202 — An Octopus Living in Baltimore
[00:00:05] CHRIS: Hello to all my JD & The Straight Shot Fans! It’s Beautiful Anonymous. One hour. One phone call. No names. No holds barred.
[00:00:15] THEME MUSIC: I’d rather go one on one. I think it’ll be more fun and I’ll get to know you and you’ll get to know me.
[00:00:28] CHRIS: What an exciting week for me as the host of this show. You guys have been so nice. I’m seeing so much enthusiasm for the Beautiful Anonymous convention happening May 14th through 17th in Brooklyn, New York. Saw somebody tweeted they’re flying in from Australia for it. That blows my mind. I hope the shows are good. Justify that trip. I think we’re going to have a blast. Man, I can feel the enthusiasm. I see a lot of people saying “I’d love to come, but this show‒ I listen to this show and it’s kind of my secret and I’d have to come alone.” I say, let’s get hundreds of people who come alone in the same room together and then we are no longer alone. I would love that. BeautifulCONonymous.com. Check it out. Info in the Facebook group. Also want to give a shout out to the guy‒ I took a jujitsu class this week with a guy who told me‒ He…. He was like, “I’m big fan of your podcast; I actually just listened to the jujitsu episode. This is my sixth jujitsu class.” And we wrestled each other, and I’m not going to‒ I’m‒ It’s a faux pas to say who tapped who, but I’m going to say, thank you for‒ It’s the‒ I think I’m probably the only podcast host ‒ Maybe; I don’t know. There’s other podcast hosts who are‒ Maybe one that doesn’t focus on fighting ‒ who’s actually fought a listener. Interesting stuff. Okay, this week’s episode: Baltimore’s such a cool city. That’s the basic premise of this episode. This one I love because it’s kind of casual and we just talk about an American city that’s really fascinating. I think everybody kind of knows that Baltimore is a city that in a lot of ways has struggled in recent decades, and that’s become a thing in pop culture. And we have somebody who lives there and loves it, tells us so much about it, and it’s just, like, a nice, simple slice of life from Baltimore. Then at the end, we learn that this person really also has all these sides to their personal life that they’ve had to sort out and figure out for themselves, and how they define themselves, and it… it just takes this turn that’s really unexpected and beautiful. Enjoy it.
[00:02:25] PHONE ROBOT: Thank you for calling Beautiful Anonymous. A beeping noise will indicate when you are on the show with the host.
[00:02:32] CHRIS: Hello?
[00:02:33] CALLER: Oh my God, is this Chris?
[00:02:37] CHRIS: This is Chris. Hello.
[00:02:41] CALLER: Oh man, oh man, oh man. This is wild. How are you doing today?
[00:02:46] CHRIS: How am I doing today? I’ll be honest with you. My son decided it was a good idea to wake up at 5:15 a.m. It’s a little out of character.
[00:02:55] CALLER: Ooooh.
[00:02:55] CHRIS: We’ve gotten past this. And he wanted to play, and I wanted his mom to sleep because she has to work harder than I do because of breastfeeding. So, the way he wanted to play was…
[00:03:06] CALLER: Yeah.
[00:03:06] CHRIS:…I lay on the floor, and he jumps on me, crawls across the room and jumps on me, aiming either for my throat or my testicles in a way that felt to me like him trying to claim dominance. And then I managed to get him to fall asleep, but I was scared to move him because I didn’t want to wake him up, so I slept for 90 more minutes on a hardwood floor. That’s how I’m doing. How are you doing?
[00:03:26] CALLER: Oh, I bet that… I bet that… I bet that felt great on the back.
[00:03:28] CHRIS: Hoooooo yeah.
[00:03:33] CALLER: I’m doing pretty good. I just got off of work not too long ago. One of my gigs right now is packing, like, tea for a company. And I’m from Baltimore. That shouldn’t‒ That’s not a big detail, but‒ And I was taping‒ Like, when I got through, I was like, “Oh shit, I need to, like, leave.” Because I have flexible hours. So, I was like, “I need to leave. I need to get this cart of, like, packages down to the dock.” And so, as I was, like, getting it off of the freight elevator, one of the wheels got stuck in the gap between the elevator and, like, the floor. And then, like, the door started to come down and I was worried I was gonna die. But I didn’t die, so… yeah, overall, I’m pretty good. Question for you, about the kid.
[00:04:19] CHRIS: Yeah.
[00:04:20] CALLER: Because my‒ I’m a new uncle.
[00:04:25] CHRIS: Nice.
[00:04:26] CALLER: Within, like, the past few months. Yeah. And that child is so mobile. And he doesn’t crawl yet, but I feel like when he starts crawling, we’re screwed. So, like, in your experience, when your son started crawling, was it, like, DEFCON 5?
[00:04:48] CHRIS: Well, it was really exciting. He started‒ I mean, he’s been army scootching for a couple months now, but that’s pretty slow and it’s really visible. The thing with crawling is, it’s fast. It’s faster than I knew. So, I was super excited. He started crawling maybe ten days ago, but the wild thing is that now it’s all moving really fast. Like, he’s only been crawling for less than two weeks and just this morning, he managed to grab the little bars on his‒ We‒ You know, we’ve built one of these cages in our living room, so he can’t crawl around and get under the couch or chew on a wire and die. And just this morning, he managed to grab those bars and stand up on his own. And it’s like, “You just started crawling ten days ago and now you can stand. This is nuts!”
[00:05:35] CALLER: Oh no. Oh no.
[00:05:36] CHRIS: So, it’s a lot to think about. I also just want to say, I’m sitting here complaining because my… my beautiful son woke up at 5:15, and then you followed up with a story where you’re working in some sort of warehouse where you’re almost killed by a door trying to get tea down to the docks, and it reminds me that we all got our own problems, but that my problems are pretty good. So, I thank you for that reminder.
[00:06:03] CALLER: Oh, well, okay, let me be clear. I was being extremely dramatic. I could not actually be killed by that freight ‒ By… By that… By that door. At most, that thing would have bonked me and then gone… gone its way back up. I was… I was not at no risk of death. My, like‒ It’s not‒ That… That is not a big problem. That is not a‒ Like, I have some problems in my life; that is not a problem in my life.
