For a while now I’ve wanted to write more personal writing pieces, but never quite gotten there. Every blog I’ve tried to make has either felt forced, or neglected. Monthly is my best answer to that problem. In an effort to weed out over-posting for the sake of content creation, and posting one thing every 5 months and looking like a person who’s neglected a website, I’ve created a blog that this year will get exactly 12 entries. One for each month. I don’t really know exactly what it’s going to be about, except that I’ll probably be in it.
This year, May brought along with it one of the most exciting weekends of the year for me: The Bridgetown Comedy Festival. I’m not breaking any new ground recapping the festival, but it’s similar to floating in a sensory deprivation tank, in the sense that you feel it’s effects long after you’ve left. You just can’t help but talk about it.
The thing about Bridgetown is it’s such a good time--so utterly fun/riveting/all-encompassing-- that it’s impossibly difficult to describe. Of course it’s just a comedy festival, but when you get down to the details I find people are so overwhelmed by it, that the only thing they can call it is “the most fun ever”.
Most commonly, it’s been referred to as a summer camp for comedians. Like a summer camp it’s filled with activities, and full of bonding experiences. Not to mention the limited time frame in which it exists gives it that fleeting, ethereal nature most commonly felt when gazing out the back of a 1980’s stationwagon; wondering when you’ll next see your new friends again. The best part though is what the festival is beyond that. On the surface it’s this amazing, shiny fun time. Then you go to it and realize that it’s also the best symposium you’ve ever been to. It’s a comedy residency. You put in your time hanging around and performing with some of the most talented people in the business, and then you get a shot at it yourself. Not only that, you get the invaluable experience of realizing that there are people just like you who exist in Atlanta, and Chicago, and Denver, and they’re awesome. One thing I can’t get over is simply connecting the degrees of separation between people who are for all intensive terms your ‘co-workers’.
“Oh, you’re from Denver? Do you know Tim?”
“Right on, I’ve never been to D.C before, this is a long shot, but you wouldn't happen to know David, perchance?”
If anything, comedy has shown me despite a geographical distance, we’re all very closely linked. Bridgetown and any festival for that matter just puts a magnifying glass over our collective experience, allowing us to connect those dots Like a shitier, less organized theives guild, there’s a small chance that I could just go to Charlotte, NC, find a mic, and by sheer force of connection find a place to crash that night.
And then there’s the fleeting nature of the festival. It moves so quickly that it’s impossible to plan for. Navigating Bridgetown is basically like being woken up in the middle of the night, being told you just won a trip, and then getting exactly one minute to decide what clothes to wear and what suitcase to bring. Then, once you’ve grabbed whatever you can--trying to anticipate every kind of weather situation, and unforeseen clothing circumstance--your suitcase is ripped from your hands only to be replaced with a suitcase half it’s size.
God I’m tired.
The poster was very well received. Initially I was a little worried about how it would sell, but between the Kickstarter backers and the people that ended up grabbing one in person, I don’t think I’ll be left with a big stack of print media nobody wants. Maybe the best part of the whole printing experience was designating one as the official performer signing poster. I haven’t counted yet, but I would guess that there’s +100 signatures on the damn thing. For lack of better terminology, it is an incredibly special thing. One thing I didn’t anticipate was that if you have one hundred people sign a poster, it’s bound to get a little beaten up, but in weird way, I kind of like it that way. There are a couple chocolate stains on the back, one of the signers accidentally pushed down too hard with my silver oil based pen causing a slight puddle to form, so now his signature just looks like a shitty Rorschach test.
And I didn’t get everyones signature. I’m pretty sure that at one point or another I walked by, or was in the same room as every performer in the fest, but there was a line I didn’t really want to cross as far as bothering people. I already know I probably got marked as ‘the guy carrying around the poster’. The last thing I wanted to be was the guy unnecessarily bothering everyone demanding their signature. If it happened, it happened. And if I didn’t approach you it’s because A) I couldn’t find you at the time B) I couldn’t get up the nerve to ask a stranger for a favor C) You were always with a group of friends doing friend stuff. That’s a fear I don’t think I’ll ever get over. Trying to interact with a group of people who have known each other for years and NOT looking like a dumbfuck? One of the more nerve wracking experiences in existence.
At the end of this month for the third year in a row I’ll be heading down into Northern California to visit Humboldt County and the Bay Area for what is essentially a “tour”. 18 year old Danny would be stoked right now. Of course, 18 year old Danny also thought success was being the bassist in a screamo band. At times, I can’t help but feel that I’ve jumped from one end of the performance spectrum to the other, but then the more I think about it the more I realize stand up comedy might as well be the 2nd cousin to performing in a hardcore band. They both attract a small, yet rabid fan base, and utterly bewilder anyone who didn’t know they were happening that night.
Humboldt County is everything you’d think it would be, but weirder. And of course there’s the mountains of weed. Weed so strong, so plentiful, that the entire county feels like the inside of a dispensary. Like everyone’s in on the same joke with the really obvious punchline, and that all you’d really have to do to get a clipping job is just ask. It’s the bizarro version of what everyone’s grandfather’s version of the American Dream.
GRANDAD: Back in my day we worked. Why, when I turned 16 I walked into the nearest grocery store, told them I was a hard worker, and I got a job!
Similar rules apply in Humboldt. That being said it has to be late summer, you have to know a person who’s cool, and you might get stranded up in “the hills” left to fend for yourself, but yeah, there’s opportunities. It’s essentially the reason that section of the country hasn’t gone bankrupt. One aspect of culture completely dictates every other aspect of life. And then there’s the Redwood Curtain.
In Portland, the artisan food keeps things weird. In Portland, the acceptance of virtually any hobby, pastime, or child’s sport played by adults keeps things weird. In Humboldt, the Redwood Curtain keeps things...odd. To the south of Humboldt lies about 5.5 hours of roads leading to SF. Small, virtually untouched towns strewn across Highway 101. Yes, you get travelers from SF, but it’s certainly not a short ride. To the North lies a vast expanse of trees so dense it prevents Greyhound buses from effectively traveling through them. It keeps Humboldt largely separated from society, and naturally things get a bit strange. That whole area is just hard to describe. It’s liberal enough that a major California university exists there, but separated enough that you might get some blow back if you tried to institute prohibitive gun laws. I don’t know, something just happens when you isolate people. It’s not a bad thing, just different.
San Francisco is one of my favorite places. Several years ago I went down there on a whim for New Years Eve. I think I was 20 and I didn’t really get a good sense for the city. Last year, I went down there and actually got to roam around in it. It’s awesome. For one, it feels like a real city which is more than I can say for Portland. SF has an energy to it that permeates through the people who live there. I’ve known several people from the Bay Area and for whatever reason they move with a purpose, like they constantly have shit to do. That sort of feeling is infectious when you live in city where time can sometimes slow to a crawl.
But then I also know about some of shitty aspects of Bay Area life. The crippling housing prices, the tech bros who effectively cause the crippling housing prices. I know so many people who have had to move from SF to the East Bay/Oakland that I’ve stopped counting. And then the sheer price of everything. People talk about how San Francisco has the highest minimum wage in the country starting at $10.15/hour. And then you realize that a BART ticket to the East Bay costs $6. And God forbid you find yourself near the water with a car. $3+ per hour to park. Fucking insane. Earlier this year people were telling me that Google bought up a big swath of property in The Mission District. What the hell does that even mean? That’s shit out of 1984. I really hope SF makes it through this tidal wave of gentrification. It’s an amazing place, and I would hate for the it’s amazing burrito market to get tainted. Long live.