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Barry Smith: Irrelativity

Barry Smith
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

Monday: “Drive to Fresno.” That’s the only item on my to-do list today. Fresno is the home of an annual theater festival called the Rogue Festival. This will be my sixth consecutive year at the festival. I fire up my van, which has been sitting idle all winter.

Starts on the first try. Oh, yeah.

A few hours later, somewhere in the Utah mountains, my second windshield wiper breaks. Just stops working mid-wipe. The first wiper, the one on the passenger side, broke a few years ago. Rather than fix it, I opted to duct tape it in place. Oh, yeah.

It’s snowing. And dark. And I’m going up the mountain, so it’s getting snowier and darker. There are no exits in sight, and pulling onto the narrow shoulder in this weather would be more dangerous than driving without a wiper. I crank up the defrost and lean forward.

I am genuinely frightened.

Oh, yeah.

Tuesday: I wake up at 6 a.m. in St. George, Utah. I’ve slept undisturbed in the parking lot of a hotel. I do this a lot. I assume the employees think the driver of such a van is surely a serial killer and that’s why nobody bothers me during the night.

The sound of morning rain on the van is not good news. The weather eventually cleared up last night, and I made it to St. George, still wiperless, before calling it a night. In keeping with my usual auto-repair technique, I’ve gone to bed with high hopes that my wiper magically will repair itself while I sleep. It didn’t.

I pull under a gas station awning and attempt a repair using zip ties and profanity. I give up and drive to a mechanic. They fix the wiper – both of them, in fact – in a few hours. Meanwhile, it’s stopped raining, and it will not rain for the rest of my trip.

Arrive in Fresno late, sleep in the van.

Wednesday: My iPhone alarm goes off at 5 a.m. On purpose. I get up, crawl to the front of the van into the driver’s seat, start ‘er up and head to the airport. I pull over, crawl to the back of the van and put my pants on. It’s early.

I take an early flight to Vancouver, British Columbia. Arrive in Vancouver, catch the subway downtown, exit the subway station, enter a comic-book store, buy comics. Before I’ve even checked into my hotel, I’ve spent as much money on comic books as I spent having my van repaired, so I figure that about evens things out. Accounting isn’t a strength.

Thursday: I perform my “Every Job I’ve Ever Had” show at a Vancouver high school. The kids seem to really dig me. They even laugh at some of my jokes that the adults don’t always find funny. What does this say about me? Child at heart, obviously.

I eat three sushi meals throughout the day, totaling roughly what I paid for the comic books and van repair. This means I’ve gone from breaking even to making a profit! Who needs a CPA?

Friday: My primary reason for being in Vancouver is to perform a “showcase.” This is basically an audition, only with more pressure. I’m to do a 12-minute version of my one-hour show for a room full of people who are here specifically looking for shows to book. These people are referred to as “delegates,” which terrifies me.

This showcase has been scheduled for months, and the lead-up has been excruciating. My most horrifyingly fail-drenched moment on stage happened at one of these showcases a few years ago. Still makes my stomach hurt to think about it. So I’m really, really, really wanting to do well. I’d even settle for “not screwing up.”

And … I do! Well, that is. I do well. All the elements of “well” were present – laughter, applause, not throwing up (me or the delegates). Victory!

I leave the stage, race to the airport, catch the last flight back to Fresno. At the U.S. border, they ask me the purpose of my visit to Canada. I successfully resist the urge to answer, “Pimpin’.”

Saturday: Today I open my “American Squatter” show at the Rogue Festival. I’ve spent the past month rewriting this show, and I haven’t performed it in four years. In fact, I’m still rewriting it. I’m way behind schedule. I have not allowed even a fraction of the necessary time to memorize and rehearse. I am feeling woefully underprepared for this performance. Makes my stomach hurt just thinking about how thinking about it years from now will still make my stomach hurt. I am so screwed.

But somehow, someway, I spend the entire show saying the right words or words that are an adequate substitute. Laugher! Applause! No throwing up! Success!

And, more to the point … whew.

Sunday: Nap bordering on coma. Oh, yeah.


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