[00:06:27] CHRIS: But you’re still telling me‒ Like, it’s 12:45 p.m. on the East Coast and you’re getting off of work and you’re… you’re hoisting boxes down to the docks, which‒ I have to tell you, I’ve always been obsessed with the docks and longshoremen. I think it’s a bad-ass‒
[00:06:41] CALLER: Oh, oh, I misled, I misled. I misled you. I’m so sorry. I don’t mean, like‒ I meant the loading dock. I don’t mean, like…
[00:06:47] CHRIS: Ooooh.
[00:06:48] CALLER:…like Marlon Brando On the Waterfront docks. I’m not unionizing anybody.
[00:06:53] CHRIS: I thought this was like The Wire Season Two, like you’re down there in Baltimore, down on one of those longshoreman situations. Okay. The loading docks. Okay. Still impressed, but less impressed.
[00:07:02] CALLER: Ah. Naw. About Baltimore, I will‒ Listen. I’m born and raised Baltimore. I love it very much. But‒ Because I’m white. Like, all white. And‒ But there is a part of me that’s like, you know, like, I’m from Baltimore. I’ve been here pretty much my whole life, except in one year and one summer, and I love it, but at the same time, it’s not‒ The problems of the city were not my problems growing up, so I feel tentative really to, like, claim it as my city. Because I’m not, like, from a wealthy background or anything, but, you know, like, my parents worked hard. They really‒ My mom and dad were really‒ Like, they were very passionate about making sure me and my siblings had opportunities for ourselves that maybe they didn’t have growing up. So, like, they worked hard. They sent us to a private Catholic school, which, as you know‒ I’m sure you know, being raised Catholic. Yeah, [inaudible] has its own problems, but overall, very good. And so, like, I love Baltimore, but I always feel like [inaudible]… like I needed to disclaim that because so much‒ I believe you’ve been to Baltimore; like, I feel like you, you know, [inaudible], but yeah.
[00:08:21] CHRIS: Yes. The Ottobar. The Ottobar in Baltimore‒
[00:08:24] CALLER: I love the Ottobar so fucking much. It’s an amazing‒
[00:08:27] CHRIS: Legitimately, my‒ It might be my favorite venue I’ve ever performed in. We did a live taping there once, and that’s where I talked to the Australian, my Australian best friend.
[00:08:38] CALLER: The Australian! Yeah! Yeah. I‒
[00:08:40] CHRIS: And that’s one of the best episodes we’ve ever done. I’ve done stand-up there twice. That is probably my favorite venue to perform at in the country.
[00:08:47] CALLER: It’s such a great venue. I wanted to go‒ The last time you were there I wanted to go, but I couldn’t, because I… I’m an actor and poet and‒ This is an incredibly pretentious sentence, but I… I had rehearsal that night so I couldn’t go. But it’s such an amazing venue. Like, the vibes of it? I also, like, write songs and shit, so, like, I’ve… I’ve actually played there, like, opening for people, and it’s such‒ Even though, like, when you’re an opener nobody gives a fuck about you, it’s still just, like‒ It’s such a great stage. It’s great energy. The people there are dope. Yeah.
[00:09:26] CHRIS: Incredible. I also‒ I want to say to you, you said a sentence that I think might be jarring to some listeners, where you were like, “I’m very white and Baltimore’s problems aren’t mine,” but I know what you mean. I feel like just on its face value that might be a sentence that jars people, but one thing I’ve learned about your city that… that’s so eye- opening and heartbreaking because‒ You know, we’ve all seen The Wire. Everybody’s seen The Wire. But that’s‒ At the end of the day, even though it’s, like, the best TV show ever and known for being so realistic, it’s still a TV show. One thing I’ve learned is‒ You know, when you’re a comedian, you rely on Waze, which is that app that gives you directions that account for traffic and road closures and accidents so it’s the quickest way, but I have learned in my trips to Baltimore that it’s… it’s… it’s tough to follow Waze because it prioritizes the quickest way, but that means it routinely brings you through neighborhoods where it is no‒ I am not joking when I say you’ll drive four or five entire city blocks where every single window is boarded up on every business and every home, and that…
[00:10:42] CALLER: Yeah.
[00:10:42] CHRIS: That’s not an isolated thing. There are many stretches like that. And then, even more jarring is sometimes you’ll go three blocks where everything’s boarded up and then you’re halfway down the next block and you see just one house where everything is swept up and there’s a flower box in the window and you realize, “Oh, someone’s living in the middle of… of this‒ What’s effectively a desert where you don’t have access to anything.” And it is eye opening, and heartbreaking. And then you think, “Oh, this is a major American city in the Northeast corridor.” You know, you can look at it. There’s a lot of studies that say you can really think of the whole stretch from Boston to Washington, D.C., as effectively one massive, culturally connected metropolitan area, and Baltimore is a big hub in that. And it still has that. So…
[00:11:37] CALLER: Yeah.
[00:11:37] CHRIS:…I just want to say I know what you mean and you know, I think the… the minority communities in Baltimore have… have seen and dealt with a lot over a number of generations. So, I just want to say, I… I hear you, and I’ve seen it myself just in passing, and it must… it must be so layered to be a citizen of your city.
