For the past 13 years, I have been chasing the dragon. It’s a hard drug. One that many people try to gain but some fizzle out with less than nothing to show for it. I began at the age of 14. A young age. I was unsure and always stumbling. I charged forward, trying to chase some semblance of an existence where I could cling to my addiction while still maintaining a healthy, sane life.
In the beginning I tried jokes. I aspired to be a comedian, learning the greats…also a bit of the weird icons of my youth. Eddie Murphy, Andy Kaufman, Richard Pryor. I studied all of them. While I lacked the physicality of Jim Carrey, I tried blunt force trauma with my humor. A dash of deadpan, a bit of bravery and I was on my way. I even went as far as perfecting the Eddie Murphy laugh and the simple action of joke and punch line. My segments were normally done in two acts.
No problem, I told myself, I’d get discovered eventually.
I was basing this pipe dream on one twenty minute act I had done at a talent show when I was eleven or twelve years old. That’s when I was first introduced to the drug.
I stumbled, naturally, twice, taking the audience of about fifty or so by surprise by coming out with it and saying, “Oh boy…am I nervous.”
My quips were met with respectable chuckles but what really floored them was my ending joke. No, I did not wow them with my puppet act which only lasted five minutes or my quick-thinking distraction of pointing my parents out in the audience. But what really let the dam burst wide open was when I said, somewhat abruptly, wiping the sweat from my forehead, regretting wearing a small suit with slicked back hair, “Man, how many times am I gonna be nervous already? Usually they have a glass of water up here.”
That’s when it hit them.
It started like a wave.
One kid, my brother’s friend, fell out of his chair, clutching his stomach with laughter. My father, by the end of taping remarked, clear as day into the microphone of the camera, “I almost pissed my pants.”
But even after, the drug would not do it for me anymore. I didn’t let anyone know I was taking it.
Later on in life, I turned, while intoxicated on the drug, to a new way to unleash my eccentricities on an audience. I turned to magic. Even then I was unsure of myself, feeling darkness in the pit of my stomach whenever I tried to abuse the drug.
One night I foolishly did a practice run of a magic act for my sister which I would perform at someone’s birthday party. Don’t ask me whose house. I have long forgotten that. You would too. I started this sentence with foolishly because anyone would be considered a damn fool for revealing anything to their sister. The sibling rivalry we endured over the years reached epic proportions. But no match was won so brutally on such a bitter night then when my sister, in the middle of a group of kids nearing fifteen in all, loudly proclaimed that the act was flawed. I quivered in my top hat, was shaking with uncertainty as I started my program.
With each trick she gleefully pointed out all the secrets of my act. I’m talking every…damn...one.
“The cards are marked!” she cried. “The tube has a mirror, the plates are an optical illusion, there’s a hole in the back of the deck, a string is attached, etc.”
And on and on it went.
I was down to the last two tricks in my bag but, in a fever of hate, packed up my briefcase and foldout table and stormed out. I circled the block, dragging the table with me. It made a horrible scrapping sound on the road. It echoed my distaste for such a mean trick. I thought I would get the drug that night, but it couldn’t be found. I had misplaced it.
As a film director, I carried this burden. I guess I was well in line with everyone else because at that time, in my teens, all the would-be artists were taking drugs.
Then, like most of my phases, I fell out of it. The drug was there, pedaling around inside my head, but there was still a void.
It was the month of being a sophomore that I was struck with four ideas. If I remember correctly, these four ideas said something to me in the computer lab on the third floor of my high school that day. They said that they could not be filmed. Sure, they could, but with my budget, a film would not do them justice.
So I wrote.
I wrote and set the four ideas aside.
I wrote a list of more ideas.
I began writing a novel.
I began showing people the first twenty pages.
Now I knew the name of the drug I had been chasing all these years; Awe. I wanted to shock, entrance, hypnotize, command, terrify and juggle with people’s imagination. It was the drug of Storytelling. It was a drug so sweet when you get a taste, that you always go back for more.
Yes, I have seventy or so ideas waiting to be written, but something tells me, when I’m in my seventies, I will well have surpassed that number in stories. What I’m trying to tell you, friends, is that Storytelling is a very powerful drug. One which I hope to never recover from. For I am happily hooked on it.