Sunday, December 31, 2006

Finally! The Big Sort-Out Is Done

For the last 5 days I've sorted through everything I own. That can get a little heavy and I ended up with a pretty bad cold. The most recent quarter of my life has been charmed, truly magic, but I've had to delve back into the entire body of work, and at times that gets profoundly depressing. Not that I haven't led a charmed existence, but the other day, for example, I discovered a few letters my drummer wrote me from prison. That era really sucked. We were a good band when he was keeping time - not so good when he was doing time.

The experience of sorting goes like this: You pick up one thing that's totally meaningless like a transmission bill from 1985. You drop that in the garbage and then pick up the next paper and it absolutely clobbers you. Maybe it's a note from your Mom or Dad. Maybe it's a couple of pictures of you and your girlfriend circa 1979. At this point you stare out in space for a second before moving on.

Our lives really end up being a bunch of containers, and that includes caskets and urns. But I'm focusing more on those plastic containers you buy from the store. God, I have a lot of those.

I have one with just pictures and that's the most powerful, including many shots from the long-lost Arabia years. There's two huge containers full of script rewrites. There are boxes of jokes, and one container of cartoon stuff. There's a box of song lyrics. I even found the book where I list all the song titles - something like 124 by now, and that's not even complete. There are 2 containers full of family stuff and other memento-type documents. All the cards, letters, etc...That's probably where you'd look at after the pictures to tell what really went on.

I wrote a lengthy letter to the family nearly every Christmas, and I found enough of those to fill a big box. These letters are as long as 60 pages, and they should be pretty interesting as I describe the best events of each year. I may have to reread some of those, and see.

There's also one box of tools and supplies. One container is packed with stuff from my newspaper writing days. There's one of small tapes and papers for my cable access show. One for music cassettes, and one for videos. These will join the others already in storage. I've got tons of music cassettes and only around a quarter are commercial - the rest are me and various musicians.

There's quite a pile of business letters from all the shows and places where I've applied. I could teach a course: Comparative Rejection Letters of the 20th Century. Then there's a nice stack of media articles about me, including some of the times my jokes appeared in print. I really didn't keep up on those which is too bad. I should have cut out each and every time a joke was in the Oregonian, etc... I do have the Time Magazine one and the USA Today.

What an improbable career path. December 26th, 2006 marked ten years with the radio gig and that has been complete magic. That's really what I do. I've never met the bosses and I don't even have to come up with the premises. The stuff arrives 5 days a week and I just add some punch lines and send it back. Then they go to radio stations all over the globe. I don't know if we're still on in Namibia and Srl Lanka, but how cool is it knowing I'm having some kind of international impact? Especially since it's on the side of laughter, instead of misery? Okay, in theory at least. Let's just say the difference between me and President Bush is that when I drop a bomb, no one gets hurt.

Finally, unless my fried brain has forgotten something, there's a brand new container full of things to blog about in the year ahead. Don't worry. It's not all ticket stubs.

All told these containers show the life of a failed artist - at least till around 14 years ago. Then the comedy writing thing took off. I'm used to being somewhat of a success now, but I did get bogged down doing this, thinking about all the years when things did not work out. I really committed to music and risked it all, so when it didn't happen, I was in a pretty bad place. My main band that I moved to Portland with took a good ten years to get over. In fact, there are moments like this week, when I'm still haunted by it.

Lately, I've felt great, and I wish everybody the best in 2007. Through carefully applied waves of self-delusion, I've arrived at a pretty good place. That could be why I chose this time to do this.

The weirdest part is when you start looking at right now as it will look in the past - as it will look in the containers. I need to return to the present and stay there for a while. For 5 days I wandered back into the wreckage. I strolled through the debris field of my life. I was able to sort through it all, and that's great, but every now and then, I had to stop and talk with a few ghosts.


At 2:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful and interesting post.
I am not a pack-rat, so I don't have 'stuff' of my 70 years of living or my 47 year marriage to go through. If I don't use it with in a year..out it goes..
But....I have not lived the interesting life with all the interesting memories that you have.
Glad that your have accomplished your task and will be looking forward to some more interesting posts of the things you found that you had forgotten about.


At 5:37 PM, Blogger Ruben Bailey said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5:38 PM, Blogger Ruben Bailey said...

Happy New Year, Bill. Thanks for the entertaining posts, I enjoy checking "you" out most days.

"See you on the other side...."



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