[00:12:00] CALLER: Yeah. And I mean, because it’s like‒ Baltimore, I say this somewhat hypocritically as‒ Because I’m doing everything I can to, like, move, not because I don’t love Baltimore but just because I need changes in my life. Yeah, I mean, I love it, and when I say‒ I just want to be clear, I love Baltimore, and it breaks my heart, just the problems that, like, exist in the city and, like, within, like the government. You know, like two of our most recent mayors, you know, have, like, these, like, ridiculous corruption scandals, and it’s… and it’s hard, because I feel like people have this perception. I remember‒ Speaking of Ottobar, I remember one time; this is back when I was in high school. I’m thinking like 2010. I went to see one of the favourite musicians, Langhorne Slim, at the Ottobar, and, opening, he had two openers, and the very first opener was this dude from Ireland, who‒ Can’t remember his name, but he, like, made some joke where it was like‒ He was like, “Ow right, when ah tohld‒” Ah, I can’t do an Irish accent. But, like‒ He’s like, “When I told‒” He was like, “When I told my parents that I was‒ When I was flying into Baltimore, they were like, ‘Oh, like… like The Wire?’” And he was like, “Yeah.” And they were just like, “Huh. Well, don’t get shot.” And like, that’s such a common perception, I feel like, from outside‒ Not even, like, just outside, like, the state, but outside the city. Because I went to, like, high school, again, like a private Catholic school that was in Baltimore County, and people there like love to, like, make jokes about Baltimore, you know. And keep in mind, these are, like, majority, privileged, talking, like, white boys from Howard County or Baltimore County that live in, like, these huge-ass houses that only go into the city, like, to go to the Ravens game or the Orioles game or the aquarium. And it pisses me off because it’s obviously like, the numbers are the numbers and like… like, there is a lot of crime and, like, shit that goes down, but people from Baltimore, I think, are some of the most genuine, upfront, honest people I’ve ever met in my life. Like, we don’t really bullshit; we don’t hide our feelings or, you know‒ And like, but at the same time, we’re also like‒ I feel like we look out for each other, and you sort of, like, know each other and respect each other. So, I think, it’s just‒ That, I think that’s one of my biggest, like, things that hurts, is that it’s just like there’s this perception of Baltimore as, like, a fucking war zone by not just people outside of Maryland, but outside of Baltimore, and the fact of the matter is people are, here, good people, as with all places. And all cities have, like, crime problems, and‒ I don’t know. It’s just‒ Sorry, I went off on a real tangent.
[00:15:08] CHRIS: No, I’m glad to hear it, because I agree. Because I’ll tell you, I started going there and doing shows, and I’d passed through Baltimore before, but, like, on class trips to the aquarium, which is a great aquarium, by the way. And they got this shark spiral where you walk down in a spiral and you see bigger and bigger sharks.
[00:15:27] CALLER: Right?
[00:15:27] CHRIS: It’s amazing. Amazing aquarium.
[00:15:28] CALLER: And the octopus there!
[00:15:30] CHRIS: Oh yeah! And on the roof, they got a sloth in a… in a…
[00:15:34] CALLER: Yeah.
[00:15:34] CHRIS: Like a greenhouse. It’s… It’s cool. A great aquarium. But‒
[00:15:38] CALLER: The octopus there and I are like best friends. We’ve become buds.
[00:15:43] CHRIS: Love that. Love that. But, I was going to say, when I started going there and doing shows‒ It is such an art-supportive city. It quietly‒ I feel like, you know, Brooklyn had all this artistic buzz, and then a lot of the artists started really bubbling up in Philly, and when I got to Baltimore, I was like, “Oh, this is still very under the radar,” but there’s a lot of good music, a lot of good comedy; there’s great restaurants. I have a friend named Bambi Galore there and I know there’s a big drag scene; via Bambi is how I know that. And I’ve just also seen that side of it where there’s a lot of stuff kind of‒ There’s a lot of energy and electricity crackling under the surface. I’ve stayed at a place in Baltimore called Feed the Scene where they have a whole house full of bunk beds for bands and touring artists to just come crash. It’s a very cool place. And I’ll tell you this. Here’s high praise. Being someone who’s lived in New York for 15 years, we all know New Yorkers are incredibly arrogant. We like to say that we live in the greatest city in the world. I think‒ And as an East Coaster, we all know that you’re sitting‒ You’ve definitely said the sentence “Fuck New York” in your life living in another northeastern city. That’s fine. Sorry Sally. But I’ll tell you, I often, when I travel…
[00:17:03] CALLER: I don’t think so. I‒
[00:17:03] CHRIS:…consider, like, what are the other places I would live? You go to Austin, I’m like, “Yeah.” Denver, I’m like, “Yeah.” I would move to Baltimore in a heartbeat because of the people I met there and the way that I see the arts having this underground energy about them.
[00:17:20] CALLER: For sure. I think‒ Yeah, and you would fit right in in Baltimore, I feel like.
[00:17:24] CHRIS: Sad weirdos? They like sad weirdos down there?
[00:17:28] CALLER: Oh, God, I feel like we’re all sad weirdos down here because like… like, it’s just, like, half the time the weather is‒ Like, we get, like, two weeks out of the year combined of, like, suitable weather where we don’t have something to bitch about, because, like, in the summer, it’s not just‒ Like, it’s too fucking hot and it’s, like, way too humid, and I guess that’s probably because swamp stuff. When the city was first founded it was probably, like, near swamps or whatever. But it’s so humid. It’s like… like, it’s awful. And then in the winter it’s cold, and, like, if there’s a wind‒ And… And it’s just‒ We’re‒ Like the weather’s never like‒ Maybe we’re just picky, but the weather’s never, like, great. And then, you know, we got the Orioles too. You know, like, at least for people of my generation, they always sucked. And then we had three good years and we were happy and now we’re just stuck with that trash again. And I think my‒ I think the generation before me still is traumatized by the Colts leaving, and‒ Like, and everyone… everyone else in the country just looks at Baltimore and they’re just, “Oh, yeah, that place exists.” Like, one of‒ Having listened to your Pork Roll, Egg and Cheese comedy special‒
[00:18:50] CHRIS: Taylor Ham, Egg and Cheese, thank you! I see where you tried to do there, you Baltimorean! That’s the Philly… That’s the Philly influence rubbing off on you. I have a new album. It’s all New Jersey jokes. It’s called Taylor Ham, Egg and Cheese. Listen on Spotify today!
[00:19:05] CALLER: It’s fantastic. It’s fantastic.
[00:19:06] CHRIS: Thank you. You get it.
