Sunday, January 17, 2010

When you shut up and listen, the Universe keeps on giving.

I guess that's not the most placid way to get such a new age message across, but I find it true, nonetheless. And here's why: in the past year, when I have been able to push my ego aside and listen to what the Universe is really urging me to do instead of trying to force my will upon it, I have experienced great things. For example, last week (Tuesday, January 5th, to be precise) I walked into Barnes and Noble in Union Square to buy a planner. As I approached the escalator to the second floor I saw a sign that said, "Elizabeth Gilbert, Book Discussion and Signing, 4th floor." Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. Elizabeth Gilbert, guru to divorced women everywhere. Elizabeth Gilbert, sole reason I picked up the most recent copy of Oprah Magazine, in order to read an excerpt from her forthcoming book, "Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage." The very book she was SIGNING UPSTAIRS!

I kept gliding up the moving steps, past the children's section on the second floor where I used to take Adriana when she was an infant to chew on read books, past the third floor all the way to the top. My foot stepped off the electronic stair onto the industrial carpeting just as the room erupted into applause; her speech was over. I'd made it there just in time for the meet and greet. Of course I was way in the back of a sea of people, but I needed a copy of the book. I walked up to a shelf much closer to the front where loads of the orange-jacketed tomes were displayed. I took one and sat down in an empty seat in the first row of the second section. I noticed the guy who was organizing the line was a classmate of mine from high school. I'd run into him there years before but totally forgot he worked in management. We chatted for a bit and I felt totally at ease. I was running late for a meeting, but somehow I knew I'd get out just in time.

Inching closer and closer to the author herself, I rehearsed what I'd say in my head. "Think, Carolyn. You have 2 seconds to make maximum impact. Be funny, but be cool. Don't cry like you did when you met Margaret Cho." (Yeah, sorry about that Margz. I was PMSing for total real.) My mind was racing: "Your book got me through my divorce, and you're the reason I bought Oprah magazine this month (THIS month... last month it was Ellen... and the month before that it was, uh... Suze Orman... who's in the mag every month, with good ol' Dr. Phil...), because I wanted to read the excerpt from your new book, and your TED talk was amazing, and I do YOGA now, and (cue tears) YOU'RE JUST REALLY INSPIRATIONAL, OKAY?!"

But I didn't say any most of that. I simply said, "Hey..." and smiled, which really seemed to catch her attention. Then I kind of nonchalantly put my hands on the table and said, "Your book got me through my divorce, and your TED talk is amazing..." and before I could embarrass myself by saying "You're the reason I think I might be able to write a memoir of my own" get any further, her face changed. Her cherubic little blond face suddenly developed this look of concern, this pang of knowingness, and she said, "Oh, I'm so sorry you went through that."

"That's okay," I replied. "I've got a cute haircut and I do yoga now, so fuck it."

Fuck it?! Did I really just say FUCK IT in front of Elizabeth Gilbert?!

She chuckled. "Yeah, that's called a fuck you cut, right?"

OMG THIS BITCH IS SO DOWN!

I laughed, picked up my autographed book exited the podium. I tried to be quick about taking a picture once back on the floor, but my hands were shaking and I finally felt nervous. It took me about 6 tries to get one that wasn't too blurry, but I did:

Elizabeth Gilbert

My new friend Beth McGregor was also there and told me she used her two seconds with Liz (yeah, we're at nickname level now) to tell her that her skin was "luminous," and E. Gilbz shot back with, "Nah, I'm just sweaty."

OMG THIS BITCH IS SO DOWN!

But it's true, though! I know some people hate Eat, Pray, Love - and if they haven't read it they hate the IDEA of Eat, Pray, Love (Mara Herron: "My aunt told me to read it and I was like, what is this housemom bullshit?!") - but, I think the NYT says it best when they describe Lizzie G's prose as "fueled by a mix of intelligence, wit, and colloquial exuberance that is close to irresistible."

HERO. End of story.

But that's not the end of the story. So I went to the checkout with Beth, and we said bye, and I realized I'D FORGOTTEN TO BUY A PLANNER! So I asked the woman at the Customer Service counter where the planners were, and she said,

"Oh, the planners are all sold out."

"Ha! The planners are all sold out? All of them?"

"Yep. All of them."

So thank you, Universe, for sending me into Barnes and Noble for a planner and out with the signature of a hero. BethBert (that's a pet name just between us), if you are reading this, and I'm sure you are, since what deeply spiritual person doesn't have a vanity Google Alert on themselves, I want you to know that if we had time for coffee, I would have said so much more. I would have told you about my own EPL moment in Scotland this summer, that happened right here, on the grass in the park on that first day, with the extraordinary view of Arthur's Seat, and how later I climbed that volcano, and learned to love myself again. (Cuz, um, I have never had a problem eating.) And I'm praying again now, too, and meditating (a bit) *all the way down to my liver.* (Since I've never had a problem drinking, either, my liver probably needs it.) And I would have said, simply, Thank You, for your bravery and for sharing your story.

OH, BUT THAT'S NOT ALL.

Nope. So, I've been doing stand-up for about 7 years now, and I'm pretty good at it. That's neither meant to be boastful nor critical, just an honest assessment in the realm of the profession, in comparison to 20 year vets. I think in about 3 years, I'll probably be pretty great at it. But one thing I do extraordinarily well is freestyle rap. I don't know why. I'm a freak of nature - like Steve Martin in The Jerk. And my friend Adira Amram once told me, "Carolyn, I think you should freestyle every time you get onstage. Every set. Without fail. That's your closer." And I knew where she was coming from, but I thought, "Eh, I don't want to be known as the girl with the gimmick. I'm an artist! And that's not stand-up." No, it's not. It's something bigger than stand-up. It's entertainment, which is now, has been and always will be my aim. But because I wanted to be known as a stand-up, I resisted her excellent advice for some time. Finally, as years went by and funny hip-hop projects kept coming my way, I gave in, happily. In the last few months I've had 2 music videos hit number one on the YouTube Comedy charts and last Thursday, I had the chance to be on a lineup headlined by Colin Quinn (who is lovely, by the way), all because I put my ego to rest and let myself do what I do best. (See? I just rhymed. It's retarded.)

On that front, keep your eyes peeled for forthcoming video projects with Shayna Ferm (my partner in crime at the aforementioned Comedy Below Canal show with Colin Quinn), Jen Kwok (whose Date An Asian video was a YouTube smash with over 187,000 views) and of course Tom McCaffrey and Mara Herron! We shoot our next banger, S.A.D., with Anya Garrett this week!

In closing, save yourself precious time, children. Listen to your gut. Unless it's telling you to eat at midnight (ahem). Then you should listen to your head and go to bed. (Oops! I did it again! I rhyme all the time. Alright. Goodnight.)