Approaching Caribou my eyes caught Michael, mid-fifties. Coffee in hand, head in paper, he was oblivious. Imperceptibly I altered my angle and kept walking. Not that he’s a bad guy. He’s not. Actually, the man’s a friend. He is, though, mad at me now— over the top, I might add— and dying to talk to me. Screw him. He’s nuts. It can wait. Frankly, I’ve enjoyed for four days watching him seethe.

Some people I just love to screw with: especially those with no sense of humor. They ask for it. Heck, they beg for it.

Michael’s OK, but he’s anal retentive. Once he focuses, he only sees and hears what he wants. No matter what one says, he stays on his message and clearly, no matter what he hears he does his own thing. The beauty of it all is, of course, that no matter how much you f with him, he comes back for more.

Ya gotta love it.

Years ago…I had just started “not dating” Rochelle and we sat with her daughter in the basement of Zin. As luck would have it, Michael strolled in for open mic night and was immediately (and visibly) enamoured with Julie who, just as visibly was attractive, single, but half his age. My phone, of course, rang the next day.

“Bruce, I want you to call Julie and see if she’ll go out with me. I’d do it myself but I don’t really know her and it might be awkward.”
“Michael, PLEASE…don’t ___ things up for me. These people think I’m normal.”
He wouldn’t relent.
“Just make the call,: he pleaded. “If she’s not interested —fine.”
One thing I knew even then: Michael’s a good guy but a loose cannon. If I made the call at least I’d control the fallout. (Either way, this could not end well).

“Julie,” I said. “My friend Michael wants to go out with you. What do you want me to tell him?”
“Tell him not to call,” she smiled by phone.
“Can I quote you?”
“I don’t care what you say. He’s too old,” and then she used an expression I’d not heard before: “I don’t even want to go out with him just for shits and giggles.”

I put off the call. There was absolutely no chance in the world he wouldn’t call me. I was right.

“She says don’t call,” I reported. Those were my exact words, enunciated with British precision. “She says don’t call.”

He called her, of course, the very next day.

Fast forward a decade…to now. At my suggestion pal Michael, an extremely talented song and dance man, read for, was cast in a show I’m doing. Frankly, he’s a perfect fit.

The one thing you must know, though, about community theater…is that the players, more than anything else, play. Humor dominates the pre and post games, and eighth grade humor dominates this writer. Moreover, at this particular venue, with this particular director, filtering propriety is not required. No subject is taboo, no taste is too bad, and no fun is left un-had. ‘Tis why, perhaps, I love doing shows there. The only prerequisite, EVER…the only issue…is…is it funny.

There’s a deaf kid in the production. Kevin, late 20’s, was actually a card player in last fall’s “The Odd Couple.” We bonded back then as he didn’t drive and I’d pick him up for rehearsals and shows. Anyway…Kev survives by lip reading and the curtain’s rise had him sitting to my right, back to the phone. Midway through the scene the phone would sound and Kevin’s part was to answer it. Of course, he couldn’t respond to a ring he couldn’t hear, so we needed to cue him. My stomp, nightly, under the table, shook the stage just enough that our buddy’d get up and answer the call. It goes without saying (or perhaps it doesn’t), but in the six weeks we rehearsed and the three weeks we ran, whenever ANYONE at the theater wanted Kevin for anything, I would urge that they stomp their foot. They still do (and I take pride in that).

And so it was that I was sitting in the theater with Kevin last Tuesday, studying Michael on stage.
“You see that guy, “I pointed out. “You know he’s legally blind.”
Kevin’s head tilted quizzically, much like my dog Adam’s.
“Yeah,” I continued, “I guess he sees just enough to get by—memorizes steps, things like that…takes city streets to get here—he’s afraid to drive freeways.”
“Ahhhhhhh,” hummed Kevin, buying in.

The balance of the night, of course, was spent, whenever possible, subtly but noticeably helping Michael on and off the stage. Indeed, at 9:30, as we all left, with Kevin within earshot, I even asked Michael if I could walk him to his car.

“You’re a funny guy,” shrugged the director, watching it all. “Too bad you can’t act.”
Those, I knew, were words of love.

At breakfast the next day a text came.

       “What was that nonsense about you helping me off stage and to my car? I’m not sure where you’re coming from but I hope we’re   not headed for a problem!”

       “Sorry if you took it the wrong way,” I responded.

       “I’ll talk to you about it later,” he retexted.

       Think again, thought I

It’s been days now, and he sits on the patio waiting to grab me. Cleary, he wants to talk.

I’ll see him tomorrow, at rehearsal. It’s at 2PM and trust me, I’ll have Kevin at my side.  Michael can talk to HIM, I figure. Kevin, after all…can’t hear.

One Response to “ONE JOKE OVER THE LINE”

  1. Unknown says:

    michael has always been a pure idiot. i believe you are the company you keep, so my advice is to end the friendship. he shouldn’t be at caribou anyway. right?

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