[00:19:09] CALLER: But‒ I really appreciate‒ Speaking of Philly, I really appreciated the Baltimore shout-out when you were, like talking shit on Philly, because it’s true. People forget between Philly and D.C. is that we exist. And I’ve actually never said this at‒ I don’t think I’ve ever said the sentence “Fuck New York,” sorry Sally, but I say it all the time about D.C. I hate D.C. I cannot stand D.C. And that‒ I’ve lived there for a year. One of like the one-and-a-half years of my life where I‒ One-and-a-quarter years of my life where I wasn’t, like, living in Baltimore, was in D.C., and granted, disclaimer, it was my freshman year of college; I was extremely depressed and not ready for‒ To be, like, on my own at 18 years old, and I barely went off my campus, but still, even going back‒ Like, I was back there like a couple weeks ago for a basketball game, and I was in the city and I was just, like, “There’s no personality here.” The personality is a robot. That… That’s all it is. It’s just, like, transplants from other places in the country, and I’m probably like‒ [Inaudible] there’s a lot of D.C. people in that Facebook group, but they’re going to be piling on me right now, I guess. But, like, it feels‒ There’s something about D.C. that just kind of feels like‒ It feels like a party where, like, there’s one person‒ Like, I imagine it’s, like, the city version of a party thrown by, like, a less fabulous Jay Gatsby where it’s like, there’s the dude that knows a lot of people, and everyone comes to his house, but they don’t really know each other, and they’re just kind of like, “Okay, so, like, we’re all here. You seem cool enough. We’re gonna hang out. We’re going to… We’re going to have some food and we’re going to do these things and we’ll look at art! And we’ll look at these cool buildings. But we’re not really going to create, like, our own party vibe. We’re just sort of going to keep doing our thing. You know? And meanwhile‒
[00:21:16] CHRIS: Well, I’ll say D.C…. D.C. has been very nice to me over the years. People show up for my shows there and I do like it. But I will say, I think it reminds me of Los Angeles in a certain way, in that it’s dominated by a certain industry. L.A., it’s entertainment, and D.C., it’s politics, and I feel like if you’re not in tune with those things in both cities‒ It’s like if you’re not in tune with it, it’s kind of indecipherable, and if you are, it’s filled with a lot of pressure, and I know what you mean. And can I say one more thing about Baltimore? Because I don’t know if you want to talk about that whole time, so I want to check on you, but I will say, historically, it’s one of the most interesting places in America, because Maryland itself was founded as a haven for Catholics when Catholics were a persecuted group. That’s fascinating. It’s always had this feeling of like, is it part of the South or is it a part of the North? And then in the Civil War, I feel like it was a hub for the slave trade but it was also a place where there were major moral stands against the slave trade. It’s a really fascinating city that deserves more credit and I’m glad that you’ve talked about it so much today. I do want to check in. Is that all you wanted to talk about? Because you’ll be shocked, because I feel like this conversation’s been fascinating ‒ we’re 22 minutes into this bad boy.
[00:22:36] CALLER: Well I‒ Honestly? It’s only 22 minutes? I felt like we were way further into it. Plus, it’s‒ I‒ Maybe it’s just because I feel like I’ve been talking nonstop like a fucking crazy person.
[00:22:51] CHRIS: Naw, you’re doing great. Very engaging and listenable, and don’t be self-conscious, because I promise you, there’s a lot of people, I feel like, in the States, let alone the international listeners, who are going, “Oh, that city sounds like it’s got way more to it than I knew,” and it’s true. Great town. Great town that deserves a lot of love and support.
[00:23:12] CALLER: Yeah. And even, like, the… the… the… Look, we don’t need to talk about Baltimore the whole time, because…
[00:23:16] CHRIS: I’m happy to!
[00:23:17] CALLER:…[inaudible] Baltimore tourism campaign but, like, there’s just, like, a lot of weird, small shit that happened, or‒ Like, yeah, that, like, historically happened in Baltimore. Like, Edgar Allen Poe.
[00:23:29] CHRIS: Oh yeah.
[00:23:30] CALLER: People obviously associate him with it. His house is here, and his grave’s here; like, that’s a smaller thing. But then, you know, Zelda Fitzgerald was in Maryland’s premier mental institution, Sheppard Pratt. Like‒
[00:23:44] CHRIS: Premier. I like that you say it like that.
[00:23:46] CALLER: Premier.
[00:23:47] CHRIS: Premier mental institution.
[00:23:49] CALLER: Premier.
[00:24:21] CALLER: Maryland’s premier mental institution, Sheppard Pratt.
[00:24:24] CHRIS: Premier. I like that you say it like that.
[00:24:27] CALLER: Premier.
[00:24:28] CHRIS: Premier mental institution.
[00:24:31] CALLER: Premier. Like, if you‒ Listen, if you’re looking at like mental institutions across the place and you’re trying to figure out which one is the one you want to go to, Sheppard Pratt is your premier mental institution for your go-to in-patient needs.
[00:24:44] CHRIS: Nice. I’ll remember that next time I have a complete nervous breakdown, which happens roughly every five to seven years for me.
[00:24:51] CALLER: No! No, we’ve got to break the streak!
[00:24:53] CHRIS: Yeah, I have. I’ve been doing good, actually. It’s been a long time. It’s been coming up on eight years since I’ve had a total collapse in my life. That’s good. That’s the longest stretch for me.
[00:25:04] CALLER: I mean‒ But you know, it is‒ I will say it’s reassuring for me to hear that it‒ You can go, like, stretches where, like, you don’t have one that it happens and you can still be a successful human being.
[00:25:16] CHRIS: Marginally. Marginally successful. Let’s be honest. But thank you.
[00:25:20] CALLER: Listen! Chris. Chris. I feel like, from my… my perspective, my idea of what I want in life is to wake up every day and get to do something that I want to do and be able to support myself and, if I end up having any sort of family, support my family with what I love to do
[00:25:38] CHRIS: I’m lucky.
[00:25:38] CALLER: And‒
[00:25:38] CHRIS: I’m lucky. I kid, but I know how lucky I am.
[00:25:39] CALLER: And that’s something that you get to do. And, like, so, it’s like, yeah. I’m not saying‒ Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blowing smoke up your ass. You’re no Leo DiCaprio. But like, you’re like‒ You’ve got a really good life.
[00:25:53] CHRIS: I have a great life.
[00:25:53] CALLER: You’ve had a wonderful life!
[00:25:55] CHRIS: I have a great life; I know it! I’m just filled with a lifelong existential dread, and you know as well; you… you are an actor and a poet. When you are an artist, I feel like…
[00:26:05] CALLER: Yeah.
[00:26:06] CHRIS:…you always have this feeling that you will eventually accomplish something that will quell your demons, and that’s just not true.
[00:26:14] CALLER: Mm-hmm!
[00:26:14] CHRIS: That’s just not true. The older I get, the more I realize no accomplishment is going to make me a more sane and less troubled person. That’s not how life works. That’s the danger of careerism. But I have to do a lot of soul searching to find that peace, and that’s not always an easy process.
