Friday, June 30, 2006

Vintage U.M.

The show Mortified operates on the clever theory that within those self-indulgent diary entries you've squirreled away during your teen years, there lies a comedic gold mine. Adults everywhere are encouraged to pick at the great scab of adolescence by dragging out their old journals and reducing -- or perhaps elevating -- them to an onstage act, played for laughs.

I have chronicled every single day of my life in writing since the fifth grade. I keep five-year diaries, which have room for about two or three sentences on each day. I have filled up five of those. For long-form angst that transcends the 24-hour agenda, I keep journals.

Watching people read at the latest Mortified show in San Francisco a few weeks ago, it struck me how often diary entries seem to be addressed to another reader, even though they certainly are written in utmost secrecy and meant to be kept that way. They are filled with apologies ("I'm sorry I haven't written lately"), sign-offs ("Until later,") and queries ("You know what?").

That's how being a teen feels -- like you'd be just as well off talking to paper rather than a human. In terms of loyalty, relatability, and the kind of understanding that can be conveyed only by silence, a journal is about the only thing that will never let you down. It will remain steadfastly -- mercilessly -- true to you, preserving your deepest feelings without rendering judgment. It will stay so true to you that it begs to be betrayed, and that's what Mortified is all about.

I carried my purple, polka-dotted journal (1983-1989) to a Mortified audition one morning last weekend. In a nice parallel of my high school experiences, the casting director had forgotten who I was and that we had arranged an appointment. Nonetheless, he let me in to read.

It's surprising how easy it was to stand up and read mockingly from my own, heartfelt longings as if they were just random discoveries penned by some jackass I never met. I won't even pretend to have evolved much from the 14-year-old who wrote entries such as this one:

DECEMBER 25, 1985

Here I sit on the last hour of Christmas, 11:07 PM exactly. And what a great Christmas it's been! We got a keyboard and the Prince concert video, great clothes and other things. We got a lot of presents. I'm happy, but I feel like crying, because not only is my favorite holiday of the year almost over, I also think about how lucky I am. That's not something to cry about, but I just think about other people who aren't so lucky. Maybe I sound corny -- or hypocritical because I don't do a lot for charity. But that's the way I feel.

I love X-mas so much!!! I love my things, my house, my parents, my family, my health. Maybe I'm making you throw up. Maybe I'm tempting fate, pressing my luck. So I'll shut up....

Every time I read something about Prince, it amazes me how much we seem alike. I always thought if I became a musician, I would play things by ear -- like I do now. Wouldn't learn to read music unless I had to. But I thought, maybe if you're going to be a musician like Prince, you'd have to learn. Then today I read that he couldn't read music either!! He played TV tunes by ear when he was young, just like me! Not to say that just because I have some things in common with Prince that others don't also. But it just freaks me out sometimes. Am I being strange?

It's only because I feel like we're so alike that we should meet or something. I don't know. Maybe we're not as alike as I think. Maybe I'll never know. Maybe it's just an idiotic fantasy. Probably. I'm so strange sometimes. But everyone's a little strange.

I've also been thinking about God more than I used to -- and it's not because of Prince. I think it's Christmas! I may not go to church, but I worship God just the same. I pray more than I used to because I'm starting to relate him to what happens to me. This is not to get really religious or commit myself to a convent (although I might as well, boys are too scared to ask me out or talk to me anyway).

...I realize I sound weird, but don't get the wrong idea. I'm kind of pouring things out because I'm a little melancholy -- end of '85, Christmas, etc.

What I'm trying to say is, I thank God for the things I have. The other thing I'm trying to say is, life is fine, this Christmas was GREAT, and I want to meet Prince, because I think we have a few things in common, and I like him a lot. Now, when you think about it, I'm not so weird after all.

You'd think it would be humbling enough to read such material aloud in front of other people. But what's really humbling, or mortifying if you will, is the possibility that your own failings aren't even compelling enough to pass muster as comedy.

It will, in fact, take more digging and edits if I am to achieve the privilege of publicly humiliating myself under the Mortified imprimatur. But who needs those people? I have the World Wide Web, and all five of you loyal readers out there.

Postscript: OK, so the casting director from Mortified saw this posting and notes that he did remember who I was and that we had an appointment, but just didn't think the time was confirmed. But then, the fact that I always put the worst spin on things is the reason this blog exists, after all.


  1. Anonymous8:34 AM

    i always thought i was a lot like steve harris except he played bass for iron maiden and i made fried chicken at roy rogers.

  2. Anonymous8:34 AM

    Were you feeling guilty that year because of the release of the "Feed the World" single?

  3. great post. if there are more like that buried in there you can make it a regular feature.

    I wonder what's in Prince's 1985 diary.

  4. I assume the anonymous poster is referring to the Live Aid concert imbroglio, in which Prince refused to appear live but sent a video of himself singing a song for the event. That occurred in 1986, I believe? I stand by Prince in that scenario. After all, he and I are of the same mind of these kinds of things.

    Can we post a photo of pb dot c to illustrate his post??

  5. Correction: Live Aid did occur in 1985. Whoopsie! How could I forget?


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