Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lunch Date With Memory Lane

This past weekend had been a rough one. Between the headaches, sore throat, and injured knee and ankle I have found myself bed bound. Today I found myself better able to walk. After church, which turned out to be quite the wise investment of my time as far as picking up my spirit, I decided to get out of my neighborhood to one of my happy places. I knew Coney Island wasn’t open for the season yet, plus I didn’t want to blow so much dough on rides so close to rent. I didn’t feel like dealing with the crowds at the Seaport. I had been close to Lincoln Center for church and had my fill of that part of the hood. So I decided to go somewhere I hadn’t gone in sometime.
Sheepshead Bay.
Yes, I had spent a lot of my twenty year old summer there at Pips. My first time out there I almost got car sick from the long train ride. I remembered how there were so many Russians there. Then there were the old school Brooklynites, totally brutally honest and totally scary to a kid from Pittsburgh. Yet somehow, they were like fungus. They grew on me until eventually I discovered we were totally cut from the same cloth, true blue.
As the Q train rambled across the Manhattan Bridge the memories of that summer came flooding back to me. Yes, the Manhattan Bridge, part of my old jogging route since I had lived down near that area when I was twenty. I saw myself going across the bridge, sure and unsure in my stride. I was twenty, the world was mine, and blasting on my earphones was the Throw Back at Noon on Hot 97. As the train rumbled across I remembered all those times I ran across the bridge going, “Wheee!!!!!”
Old School Photo taken of me

Getting off the train there I was in Sheepshead Bay. I felt like I did the first time I made the trip, a little train sick, but not as train sick as I was then because it was so hot. I saw Jerome Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Avenue. Both looked different in the daylight and much different now that I was sober walking them. I had spent a lot of nights down that way, and somehow spent a lot of nights in a drunken stupor walking back to the train. It was an anti-talent of mine that somehow paid off.
I saw a ghost of my twenty year old self. Yes, there I was, a few pounds heavier. My sundress stuck to my body because there was no air conditioning in the place I was staying and I insisted on wearing a sweater as not to expose my shoulders. In those days I was nice, almost too nice. I of course carried May with me. Dragging her in my suitcase, my back hurt but I didn’t care. Of course there was too much liner on my eyes, running and smeared from the travel. Sometimes I even stuck on fake eyelashes. My lipstick, fire engine red, was probably smeared too. Yes, I looked like I was working the graveyard shift at Lucky Cheng’s. They were probably hiding me, so after the actually good drag queens left they could throw me on.
I remember how I was determined that summer not to be an ugly duckling. For so many of my teenage years I had felt unpretty. Guys asked me out as a joke. Then when I was seventeen I had lost a bunch of weight and remembered all of that changing. My first year in New York had been a disaster and now I was budding into my own. A boy I had been desperately in love with had broken my heart. I was determined to show him how strong I was by being successful, more successful than he could ever be. At the same time I so desperately wanted him, or any boyfriend for that matter because I had never had one. Oh, and I was brave as hell too. My mom used to make me check in with her every night, and still does, and would say, “April, one thing about you is that you are not afraid. I think that is great but you take too many chances. That is why you are always to let me know where you are going and to check in every night when you get home.”
And I always did.
Here is my lovely mother, always insisting on knowing where I am at every second. No you can't come to the club tonight, you'll get drunk and embarrass me with stories about your stories as Miss Piggly Wiggly like you did the last time I let you come to one of my shows. 

I remember my first time walking down Jerome Avenue and a Russian guy tried to get me to come into his car for a ride. He was good looking with dark hair and dark eyes, much better looking than the boy who broke my heart. However, I also knew it would end in disaster. So I rebuffed him and he told me to fuck off. However, he made me feel beautiful and that was all I needed.
"I am ze friendly stranger in ze black  sedan."

Of course around that time I was also introduced to the fiendish creature called male comedian. Often coupled or married to a woman bankrolling them, this never stopped many from fooling around. I was like Little Red Riding Hood walking through a forest with nothing but Big Bad Wolves around every corner. Armed and dangerous with their pickup lines and promises of free alcohol, they were ready to pounce. I remember one time I was at Pips and I had a good night. As usual, it was Long Island Ice Tea time, or Jack Daniels. That evening I believe it was both. Anyway, somehow this older dude got me to go out to his car with him after promises of a free hot dog. Needless to say he had other ideas.
Pips Comedy Club, where many of my great times and misadventures occurred in the summer of 2005

I don’t remember what happened exactly, but the party was broken up and I was forced to sit in the corner. Several people lectured me about my underaged alcohol intake and my behavior. When he said hot dog I thought he meant the thing from the stand, apparently he had other ideas. The good thing about those around me was that they always made sure I safely stumbled back to the train station. I was a chowder head. How they didn’t kill me I will never know. Nonetheless, like many a female comedian I know that male comedians are like dogs you see on the street. It is okay to pet them, it is okay to wave, and maybe you can even give them a treat. But never ever bring them home, or else they will never leave!!!
This is the male comedian who took me outside while drunk and stupid for free hot dogs. Okay, this isn't the guy but he probably did things like this and is doing something like this as we speak. 
Walking along the water on Emmons Avenue I remembered the night I got to open for Otto. Of course, it was one of those nights where not a soul in the place was not drunken off their ass. Anyway, it was an awesome experience and Tony the Bartender lit me at seven minutes. Otto asked me if May had a last name. I said no. He said that it was important that one’s figure (puppet for the nonventriloquists reading) have a last name. I thought about calling my little sidekick May Flowers after our Pilgrims, and because my siblings as well as myself attended college with people whose bloodlines traced back. Then I settled on May Wilson, after Dennis the Menace’s Mr. Wilson. My family didn’t have cable growing up so it was one of the few cartoons I was allowed to watch. Plus unlike Brucker, no one ever screws up Wilson.
I also remembered that was the first night I had ever gone to El Greco’s. People had asked me if I had ever been and the answer was no, I had never. They told me I was not a true Brooklynite until I had been. So there we went, holding each other as we staggered there. Sobering up, we ate the greasiest food ever and sort of bonded as a group. For as much of a basketcase as I was in those days it was one of those moments where I remembered being at ease.
George Dudley, Otto Peterson, May Wilson and myself years after that  fateful night at Pips where May got a last name. Now lets get the bitch to start paying taxes. 