[00:26:29] CALLER: Yeah. Yeah, no, totally. Like, I just started doing poetry, like, I guess, like two years ago, because I wrote songs for a long time, and‒ I hadn’t written a song for like over a year, and then last night I did, so that‒ It’s weird. But anyway, so, I wrote songs for a long time, then I had to get two full-time credits for, like… like, my scholarship at the college I was at, and so I took an undergrad‒ Like, I took like an introductory, like, creative writing poetry class. And then like, it just sort of spun from there. And like, last‒ And so, like, I fell in love with it, like, super hard, super quick, and I was just so‒ And, like, I got an understanding of the world, and, like, how it works, and, like, applying to places and not hearing back for six months, and sometimes at the end of those six months, the poems you submitted, you realize, are utter shit. But I was really surprised. I got really lucky. I got, like, a poem in, like, a pretty legitimate lit mag, and I was really surprised by how quickly, like, that rush, that dopamine rush of knowing that it got accepted, just faded. It lasted, maybe, like one day.
[00:27:49] CHRIS: Yeah.
[00:27:49] CALLER: And then the next day I was like, “Okay, well, I’ll see that in October I guess.”
[00:27:54] CHRIS: And then you’re chasing that adrenaline again; you’re praying that it goes as well as‒ You can feel that kick again.
[00:28:01] CALLER: Mm-hmm.
[00:28:02] CHRIS: It’s a thing. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s a beautiful thing, but it’s… it’s an addictive thing that’s also at times very confusing.
[00:28:11] CALLER: Yeah, well, and it’s like‒ Well, and then, in a way, it’s obviously like anything. Everything in life forces you to grow and learn. And I feel like with this, I’ve sort of had to learn, like, how to appreciate‒ Like, it really forces me just to appreciate what I do and value what I do for myself outside of the‒ Because even, like, though it is poetry and acting ‒ like, you’re sort of, like, depending on external validation in order for your work to be seen ‒ what really matters is myself validating it even after that external validation. And so, like, when the poem came out in October and, like, I got the copy of the magazine, like, I read it and I was like, “Yeah, that is a good poem. I’m proud of that.” So, it’s forced‒ It’s really forced me to be, like‒ Even though I’m dependent on external validation for my career, to, like, not make that as the number one priority, or, like, arbiter of whether or not anything I do is worth a damn.
[00:29:04] CHRIS: And if you are worth it‒ That’s the thing. You can…
[00:29:08] CALLER: That‒ Okay. Yeah.
[00:29:08] CHRIS: You can ponder if what you do is worth a damn, but that does not equate to whether or not you are worth a damn, and that’s a mistake I have fallen into over and over again in my 39 years of life.
[00:29:20] CALLER: Man, cheers to that. Yeah, I feel that.
[00:29:23] CHRIS: Indeed. Indeed!
[00:29:25] CALLER: Yeah, but‒ Oh, real quick. I just‒ I have a friend that listens to this podcast and I know that [inaudible]. And I would just like to share a quick story with you of how last August, she texted me and she said, “Hey, I’ve got a ticket to Gethard’s show in Asbury Park next Friday‒ This Friday.” She said “this Friday.” It’s an important detail. And she is like, “Do you want to come?” And it was Thursday, and I was like, “All right, well, like, I could, yeah.” And so, I was like, “Yeah, let’s… let’s do it; let’s be spontaneous.” And I called down to work. I switched a shift around. The next day, I drove like the three hours on the Jersey Turnpike, drove up to Asbury Park. I parked, and I texted her, and I was like, “Hey, just so you know, I’m gonna grab, like, a quick bite to eat and I’ll meet you at the… the brewery.” And she texted me back and she was like, “[BEEP], [BEEP], you’re kidding, right?” Oh, fuck, I just said my name.
[00:30:37] CHRIS: That’s okay. We’ll mark the time code and we will bleep it.
[00:30:41] CALLER: Fuuuuuuck!
[00:30:42] CHRIS: We will bleep it! That’s okay! Who cares?
[00:30:45] CALLER: No. Cut. I’m a failure. But‒ And she was like, “You’re kidding.” And I was like, “No, I’m very serious.” And she was like, “The show’s next Friday.” And I was like… And I was like, “You said this Friday!” And she was like, “No, I didn’t!” And I was like‒ I sent her a screenshot of the text and she was like, “Oh, I did.”
[00:31:08] CHRIS: *Audible glasses throw*
[00:31:14] CALLER: But we joked about it since then, and we… and we said that if either of us ever got on, we would have to share that story with you.
[00:31:22] CHRIS: Now, did you come back the next Friday for the show?
[00:31:25] CALLER: I couldn’t! I couldn’t!
[00:31:28] CHRIS: And was that the taping of Taylor Ham, Egg and Cheese?
[00:31:31] CALLER: Was that…Was that it? Because it was, like, the end of August, that brewery.
[00:31:36] CHRIS: Yeah. I mean, I did‒ I forget what the timing was, but I did a stop on my tour at Asbury Park. But I think‒ Yeah, I did two sets of shows at the brewery. I think that was the taping of Taylor Ham, Egg and Cheese, my entire joke of New Jersey albums, which you can listen to on Spotify right now.
[00:31:54] CALLER: It’s very good.
[00:31:55] CHRIS: Thank you so much. Well, I’m so sorry! So what, you just wandered around Asbury Park by yourself, which is‒ That’s not a bad day. If you got to have that day, at least you’re in a town that’s become, like, this revitalized cool place that still has its abandoned gritty edges.
[00:32:11] CALLER: Yeah, no, like, I was… I was considering it, wandering around, because also, like, I was pretty much, like, I was born and raised on, like, Bruce, so I was like, “Oh, Asbury Park, that’s pretty big place.” But I ended up not, just because I was like, “Where am I staying tonight? Am I driving all the way back to Baltimore?” I was like, “I don’t know if I can do that. I don’t know if I have that mental fortitude right now.” Because‒ I don’t know. It was one of those things though, where I was like, “I drove this far. I need to, like, do something with this‒ With my geographic location.”
[00:32:46] CHRIS: What is that, like a three-hour trip?
