Friday night. The Paramount Theatre.
Hundreds of people. We perform and it goes well. People are laughing. Things are good. We hit the halfway mark and our set is over. Pablo Francisco gets on stage and he warps our minds for the next hour, adding to the fun of our other stand-up comics, Jesse Pangelinan and Justin Sanders. We get to sit in the audience and watch: Except for selling T-shirts and schmoozing afterward, our work is done.
And then the best part: Celebration.
We all agree to go to the ultra-swank Stephen F. Austin hotel next door. And when I say swank, I'm talking about $16 drinks. We're sitting there, all sweaty and T-shirted from our show, up on the second floor patio overlooking 7th and Congress Ave. It's about 11:30 p.m. and people are just crowding into downtown for their night out.
And we decompress. We talk about the show, we gossip a little bit about stand-up comics we've heard of or worked with in the past. We joke around, try each others' drinks.
It's over. At least for tonight. Frank, our board's executive director, is inside at the bar. Our artistic director is inside chatting with folks. Patty keeps running in and out, demanding that I buy her a drink. I put a second mortgage on my house and agree.
The $16 drink: it's usually very very sweet or very very bad and liquory. $16 drinks have Godiva chocolate liqueur in it or martini ingredients that will go into your body and jump around, causing chaos and neglecting to pay rent.
You should only ever ask someone you don't like or someone who has a lot of useless money to buy you a $16 drink. Because that's just a hardship, folks.
Things are funny and fun. A few folks decide they're going to see the excellent Grupo Fantasma over at the Mercury Room. I make hasty plans to head over that way. When I do, I go alone, navigating the throngs on Sixth Street. They all look so young, in tight clothes and huge, gelled hair. I definitely don't belong there anymore. I'm The Old Guy on Sixth Street. But just for a minute. I walk upstairs to the Mercury Room where the band is drilling their music into the skulls of like half the Latinos in town. They're bouncing on stage; people are sweating and banging up on each other and it's fucking fantastic. I spot one of our cast members, then an old friend, then some other cast members and their friends, and it's just brilliant time. More drinks. A few beers. Lots of dancing and sweating. The entire place smelled like smoke and sweat. It was the opposite of what I usually put in my body, all the Jamba Juice and salads and water; but at this moment my body craved it, remembered what all my college years and the years right after were like. It was like sin antennae were coming out of my skull and checking out the nightlife.
2 a.m. at the Mercury. We close the place out; they take our drinks, they turn on the lights. Where to next?
By a weird quirk of fate, we ended up with an extra hotel room the weekend of the show. Some of us made our way back there and headed upstairs where Nick was conked out in the bed and other folks were hanging around, chitchatting. They'd closed the bar at the Stephen F.
Next, with some bad navigational coordination and scary driving time (I wasn't drunk or even tipsy by this time; don't worry), some of us made it over to Grupo Fantasma's afterparty.
Keg. Dogs. Band members. Funny smoke.
It was good.
I drove home around 4:15 and stopped at Whataburger because I really hadn't eaten all night. I treated myself to a Whataburger Jr. and then took it home, wolfed it down, took a shower at went to bed at 6 a.m.
Next morning. I'm already getting phone calls at 11 a.m. about the cast party, to be held at my house that night. I get up, groggy and battered, but after some coffee, I'm ready to go run some errands, clean my house and wait for Patty and Karinna to come over to do all the food prep for the party.
Same routine. Show. Audience. Applause, fun, T-shirts. Only this time, I have to run home because people are already starting to arrive at the party and I haven't even picked up ice for all the beer or finished with the sweeping.
Oh, and there are two nasty hives of wasps on my back porch, but that's a whole other story.
People show up. More partying. Karrina, who is insane, brings over a karaoke machine her mother bought at a garage sale for $50. She has this incredibly random collection of karaoke discs scattered in all these cases. A mix of broadway tunes, TV show tunes and 90s rock. Very strange. Every time somebody sings out of their octave or wails into the mic, I look over fences to make sure angry neighbors aren't turning on lights at 3 in the morning and calling the cops.
Beer. Angry cats wailing from the closed-off garage. Wine, Mandarin vodka drinks. Late-night conversations, confessions and karaoke (you know it's the end of the party when people are karaokeing sitting down, all tired).
Time to bed? 6 a.m. again.
Two nights in a row. I don't know that I've done that since... ever. The thing about performing is you can't come down right after a show like that, after doing adrenaline-pumping comedy in front of close to a thousand people.
I'm reading this book called Live from New York. It's not out yet, but I was able to snag an early review copy, and I'm getting to read all these amazing stories about the early days of Saturday Night Live. Not just the work, but the lifestyle, and how they would all just stay out all night after the live show, greet the dawn, hang out in disgusting bars, just to get to the point where they could sleep. It was an amazing time.
For our little troupe, we only get that feeling two times a year or so. Pretty soon, we'll be touring, and it'll happen more often, but for those two or three weeks out of the year, I feel really young, like I'm not a homeowner with two cats and a steady job with huge responsibilities. I can be this Party Person. I can stay up until dawn and maybe have a hangover if I'm lucky. I can feel grimy and smoky and have the beer and lime drying my lips out when I wake up. I can feel that little bit of alive for a short time, glad for the fact that it's not my life every week, but still feeling that lusting burn inside of me for that; there's a part of me that enjoys that, that wishes my life was like that all the time. Things I say seem funnier. My body seems more vital and alive. Everything's brighter and clearer and sleep feels like nectar.
But then things settle down and Real Life starts again, and it just feels like I had a really nice, vivid dream. A really nice temporary life.
There's something about the air at 5:59 in the morning. It tastes completely different.
Hey, look at this! Stuff to buy! Haaawwwt-Damn!
Oh yeah, like that's the right direction.