The crazy part is, there are so many things I would go back and tell my young self if I could take a time machine. Not that I was a terrible person, but I was a big old basketcase. I would probably tell myself to cool it with the alcohol, drinking doesn’t make you sexy or sophisticated. Then I would tell myself that eating greasy food doesn’t sober you up faster, and it will only make you crazier with that nutty diet you are already on. I would also tell myself not to do the nutty diet and just to eat a balanced diet in general and to exercise. Of course I would recommend I get some new clothes, get rid of that lipstick, and definitely clean up that eye makeup. I would myself to enjoy being single. That shortly after that summer I would meet a man who I would become engaged to on third date, and it would become a proverbial shit show. Would I listen? No, I was never notorious for doing that at any point.
Coming back into the present, I looked out onto the water. There were a few little ugly ducklings and then a large school of swans. It was the most glorious thing ever, especially since the water was sparkling in the background in a heavenly way. Then maybe they weren’t swans, perhaps geese. Just then a little kid called, “Mom, are we allowed to feed the swans?” And without a second thought took some bread and threw it in the water. I looked where the bread landed, there was paper and a beer can where these beautiful creatures were. Almost a crime.
Then it occurred to me that the universe was sending me a message, I had come a long way since that time in my life. That despite the fact I still feel like an ugly duckling I am not. What happened yesterday does not define who I am today. That’s when I heard the voice of my friend Marcus in my mind say, “Get over it. No more about your ex boyfriend. Suck it up and swan up.” That’s when a ray of sun shot in my general direction and all of a sudden I began to feel a little better, a little more hopeful.
"Suck it up and Swan up." Chairman Marcus

Just then a Russian man, unprovoked walked back and said to me, “It’s going to be alright.” I looked over surprised at this old former Soviet and smiled.
“There you go. You have a beautiful smile. You will be more than alright.” And off he went.
Happy Russian that told me I had a beautiful smile. Okay, maybe not but close enough. 

That’s when it occurred to me that sure, I was a badly dressed basketcase but I wasn’t all bad. I was a hardworker, I was determined, and I was unafraid to be myself. Undaunted, nothing was stopping me. I remember having so many notebooks full of bits, many that were crap, but I still had them. Much like Bette Davis I knew I was not as glamorous as some but damnit I was determined.
At that moment, I told myself that if I were face to face with my twenty year old self, maybe I would warn, yes. But I would also tell that twenty year old kid about all the good things that were coming her way. That two summers from then she would be on Last Comic Standing and some of her old compatriots from Pips would see her. Of course there would be the misadventure on Rachael Ray which would lead to another misadventure on The Soup, but both would later be an advantage. Then I would also tell her that her fearlessness to sing despite not sounding like Bette Midler would pay off, because not only would there later be a singing telegram job, but there would be an appearance on Good Day NY, and she would look damn hot in Time Out NY. I would bite my tongue but mention TLC, The Today Show, and maybe Entertainment Tonight. I would also mention that young people would be writing, mentioning that April Brucker was the reason they were either now a fan of ventriloquism or the reason they become a ventriloquist. Then I would reassure my twenty year old self that not having a TV could be a good thing, because other people will post on your facebook wall that you are on Layover with Anthony Bourdain and Chef Roble.
Yes May Wilson and I were on the Today Show. Some called us sick, others called us passionate. 

Oh and I would mention that I would get to work with Otto again, and people would love the clip. And to blog about something other than my drinking adventures and terrible love life. But I would leave that out, my twenty year old self would have to hear that from my mother and my deceased friend Joe Cannava.
I would probably then finish off with telling her to stop dressing and acting like an ugly duckling, but I would leave that up to my deceased friend Roger who scolded me four years later and my friends Marcus and Justin who I met six years later. Actually, I would just tell my twenty year old self I was good enough, something it seemed no one ever told me then. Or if they did I didn’t believe it.
I smiled again. For as lousy as I feel about being injured and sick all weekend, I know it will get better. I am interviewing editors for my book, and have a project being submitted to festivals. Not to mention I am starting a rad new job.
April: May, the fans tell us that we aren't crazy
May: April, you are absolutely crazy. I am not.
April: But there are people saying that I am either the reason they
fans of ventriloquism or have picked up a puppet. Take that.
May: Just as I always said. You are a horrible example for the children. 
Just then my phone rang. My boss had a job for me. I told him I would be there Tuesday morning.
Up ahead I saw the sign for El Greco’s. I wasn’t drunk, thank God. However, I was famished from the train ride and the walk along the water. I thought about inviting my invisible twenty year old self to join me. But then I thought, “Nah, you came here alone, you leave here alone. Your twenty year old self would have said the same thing.”

Not only did I swan up but damnit I cheered varsity for once. 
That’s when we parted ways and I dug into what I correctly remember as the best food in Brooklyn. Hey, swanning up is always worth it, as is a great lunch date with memory lane.

El Greco's, best eatery in Brooklyn
An arty reverb of a pic that UK Fanboy Jon Fisher did for me. Much love to my UK husband.

Pic taken of me by a stranger who recognized me from TV and thought I was quite beautiful

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