[00:32:48] CALLER: It… It was like three‒ I think there‒ I think, if I remember correctly, something happened on the Turnpike, so it was, like, three and a half. But I ended up just‒ My sister lives in Philly, so I ended up driving another hour and a half to see her and stay with her, which was nice, because she’s a globe-trotting person, so ever since she moved to college, I hadn’t really seen her all that much, so any chance to see her is a good chance.
[00:33:15] CHRIS: That’s cool. That’s cool.
[00:33:16] CALLER: So, it all worked out, but I just wanted to publicly shame my friend.
[00:33:23] CHRIS: I’ll just send a message out there to your friend which says, “Hey, you got to be more clear with your texts. People have busy lives. People are losing money on this. Also, thank you for buying tickets and supporting me in my comedy.”
[00:33:34] CALLER: Yeah. Yeah, no. She’s… She’s great. She loves you very much.
[00:33:37] CHRIS: And I love her, even though I have no idea who she is.
[00:33:41] CALLER: Well, you’ve talked to her once upon a time. It just wasn’t on, like, a big thing.
[00:33:45] CHRIS: Okay?
[00:33:45] CALLER: But, yeah. Anyway. I feel like you’re always asking people what‒ Oh, never mind. I actually‒ How are you feeling about the‒ Are you still a Knicks fan?
[00:33:55] CHRIS: Man, I haven’t watched a Knicks game all year. It’s depressing. But what I have done over the past probably five or six years, I’ve reignited my love for the team I grew up loving as a youth, the Seton Hall Pirates of the Big East Conference. And they’re on a streak! They just won their ninth game in a row last night. They took down Providence. They’re undefeated in the Big East. This is a magical season. Myles Powell is a once-in-a-generation player and I’m going to someday say I was lucky enough to see him play live.
[00:34:24] CALLER: Dude, he is filthy, like‒
[00:34:28] CHRIS: Ridiculous.
[00:34:28] CALLER: Yeah, no, he is so good.
[00:34:31] CHRIS: Myles Powell will hit a shot from half court and not even think about. He’ll put a dagger in your heart. And I’m hoping they go on a run in the NCAA tournament this year. That being said, the last thing listeners of this podcast want to hear about is me ranting about college sports.
[00:34:49] CALLER: Yeah. I don’t know. I’ve‒ All I just wanted‒ I was‒ Just wanted to check in on how you’re feeling about the Knicks, because it’s a rough time up in the State of New York.
[00:34:55] CHRIS: The Knicks are brutal. The Knicks are brutal and unwatchable and have been for years, and‒ Pretty much since Linsanity. An unwatchable team. And I tried. I tried to hang on for years after that. But I can’t.
[00:35:09] CALLER: Yeah.
[00:35:09] CHRIS: And their owner… their owner seems like he’s almost intentionally ruined the team, and they go out this year, they got all this money for free agents, and they go and get like four power forwards. Who thought that was gonna work?
[00:35:20] CALLER: I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I kind of want to see Taj Gibson run the point. But my…my‒ Here’s a question. If James Dolan… If James Dolan came to you and was like, “Hey Chris, I really want you to‒ I’m going on tour with my jazz band…”
[00:35:38] CHRIS: JD & The Shore Shot.
[00:35:38] CALLER: “…and I really want you to…to…” JD & the Shore Shot. “And I really want you to be the opener.”
[00:35:43] CHRIS: Yeah.
[00:35:44] CALLER: What you saying? Are you going on tour trying to talk some sense to‒ Into him? Trying to get‒ Angle in, maybe become like an Assistant GM gig out of it? Because that’s probably how he hires.
[00:35:54] CHRIS: Well, first things first, let us explain. I love this. You and I clearly… clearly are cut from the same cloth in many, many ways. For anybody listening, the owner of the Knicks is a guy named James Dolan. He’s kind of a legendary figure. He inherited the team from his dad. He has been‒ I think the diplomatic way of saying it is he has been at the very least pretty obtuse in his running of the team. Things‒ There’s been scandals with GMs he’s hired; there’s been disastrous‒ Like, Isaiah Thomas scandals, and then just kind of disastrous relationships with players during the Phil Jackson era; he can’t hang on to coaches; and it’s gotten to a point where the top-level players are now going on record and saying “Why would‒” Everybody thinks that players want to play in New York because it’s the media capital and Madison Square Garden is admittedly magical. “Why would anyone play for an organization this backwards?” And I feel like every‒
[00:36:54] CALLER: He turned an organization into a… a trash can that is, like, so trashy…
[00:37:00] CHRIS: Yeah.
[00:37:01] CALLER:…and so smelly, that not‒ That it’s just‒ It’s…It’s abominable. It’s abominable.
[00:37:05] CHRIS: No one will even go near it to empty it. And what you’re referring to is a thing that I love. He has a band called JD & The Shore Shot, James Dolan & The Shore Shot, and he’s really into this band. This guy’s, like, a billionaire who owns Madison Square Garden and he‒
[00:37:23] CALLER: And all‒ Like, and so many, like, arenas and shit.
[00:37:27] CHRIS: Yeah. And‒ Like, just so much money. And word on the street‒ And I‒ I don’t know if this is true or an urban legend ‒ it would be very easy to look up ‒ is that there are times where he has allowed bands to play at Madison Square Garden under the condition that they allow JD & The Straight Shot to open for them. I guess it’s not Shore Shot. JD & The Straight Shot? We looked it up? It’s JD & The Straight Shot. But I forget‒ JD‒ I feel like that’s the rumour I’ve always heard, is that they have played as openers for like ‒ I’m looking this up now ‒ of like major acts, because he owns the arena. Yeah. “Billionaire…
[00:38:09] CALLER: But like‒
[00:38:10] CHRIS: “Billionaire Books Himself to Open‒” Let’s see. Here’s the… Here’s the article, from Stereogum. “Billionaire Owner Books Himself to Open for the Eagles at MSG.” He’s‒ Owns the arena!
[00:38:24] CALLER: I don’t blame that though!
[00:38:26] CHRIS: Come on!
