[My slightly professional highlights biography is here. I’m due to update the one below, but I’m intrigued what I wrote 04 December 2007 as I walked out of the closet, embracing the truth about me: I’m an entertainer. Or for those whose small-town church pews lack cushions: a creative.]
I write sexy, witty, dangerous. I am a professional “subversive,” an honorary degree I managed to earn without the perfunctory commencement speech at the FBI. And after years of auditioning my comedy routine before bewildered sales prospects, I’ve now ended my crusade of chasing the windmills of sales success. I’ve dropped the lance of the earnest sales professional and taken up the pen and microphone. I’ve finally returned to what I was always meant to do: write and entertain.
Before the days of DIY porn on one’s MySpace page, punctuated with rants about chihuahuas, exes, or the brave choice to wear the jersey of a particular sports franchise, I was crafting the written word. My mother, an English teacher and footstool to my father, nurtured in me a love and reverence for the English language. This in spite of her apparent solemn parental duty to stunt a child’s mind with religious absurdities, a righteous endeavor directed by my Father’s understanding of the most local and convenient Elmer Gantry to interpret a version of evangelical Christianity compatible with my Father’s pride, hardheadedness and lazy intellect.
My California Sierra Nevada foothill small-town childhood of Boy Scouts, Sunday School, bicycling steep hills, studying, written essays, public speaking, political exuberance and newspaper activities culminated in an Eagle Scout medal, an honors High School diploma, and exactly one make-out session. I departed my childhood with all the nostalgia of one who no longer wets their bed. Instead of attending college in Southern California, where I had been accepted to Claremont McKenna, I chose the sunny clime of Michigan to attend a small college boasting larger scholarships and lies: Hillsdale College.
A few semesters of mildly intriguing classes, debate club, beer and the opposite sex. Not exactly the “Harvard of the Midwest” promised to me by such heroes of my immature mind as William F. Buckley, Jr., founder of National Review (a magazine more likely to be found hidden in between my high school chemistry textbook than Playboy). After a turn as the Opinion Editor of the one and only college newspaper (funded by the student government and “overseen” by the administration), I decided to apply the free market economics lessons I learned in the classroom and start Hillsdale’s only independent student newspaper. The threat of what I might print earned my abrupt dismissal from a college boasting “freedom” like so much cheap perfume. I demonstrated the bad taste of reading their mission statements and revered texts with excessive comprehension but without enough cyncism or religious vacuity. Apparently it is not the place of a poor kid on academic scholarship to seek the consequences of ideas. I didn’t know. My bad.
Such sophomoric pranks revealed my weak skills in the crafts of fraternity, politics, religion, and other subtle arts of circus deceit. I was not in danger of growing up to be a Karl Rove, P.T. Barnum, Barack Obama or Tom Cruise. I began to question my intelligence and deductive skills, wondering why I had signed up for an academic Amway, a scholarly Scientology. All the hard work of my childhood had culminated – not in a degree one step closer to a career in business, politics or law – but in dismissal from a college whose ideal I had worshipped. I was devastated. But my ignorant optimism was determined to find the phoenix of success in the wilderness of defeat.
I thought of entering the Marine Corps, then realized after a mock boot camp that I had neither the body nor the mind for the exercise. Later I learned that I never had a chance at serving my country in the Marine Corps . . . because somehow my Eagle Scout ass had made its way to the FBI subversive list. And yet Hillsdale College still sent me donation solicitations. I’ve never had trouble flying since 9/11, so my name must have either been downgraded or dropped from the list. Apparently not all subversives are equal.
One “temporary” sales job led to another. Years went by, then a decade. The turn of the millennium was the end of a marriage and the return to my native California. A string of chance and happenstance led me to the mortgage industry, where I eked out an existence, better than I had experienced before. Which wasn’t saying much for a kid who equated budgets and financial planning with the holy poverty preached and practiced by his parents. In 2007 I saw the capital markets collapse. After ten years, it was clear to me I did not have the love for the industry necessary to suffer through the upcoming tough years. I half-jokingly entered a “12 step program to remain single” of my own creation.
Then Tim Russert died. Then George Carlin. Bernie Mac. Paul Newman. Heroes and mentors of my youth and today . . . suddenly gone. How much time do we really have? I resolved to put my dream first. I decided to finally “do what you love”.
So now I am finally pursuing my dream to write and perform. I have the unwavering support of my adopted family, good souls such as George Carlin, Johnny Carson, Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken. I have quite a way to go, but the old excitement I felt publishing The Hillsdale Spectator I now feel coursing through my veins in front of the camera, over the keyboard, and on the stage. (There’s probably a book and a movie in my Hillsdale experience alone.) Regardless, whether it be stand-up comedy, screen acting, or publishing a book or a blog, I am becoming the artist I always was but never allowed myself to be.
I can’t wait to meet me.
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