Friday, February 5, 2016

My secret relationship with Louis C.K.

If there were a make-a-wish foundation for adults, this would be my application to have Louis C.K. come to my bedside and say something heartfelt, but I’m not dying, I’m living today, and grateful to be here, and Louis C.K. is not a small part of why I am OK.

Anything new and fresh that I know about, I have my kids to thank for. Back in 2010, one of my daughters told me to check out his first show on TV, and again, his new show, the brilliant, and wickedly casted Horace and Pete,

Steve Buscemi (Pete) and Louis C.K. (Horace)

which is entirely his production and you can download it here.

I watched his first show when I was in the middle of an ordeal that began in 2010 and kept on going. It was somewhat biblical, and had the unmistakeable feeling of walking through a door and free-falling into a bottomless basement.

He had me at the opening credits. My heart lit up and I didn’t even have to know why. It was the way he ate pizza, everything about him and what he was doing.

I had become a Buddhist, so there were sometimes lamas and nuns at my house instructing me how to pray and deal with suffering. 

No one promised release, but there was often talk of transformation. One could transform suffering if one applied effort, and one could turn one’s suffering into benefit for other beings—also through effort. The essence of the teaching was to raise genuine compassion within, and develop wisdom through examination of one's habits and actions and thoughts, with willingness to drop the harmful ways and take up the good.

I admit I was filled with guilt, as are many at some point when trauma and calamity strikes. I was in a kind of prison, and wanting to get out forces you to try to be good. You look back, you can’t look forward, and you are trying to make sense of the senseless.

No therapist or teacher could help me with the guilt—but Louis C.K.  did. He made me feel like it was OK to feel what you felt, and that you could think and say the lowest most vile things and out of that same brain could come this soft, sweet heart that went on a trek to find the innocent baby duckling sweetness and gentleness, among other humans, that can exist, and he did that more than once. 

His shows were like symphonies or Miles Davis level jazz with all these dark currents, then spikes of wicked joy and sudden sweet cool notes.

I was sure if we met that we would marry. Although there was no sign of him liking anyone but short tough cookies or young sharp dark beauties, and I was neither.

If I could be well again we would certainly meet! I think I cried when my sister told me she was waitressing and he walked into her restaurant and sat at her table.

The doctors had no solution for me but a bottle of pain killers and I didn’t want to take them. Louis CK was my painkiller.

I forgot  my little and big miseries as I got to see his. I needed his honesty. It was a relief to laugh at the things most people keep inside and to know I wasn’t alone.

Some guy wrote on twitter that if you googled suicide prevention, the first thing that should come up should be Louis CK’s face.

I filled up the time between the weekly shows watching his old shows and routines on youtube.

Fast-forward six years and the worst of that time is over--and my relationship with Louis C.K. has matured. 

With Horace and Pete, he has for starters, this beautiful atmospheric soundtrack that Paul Simon wrote, that pulls you right into the tone of the show. It takes place all in a bar (so far) and there is a Jim Jarmusch kind of feeling in the way it is directed. The bar is so real and deja-vu familiar that you can smell the piss and beer and whiskey and antiseptic cleaner. But it has a majesty, it is not a dive bar but an institution still haunted with ghosts--living and otherwise.

It is like a stage set, and reminds me of the novelty of no-digital delay albums done all at once in a small venue--or of early television, like Jackie Gleason, except no studio audience.

There is a pervasive sense of hush, a richness or buffer that I can’t explain, a dimension of  solemnity that is in the atmosphere somehow. And it is a windowless place. Many sets are windowless, but this one is really windowless, with that sense of timelessness you only get in a bar—or some crazed film editor’s apartment with blacked out windows.

Beautifully filmed. Louis Ck’s casting choices are phenomenal, and the actors all have enough depth and chops to play way outside their normal range and at the same time bring
a seasoned presence that is SO present.  The New York Times called Alan Alda’s performance “brutally good.” And that is apt.

In keeping with the spirit of this C.K. production will not give away who is in the show or what they say, the culture clashes and political fires that occur, the subtle and brash exchanges between humans that C.K. handles with his singularly weird and divine mind.

He still shocks my world by presenting, in just a few exchanges between characters, some kind of previously unspeakable dilemma that I had until that very second hidden within, with great shame and zero hope of resolution.  His basic integrity in what he puts out there –in his work, at least—that deeply reassures me somehow. He casts light on the most paradoxical issues without neon arrows. He spreads the wealth-- as he widens his scope, by allowing his actors to voice  the forbidden things that he alone performed as a man up on a stage.

I had a lot of help and a lot of angels and heros in my life. I like the idea of transforming suffering, living with more genuine gratitude and sharing your experience so others can benefit.  Tall order to follow, unless you have examples who are not philosophers or saints.

When I was in trouble,  Louis did come to my bedside and say something heartfelt, every time I turned my computer on and sought him. He said come on,
this is bad, but it’s going to be OK. Just keep going, tell the truth and be yourself. And watch me fry up these doll eyeballs on Christmas because I have to give my kid that gift she expects.

This is the brand of compassion and wisdom I understand, and I thank Louis C.K.  for showing up and bringing it.

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