[00:38:26] CALLER: That’s just… That’s just smart play! No. Listen. Listen. If‒ Say, like‒ If I owned an arena and I had a chance to then open up for Bruce Springsteen, like, I would‒ Yeah, I would do that. I’d be like, “I’ve worked my life to get‒” Well, maybe‒ I don’t know if he worked, because it was his dad’s businesses and everything, but, from my perspective, it’s like, this is my place. If I have a chance to open up for Bruce Springsteen because of this thing, hell yeah! Like‒
[00:38:57] CHRIS: I get it. But when you already…
[00:38:59] CALLER: He’s a clown, but I respect that clown.
[00:39:01] CHRIS: When you already have the reputation of being, like, the most hated man in New York sports fandom‒ And he would‒ Like, he’ll show up at games and fans will heckle him, and he’ll instantly turn around and point at them and security and… and will say, “Ban that person for life.” Like, he… he is known to have caused some trouble with this franchise people love, and then when people will yell stuff, he has a thin skin about it. So that’s also‒ You’re right. Like, if I owned MSG, I’d be like, “Yeah, I’m going to… I’m going to do a comedy set and open up for Billy Joel at one of these crazy sold-out concerts Billy Joel does there.” Of course. But it’s… it’s… it’s‒ He’s already viewed as such a spoiled, rich kid who’s, like, broken everybody’s hearts, so it’s not easy to swallow. Although I get your point. I get your point.
[00:39:50] CALLER: I would… I would pay money to like, like‒ I’m not a big Billy Joel person, but I would pay good money just to watch you perform just a set of, like, existential depression jokes to an unknowing crowd of people there to see Billy Joel.
[00:40:09] CHRIS: Oh! The dream!
[00:40:09] CALLER: I would [inaudible]
[00:40:11] CHRIS: I mean, if I could go up, if I could open for Bruce Springsteen and do some of my jokes from Taylor Ham, Egg and Cheese, available on Spotify now‒ Like, if I could do my “What’s the deal with Bayonne, New Jersey” joke opening for Bruce, I feel like I’d actually get a standing ovation. That would be an amazing dream come true.
[00:40:26] CALLER: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely it would.
[00:40:28] CHRIS: I just… I just went to JD & The Straight Shot’s Wikipedia, and you’ll be happy to hear that the New York Times described the band as “a group of well-known sidemen backing a karaoke grade singer.” That is the man who booked himself to open for the Eagles!
[00:40:45] CALLER: *Chef’s kiss noise*! Beautiful! Poetry!
[00:40:49] CHRIS: There it is. Write that down; you’ll get it published.
[00:40:53] CALLER: But my question for you as a New Jerseyan…
[00:40:55] CHRIS: Yeah.
[00:40:56] CALLER: Springsteen versus Bon Jovi.
[00:40:58] CHRIS: Oh, Springsteen. And I got nothing against Bon Jovi, but Springsteen’s just God.
[00:41:03] CALLER: That’s the right answer.
[00:41:04] CHRIS: Springsteen is funny for my generation, because for kids my age, that was our parents’ music. I don’t feel like too many of my friends grew up loving Springsteen. But there was a very brief stretch where I lived in L.A. in 2003-2004, and I got so into Springsteen out of nostalgia for my home, and you realize this guy’s lyrics are untouchable. Absolutely untouchable, and they tell stories about people I know and I grew up with. It’s amazing.
[00:41:34] CALLER: Yeah. I mean, he wrote “Thunder Road” when he was 24.
[00:41:37] CHRIS: That’s nuts.
[00:41:38] CALLER: What the fuck is up with that?
[00:41:40] CHRIS: That’s‒
[00:41:40] CALLER: I’m 24 right now, and I’m like, “What the‒ What am I doing?”
[00:41:46] CHRIS: You got to go write your “Thunder Road.”
[00:41:46] CALLER: I’m taking your tea down to the loading dock!
[00:41:48] CHRIS: And that came after “Born to Run,” right?
[00:41:52] CALLER: Yeah. Yeah. Because, like, he wrote it, like, around the time that he was writing‒ He wrote the most‒ The majority of it when he was writing The Wild, the Innocent, but it, like, wasn’t quite right. But he wrote pretty much all the lyrics; he just hadn’t figured out the music for it yet. So, like, he wrote the line where it’s like‒ I can’t remember it anymore; this is embarrassing. But it’s like, “We’re not young anymore.” And, like, he’s always talked about, “I wrote that when I was 24. What did I know about that?”
[00:42:19] CHRIS: Yeah.
[00:42:19] CALLER: But‒
[00:42:20] CHRIS AND CALLER: *Singing* “Because we’re not young anymore / Show a little faith there’s promise in the night / She ain’t a beauty, but hey she’s alright / And that’s alright with me“
[00:42:33] CHRIS: Doo-doo-ding. Great song.
[00:43:08] CHRIS AND CALLER: She ain’t a beauty, but hey she’s alright / And that’s alright with me“
[00:43:15] CHRIS: Doo-doo-ding. Great song. This episode is straight-up chit-chat and I loved it. This episode is straight-up two dudes from the East Coast chatting.
[00:43:29] CALLER: It is. Do we‒ I feel like‒ Is there, like, a requirement to talk about, like, a certain level of angst? Is there a percent, like a‒ Is it like a… like a litmus test where, like, you’ll, like, [inaudible] and be like, “Mm-hmm, there’s only a two-percent angst in this?”
[00:43:49] CHRIS: No. I mean, I love that it goes in so many different directions and I feel like this hearkens back to the early days of the show, I feel like, where it was, like, let’s just bounce from thing to thing and see what we stumble into, and we’ll talk about a lot of Baltimore stuff, and then we’ll talk about sports and Springsteen, and then I’m sure‒ We got 16, 17 minutes left. We got time to stumble into all other sorts of stuff. I do want to know more about you. You… You mentioned you’re moving. You mentioned‒ You‒ We had all this great love for your hometown, but where are you moving to and why?
[00:44:20] CALLER: So, like, I really don’t know yet. It‒ I’m applying to‒ I’m currently waiting to hear back from graduate schools for poetry.
[00:44:29] CHRIS: Oooh!
[00:44:32] CALLER: Yes. “Oooh.” Yeah, it’s fucking scary. But I applied to eight places. I applied to Michigan, Mississippi, Austin, NYU, UVA, Virginia Tech, Washington University in St. Louis, and University of Texas, and all of them are really competitive. And really good. And there’s a very good chance I get into none of them.
