“I’m going to Cameli’s,” I told my wife. “It’s Arcadia Comedy.”
“Oh, fun!” she exclaimed. “Are you going up?”
This was her way of asking if she should come with me. Did I need moral support?
“You’re the comedian, baby,” I told her, and it’s true. She’s goddamn hilarious. “I’m going to see if I can find something related to time travel to write about.”
She’s used to my writerly oddness, so she gave me her standard “Okay, Weirdo” face and nodded. She kissed my cheek and sent me on my way.
I didn’t get nervous until I got into my car. As soon as I shifted into drive, Anxiety began digging a hole through my gut, and the only way that I could release the tension was to shout nonsensically.
The windows of my last-century Buick were down. They’re always down. The A.C. quit working about an hour and a half after I bought the piece of junk.
I was at a stoplight, and I looked over as I let it out. Staring back was an older lady driving the latest SUV, black. Her windows just happened to also be down.
“HERRRRMERRRT!” I bellowed, her judgmental glare throwing another wrench at my stomach.
The light turned green, and I left her there with her opinions.
Cameli’s is actually pretty easy to get to if you’re headed south on Moreland. Pass the Star Bar, pass the Package Store, and then watch the cramped, no-median road open up to include a turn lane just in time to make the left into the parking lot. I was lucky. I got the last of the free parking.
I have this image in my head of the type of people who frequent “cool” places. I see beards and tattoos. I see plaid and piercings. I see ironic t-shirts and shoes that cost more than my car.
I wasn’t disappointed.
I bought a couple of beers from the bearded bartender and found a seat next to a plaided woman with a septum piercing. It was against the window, so I let my eyes rest on the dark side of a sunset.
I know some of this description sounds a bit derisive, but it’s really more defensive. I’ve never been a “cool,” and while I fetishize plaid as much as the next millennial, the only facial hair I grow is a natural goatee, and I dress like a failed salesman. The “scene” can be intimidating.
I was almost un-uncomfortable. Anxiety still ate at me, but now that I was in it, a couple of PBRs down, I pushed through. Kyle was starting the show.
I was shocked to feel at home as one 40s/50s white guy after another stood up, all of them business casual. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen them sooner. Among the hip, they stuck out like semen stains in black light. They told jokes about their kids and trips to Home Depot. I jotted notes in my book and saw others doing the same.
Maybe I wasn’t so out of place here after all.
Once the Cracker portion of the show was over, the mix of comedy got more interesting. There were newbies and there were veterans. There was the “I’m a whore” comic, and there was the “HEY I’m SUPER Drunk” guy. There was a comic who memorized his set as a monologue and had to keep running over to his table to look up his next line. There was a guy who kept trying to explain his unlanded jokes with sports metaphors.
I watched nearly every other person in the room stand up, hand out their funny, and sit back down. The night was nearly over before I realized that I was one of the only people – out of more than 20 – who wasn’t there to get on stage. It dawned on me that this was a workout room, the equivalent of a writing group or workshop. I simultaneously felt more at home and like I was crashing a private event, but then the comic on stage made me laugh my face off, and I forgot all about it.
I was entertained. I was glad I came. By the time it was all over, my anxiety had fallen dormant, and I was sad that the experience was over.
I drove home in a daze of mild elation. I’d done something different with my day. I’d found something interesting to do.
“So?” my wife asked as I climbed into bed. “How was it?”
“Awesome,” I replied and assumed cuddling position 17.
“Did you find any time travelers?” she asked.
I laughed for the millionth time that evening.
“I completely forgot to look.”