I am currently on the third of three days off in Cleveland. At this point I am now beginning to over-analyze everything I see. Fortunately the shows resume tomorrow night, which should prevent me from turning into Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
First off, I am getting a great tan in Cleveland, but it is more a wandering nomad, homeless-guy-in-LA tans, rather than a beach vacation tan. That means my face, forearms and calves are a dark brown and everything else is relatively pale. Because the bridge that shortens my walk to Starbucks and the Mall each day (and is a short cut to two strip clubs) is out of commission (for a year now – it was supposed to be fixed using Stimulus money – how ironic the stimulus money is preventing stimulation at the strip clubs – wakka wakka) I have to take the longer walk over the Veterans Memorial Bridge (VMB) every time I want to do anything besides meditate or avoid sneaky spider webs in the comedian condo.
Yesterday, for example, at 6:20pm (plenty of daylight), I observed a party of 5 to 6 raccoons cross the street on my way to the VMB (good sign of rabies). A day earlier I saw a creature that I did not recognize, despite watching all 11 episodes of Planet Earth, running in a nearby dirt patch.
Of course once I pass the Land of the Lost nature preserve I apparently am living in, I am quickly welcomed onto the set of Breaking Bad. There is some sort of rehab clinic or shelter midway between the condo and the bridge. There has never been any trouble and I am sure there is good work going on there, but it is still unnerving to see people walking like they are zombies nearby. Except, unlike The Walking Dead, the white-black ratio is more 1:1 than a television acceptable 10:1.
Once I get passed the rehab center I can go straight, which leads to the supermarket and what appears, based on a proliferation of newish-looking beer gardens, to be a future yuppie, hipster neighborhood. But first I have to walk through what feels like a four-to-five block hood. As in I expect Cuba Gooding Jr. to scream RICKKYYYYYYYYYYY!” as I walk through it. I have gone this way once to get groceries. Perhaps I will go that way again today and work on my 40 yr dash time.
The other way, which has been my two to three times per day walk, is over the VMB which leads to food, Starbucks, Mass and the gym. Of course crossing the bridge has been an adventure. Usually there are lots of bike riders, but only about 1 in 5 are 10 speed-looking bike riders. The rest are riding tiny bikes. I never understood why grown men rode bikes that looked like they belonged to their younger siblings or children, but they immediate convey low level narcotics trafficking to me. Then of course there are those special moments, like on Saturday, when I was jogging across the bridge and I observed a man without a shirt (hardly uncommon at the cross roads of Jurassic Park nature preserve, hood, and rehab clinic). However, as I got closer it, became clearer that he had his penis out and was pissing into the wind while walking. If he was headed to the rehab clinic I am guessing that he is going to need to give back that “two days sober” chip.
My daily ritual has been to read and write in Starbucks for several hours (since I just buy a one green tea I am basically renting the table for fifty cents an hour) before going to the gym. Naturally this involves a lot of people watching. Just the same way our economy and capitalism are helping to destroy what was once known as the middle class, the more I travel the country, observing “real Americans” the more I realize that Oscar Wilde was right – life is imitating art. It seems the smaller the town or city, the more women are either dressing and inked up like porn stars, or just waiting on a 9th piece of chocolate cake. I guess women have adopted the ,”If I cannot make a sex tape I might as well get on The Biggest Loser.”
When I was doing clubs in the South, before they realized that book-learning and sarcasm did not always translate well to the “free ticket” crowds, I noticed the extremes of women. They either looked and acted like Vivid video spokeswomen or like cheerleaders for Type II diabetes. Obviously I am not examining men with the same eye to to detail, but the tattoo craze seems to have afflicted us as well, and I am sure we exhibit the same fitness extremes. I don’t know if there is a crisis of confidence in America, only because we may be too shallow to actually examine how we feel. We don’t just export our entertainment abroad -we also export it to the middle of this country, that used to be called upon to produce for us. The Midwest had the identity of being the muscles of our industries – now they seem like an exaggerated testing ground for Internet and Reality Show trends. The way a man without a job can turn to crime, it seems that when whole regions of the country have their jobs or identity stripped, a cultural race to the bottom seems to happen. There are plenty of frauds and fools roaming New York City, but the uniformity of Middle America is starting to make think that the tattooed moron and the obese sad sack are becoming as American as the strip malls and apple pie that they consume.
So if you thought those last couple of paragraphs were funny, I will be at the Cleveland Improv Thursday through Sunday.