Monday, 27 December 2010

Subway Story

Here is a thing that happend to me that I sometimes think of at times like this - no, I will not be explaining what exact kind of time as it is not relevant.  This thing happened many years ago.  I was broke.  Boy, was I broke.  I barely had money to get drunk and doing that felt like a priority at that time.  Not the best of times. 

It was winter, just coming up on Christmas.  I think it must have been a Sunday.  I'm sure it was.  It was raining and I walked into a Subway in town and there was a guy playing guitar not half badly and people were busy and passing by and ignoring him though it was dry in the subway and they had just come from the rain and had nothing to rush for but to get wet some more.

I suspect that the pubs were closed; sunday, that kind of time and place. Not sure. Anyway, he had no audience and I had an idea and time to act on it, so I stopped and put my back to the wall opposite the guy playing gutitar. I deliberately placed myself as an audience. I had no money to toss into his hat. Maybe enough for a beer, but he wasn't that good... who is?

Still, a funny thing happened - one I anticipated but still it was extraordinary to watch - as a one man determined audience became a pauser and a hesitater and a listener or two and then more as a crowd slowly built.  A woman and her daugher danced up and down in front of the guitar player and I smiled at the musician and he sang on and I left it there.... I left it knowing something good. Knowing that I did that. It still makes me smile.

You can make a difference.  Not much, 'tis true, but not nothing either.  When I arrived there was a guy playing guitar for a buck and being ignored, when I left there was joy and smiles and pleasure.  It still makes me smile - but the clarity of these memories fade if played to often, so I do not remember this with any frequence.  Only at times like these.

Mitch Heberg

I have no idea what Mitch Hedberg was like.

This is exactly the opposite of what is normally said when opening comments on an admired artist.  The way it's done is... Mitch Hedberg was such and such and so and so and really that's not the way I want to go with this.   I never met the man and have no idea what he was like from first hand experience.

But I can tell you he had - there's that damn past tense again - exactly my sense of humor.

I had a parrot. The parrot talked, but it did not say "I'm hungry," so it died.

You see?

Mitch Hedberg was married to Lynn Shawcroft, also in the standup business.

If you are the type of person that loses stuff, you know of the sweet relief when you find it...there's nothing like thinking you have lost your wallet (for the hundredth time) and then spying it under bed...always a great excuse to party. You feel like you have accomplished something by not losing something.

Discovering Mitch was an odd experience for me.  Browsing yuoutube, standup, looking for a laugh that I sorely seemed to need.  And there he was.  Funny.  My kind of humor:

Is a hippopotamus a hippopotamus or just a really cool opotamus?

Of course, some of it is in the delivery.

I ordered a chicken sandwich but I think the waitress misunderstood me because she said, "How would you like your eggs?" So I tried to answer her anyhow. I said "Incubated, and then raised, and then beheaded, and then plucked and then cut up then put onto a grill then put onto a bun. Shit, it's gonna take awhile. I don't have time, scrambled!"

For reference, it is now 28th December 2010.  Not one of my best years; with details I shall not trouble you.  It was a joy to discover Mitch and I thought, wow, cool, I will follow this guys career and buy all his material and he will make me laugh and spend the money and that is a cool arrangement that I am happy with and then I noticed that he was dead already.  I think that is a unique kind of sadness I just experienced, a flavour unknown under other circumstances.

I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too.

Mitch, and I know that it is familiar to use is name but there is an odd sense of ownership when you find a standup comic whose singular humor you share, or so I feel; anyway, Mitch had a heart condition from childhood.  You cannot push yourself work-wise to burnout, burn the candle at both ends, and burn any substances desired on a whim and survive into old age when you have a heart condition from childhood.

In the space of a few hours I went from not knowing of his existance, to fanhood, to grieving fan, to angry fan deprived of future work, to obsessive fan finding out all I could of Mitch and his works, to here, telling my own few fans - and I guess this is where I empathise with Mitch the most - the many years of learning his craft while intentionally doing crummy jobs to keep the motivation in place (people with good incomes rarely become comics or writers) and getting that first sniff and taste of sucess and recognition and working harder because there is nothing like it, nothing else half way like it, and then.... damn, no time to enjoy it more than doing it was enjoyable in and of itself.  Climbing the mountain and falling off, rather than decending in a more controlled fashion to speak of it to others who had climbed and share what you can with those who have not.

Goodbye Mitch, and I know I am far from being alone when I say that I will surely miss you.

And to Lynn, best wishes, and I hope you find some of your lost shit.