Sunday, April 30, 2006


On Friday, I went to a party. On Friday, I had two beers.

That brings my alcohol total for the year up to…two beers.

Actually, I can't remember the last time I had a beer. I think it might have been December of 2004. Maybe January '05.

I haven't given up drinking. I just haven't been in situations that lent themselves to alcohol consumption.

The party on Friday was such an occasion. It was a 50th birthday party for a friend. We were on stage together 20 years ago, and then his wife and I were part of an improv troupe that I left three years ago. We have one of those friendships that can hibernate for decades, then pick up right where we left off.

This was the first party I had been to in some time that wasn't a) hosted by my employer, or b) hosted by a fromage-y rodent. It was a whole lot of fun, talking to a bunch of theater people, catching up, laughing, meeting new people.

One guy I met looked familiar, but neither of us knew where we knew the other from. We both liked to play pool, though, and our host had a table in the basement.

We were halfway through our second game when I heard a familiar voice calling out: "Honey? Are you down there?"

"Yes," we both called out.
In February of 2002, the entertainment reporter at the newsroom where I was once a producer told me about an improvisational comedy company that had just formed. She suggested I audition for the group. She knew I had done stand-up, and been in another improv group back in the late '80's, but left it when I got the job in news.*

But now I was out of news, and had my evenings free. My wife encouraged me; she thought I needed to get out of the house a bit**

Kim, the woman running the group was a dynamic, dark-haired lady who gave up a lucrative corporate job to pursue a career in the arts. I had her roaring with laughter five minutes into the audition.

Improv is a strange beast. Neither comedy club nor theater, there's not a lot of places it exists. But Lord, it's what I love best. I didn't mind that we didn't play out much. I was happy just rehearsing. When I was performing, either in rehearsal or on stage, I felt there was nothing that could be thrown at me that I couldn't handle.

That wasn't the case at home. My wife was drinking more and more. Every night was a bottle of wine. Every weekend morning began with the pipe. She drank herself sick; I would call and make excuses.

And we would fight. I would threaten. Empty threats and empty bottles were common in my house.

But the comedy was good. We started getting good reviews. We began booking regular gigs in coffeehouses and nightclubs. A local theater wanted us to be a regular feature. We weren't making money, but we were covering expenses.

And we were friends. We would hang out together afterwards. Kim began to notice that I was a little more withdrawn. I had been with the group for about a year at that point.

One night, after rehearsal, we all began to discuss the upcoming invasion of Iraq. My colleagues were all for it; I was not. We argued for quite a while, and one by one, everyone went home, except for Kim and me. And the conversation turned from an argument to me spilling my guts about my wife. She was a sympathetic ear. She was, at the time, the only person I had told about what was going on.

After that, our rehearsals always ended with us sitting around and talking.

One night, when I hugged her goodnight, I kissed her on the cheek. She kissed me on the cheek. I kissed her again…

And we kissed. Such a kiss. Her mouth was soft and inviting, her body melted into mine. It was a moment of tenderness and passion that I had not had in some time, and have not had since.

Had we been in her house, we may have ended up in bed. But we weren't at her house. We were in the street. Standing between two parked cars.

We both realized we couldn't do this. But we kissed again.

We tried to keep our relationship professional. But more than one night ended up with our lips together, our arms around each other.

Eventually, for the sake of my marriage, I decided to leave the group.

We were halfway through our second game when I heard a familiar voice calling out: "Honey? Are you down there?"

"Yes," we both called out.

Down the stairs came Kim. I was playing pool with her new boyfriend. The one she's moving in with.

Life is a strange mixture of comedy and pathos. It's also the cumulative result of the decisions we make, with a heavy dose of opportunity and resources thrown in.

Had we been in her house the first time we kissed, we may have had sex. Or we may not. We had plenty of opportunities to make love, have sex, or whatever else you want to call it but we didn't.

Where does the line between fidelity and infidelity get drawn? My best guess is somewhere between Jimmy Carter's lusting in his heart, and Bill Clinton's intern affairs.

But in the end it doesn't matter whether I was faithful or not. Even if we had ended up together, it would have only been briefly. The only difference would have been how the marraige ended, and had we been together at the time, the explosion would have torn us apart anyway.

I made a joke out of my gaffe. I'm good at improv. When I'm performing, there's nothing you can throw at me that I can't handle.

We finished the game. I lost.

I had two beers on Friday.


*It's hard to get gigs at clubs when you work 'til midnight Monday through Friday.
**Because, it turned out, it made it easier for her to drink and get stoned that way.


Blogger Notsocranky Yankee said...

I'm glad to hear you went out and had a couple of beers. You need to go have fun!

Maybe it was fate that you ran into Kim. She's not married yet you know...

6:58 AM  
Blogger dusty said...

Good thing your good at improv..

11:40 PM  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

Notso--she's not my type. At least, not anymore.

Dusty: In the words of Steve Martin: "Some people have a way with words, and other people...not...have way...I...guess..."


6:49 AM  
Blogger Colleen said...

slow down party animal

hmmm...this kim person

i have competition??

9:34 AM  
Blogger Madame X said...

You can throw anything at me when I'm performing and I can handle it real life and I fall to pieces

10:33 AM  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

coll--you know there's no one else.

X--you're a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for.


12:22 PM  
Blogger Rowena said...

this is a strange and poignant story BP.

6:54 AM  
Blogger United We Lay said...

I had to quit my job yesterday and all I really wanted was a beer. Sometimes it sucks to be pregnant. I haven't had a drink all year, either.

5:10 PM  
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2:28 AM  

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