzac was a genius), know about things I don’t (who the fuck is Balzac?), or understand things I don’t (19th Century French Realism). I feel like I have to be so careful about what I say that I’d rather not even interact with another human being. It’s a constant filtering process and it‘s exhausting.

So I’m not gonna do it anymore.

I won’t be tactless. If you’re reading OK! Magazine, I won’t question your right to be a vapid idiot unless you open that door. If you’re over 25 years old or 160 lbs I won’t excoriate you for wearing skinny jeans. And I won’t laugh out loud at you if you’re sitting in a Starbucks wearing a Bluetooth headset and talking to your friend about the new Ke$ha single. But I also won’t censor my own opinions or views. I won’t worry so much about what strangers think about me or how an audience reacts to me.

I’m going to REALLY be myself, warts and all. That’s a figure of speech. I don’t have warts. What it means is you’re gonna get the good (I’m anti-murder), the bad (“Don’t Talk To Strangers” is my ringback tone), and the ugly (I cry during “Grey’s Anatomy”).

I guess what I’m saying is that if I wanna sit in a Starbucks wearing my skinny jeans, reading OK! Magazine and rambling on about Ke$ha on my cell phone, I’ll do it and I won’t give a shit what YOU think.

Spyder. Out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ride Like a Man

There are a lot of things that define a man. Not all of them are accurate or fair, but even some of those things are generally accepted in society’s definition of A MAN. I’m not referring to the anatomical definition of course. That’s easy. Except in the case of Chas Bono. That’s a mind bender. I’m talking about things like the following:

How much money does he make? (inaccurate and unfair).

What kind of music does he like? (inaccurate but possibly fair).

Is he a good husband? Or Father? (accurate and fair).

Can he grow a cool goatee (totally fair).

There are probably hundreds of other things that people take into cursory consideration when they subconsciously decide if a male is A MAN. And, like deciding if Ben Affleck is a quality actor, or French-Canadians are rude and arrogant, or if the ugly girl should marry the vampire or the werewolf, opinions will, invariably, vary (He is, they are, and who cares).

I’m sure there are people out there who don’t think John Mayer is a “real” man. How can I be sure? I’m one of them. On the flip side, I’m sure there people who think John Mayer is the epitome of A MAN. He does have “manly” qualities. He’s apparently a commitment-phobe and he has some slick tattoos. You see? Those two things I just mentioned are stereotypical “man” qualities. You don’t ever hear a chick say “You know Becky is a REAL woman, with all her one night stands and that Grim Reaper tattoo on her chest!”

When I got my motorcycle recently, several people asked me if it made me feel like A MAN. Some mockingly (my guy friends - including the guy who sold it to me), some with genuine curiosity (BOTH of my shrinks), and some because I’d asked them to call me “Spyder”.

As a guy who has struggled with his image of what a man should be, and constantly questioned whether or not he has those qualities, the question “does having a motorcycle make you feel man” intrigued me. The answer is yes.

This ain’t my first motorbike, you see. I’ve had three other motorcycles that I barely rode on the real streets because I was scared. The last one I had, I was determined, would see the open road. Or at least McCarran. I enlisted the help of my pal Trey to teach me to ride. The first time out, I laid the bike down 20 feet out of his driveway. “Well, got that out of the way” I told myself. No major damage, and though I could tell Trey was having second, and probably as many as
26th thoughts, we continued. When I made a left turn and used my right foot to stop myself from side swiping the curb, we pulled over.

“Where are we going next?” I asked Trey, trying to convince him, and myself, that going anywhere else was a good idea. He wasn’t buying it.

“We’re gonna make a right off this street, head back to my house, and put your bike up for sale on craigslist.” He said, more than matter of factly.

I sold the bike, To a chick. That hit me smack in the manhood. If I said she was a lesbian, would that make it better? She was and it doesn’t.

Fast forward to last summer. I was hanging around Jim McClain (I’ll let you decide if this was an upgrade in companions from Trey) and he’s a biker to the core. I got the bug again and I got myself in the Riders Edge Safety Course at Reno Harley. In a nutshell, I learned to feel safe on a motorcycle. I got some good tips and encouragement from the guys at Harley (yeah, even Kerr) and eventually got motorcycle number 4. And yes, as I said, it does make me feel like a man.

Let me explain.

Some of the things that make me feel like a man are: I’m an adequate and sometimes even good husband. I think I’m a pretty good dad. I’ve learned to not apologize for who I am, and I almost always admit when I’m mistaken, and try to make amends. And now, I've overcome my fear of riding a motorcycle. Every time I get on it and go from my house near McQueen High School to the Sparks Marina, or from work to Idlewild Park, I feel like a man. I’m conquering something that I struggled with for years. I assume that when I get the balls to ride it on the freeway and faster than 60 mph, that feeling will grow even more.

See, it’s a good lesson. If I can beat that fear, what other fears might I be able to overcome? Could I get on an airplane and fly to Florida for Spring Training? Could I take a real stab at being a full time comic? Could I put my hand in my daughter’s gecko tank to feed it? The answers are maybe, maybe and not a fucking chance.

You get my point.

And if you don’t, here it is. Overcoming your fear can make you feel like a man. Even if you’re a woman. Or Chas Bono. Tattoos and fistfights and a high pain threshold and an iPod full of Pantera songs don’t make you a man.

I probably wouldn’t tell a guy with tattoos, a high pain threshold and an iPod full of Pantera songs he wasn’t a man. But I did ride my Harley on Sparks Blvd the other day… so someday I might.