[00:45:04] CHRIS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
[00:45:04] CALLER: But I also feel like there’s a chance I get into one of them. But if I don’t get into any of them, I’m probably gonna move to New York just because I know people there; that’s where the action is; and I don’t know. I love the city from what‒ Every time I’ve been there and I feel like it’s the place where like‒ I feel like in the past couple months I’ve really realized that I need to get out there and just like‒ One of my‒ I’m not a big New Year’s resolutions person, but I wanted, this year, to be more, like, self-generative with performance opportunities, because so much of acting is just waiting for people to cast you. But I have an idea for, like, a solo show I want to try and do that’s part music, part poetry-reading, and part storytelling. I don’t know if I’m really funny enough for‒ Like, to call it comedy, but, like, hopefully it would also be funny. So, I want to try and, like, get that going after the show that I’m in right now closes and, you know, get that going, and I feel like New York is just a place where, like, people do their shit. And like, I remember I listened to Billy Eichner on a podcast. I think it was on, like Marc Maron’s podcast. But he talked how, like he and Lin-Manuel Miranda, like, were doing, like‒ They, like, would go to, like, the same open-mic, and, like Billy Eichner would be doing, like, very early, like, “Billy on the Street” type of stuff, and then Lin-Manuel Miranda would be like‒ I think this is, like, when he was, like, writing In the Heights stuff. And it’s just crazy to me, that it’s just Billy Eichner and Lin-Manuel‒ And it was really‒ I don’t know. I love it. It’s just, those were two people who were like, “I have these things that I want to do, and I’m going to do them, and I’m going to take them places and just build it,” and I feel like that’s where New York‒ Why New York appeals to me if I don’t get in anywhere.
[00:46:55] CHRIS: Well, I’ll tell you, if you’re in your mid-20s, and you’re ready to fight for it, and you have a chip on your shoulder, New York is the place to go, because it will beat you down, and it will thicken your skin, but when you do meet with any… any level of enthusiasm or success there, it feels like such a victory. And I’ll tell you what. If there’s one thing I know about people from Baltimore, it’s that they can take a punch, and they can throw a punch, and you need to be able to do both to survive in the city as an artist. And this city has broken me. 15 years living here, and I’m out. I can’t do it anymore. But it’s for the young. I moved here when I was 24. You got to be ready to put in the years.
[00:47:43] CALLER: Yeah.
[00:47:44] CHRIS: And you’re right. I remember‒ I was around for that era. I remember Billy doing shows at UCB, where he started the “Billy on the Street” stuff. It was over a‒ It was a video thing he did as part of a bigger variety show. And then Lin-Manuel Miranda…
[00:47:55] CALLER: Yes, [inaudible]
[00:47:57] CHRIS: When I was back in the improv scene heavy, he was a‒ “Freestyle Love Supreme” was, like, this fringe thing on the improv scene. There was this guy named Shockwave who was their beat-boxer, and he used to kind of come around, and he was their bridge to the improv scene at large. But I’m not going to lie. There is‒ I did not prescribe to this, but there was a lot of people that were like, “Who are these freestyle rap guys doing it?” And it’s like, oh, here’s who they are: They have a Broadway show 15 years later. What are you doing? They fought harder than all of us. And that’s what they’re doing.
[00:48:25] CALLER: Yeah. Because, like‒ Yeah. I mean, like, the weird‒ The stuff that people look at and are like, “Oh, that’s weird.” I feel like, generally, people just use the word “weird” to‒ It’s one word to summarize just saying “I don’t understand.”
[00:48:40] CHRIS: Yeah.
[00:48:40] CALLER: And, frankly, it’s not necessarily about being understood, especially with art. People love, with poems, to be like, “What’s this about?” And it’s like‒ It doesn’t really matter what it’s about. It matters‒ Because it isn’t about‒ [Inaudible] meant, like, as‒ Intellectual thing all the time. It’s more so just about, like, that part of you inside that is touched by, like, art, and, like, moved in some way, whether it’s like‒ It’s in a funny way or it’s in a serious way, like‒ Anyway.
[00:49:11] CHRIS: I’m with you. We think the same way, because like you said, I’m not Leonardo DiCaprio, and I am low on the entertainment totem pole, but I’m proud of what I did. And I’ll tell you what. Like, the‒ Probably the most success I’ve had was an HBO special where I talked about killing‒ Trying to kill myself for 85 minutes. And that’s not gonna work for everybody, but when I meet the people whom my stuff has worked for, I can tell that‒ I… I… I know how much it means to me, and I can tell it’s meant something to them, and I wouldn’t trade it. I wouldn’t trade it for more mainstream success and more job security. I wouldn’t trade it. On my… On my worst days I wonder if I’ve made all the wrong choices to be this many years in…
[00:49:58] CALLER: Yeah.
[00:49:59] CHRIS:…and not feel like I’m going to have a job in two years. But I wouldn’t trade it. Not… Not for the world.
[00:50:05] CALLER: That makes me happy. And‒ Because it’s like‒ I feel pretty confident saying this: that the people that, like, love you and love your art love you and your art a lot harder than the people that love Leo DiCaprio’s art the most, if that makes sense. Like‒
[00:50:22] CHRIS: Well, I’d rather make something that almost no one likes but a small group of people love. That feels, to me, more fulfilling. And no offense to the people who make shows like this. They do what they do very well and I have an immense respect for it, but I’d rather do that than, like, write for, like, a sitcom with a laugh track. Like, they’re just‒
[00:50:49] CALLER: Yeah.
[00:50:50] CHRIS: I’d just rather do that. And I feel like that’s what’s gonna happen with your poems, man. That’s what’s gonna happen with your songs. That’s what’s gonna happen.
[00:50:59] CALLER: I hope. I hope. I mean‒
[00:51:00] CHRIS: They’re going to click with some people, and those people are going to be your lifeline to keep going, and you’re going to throw your goddamn punches because you’re from Baltimore, baby.
[00:51:06] CALLER: I hope that, like‒ Yeah, I am! But like, I hope so, because that’s something to think about. That’s like what’s most frightening, I think, about, like, this, like, solo performance thing, because, you know, again, it‒ Essentially, like, the concept is sort of like a… a parallel, like‒ I don’t know. Like, I’m past‒ First of all, Career Suicide means a lot to me, just that‒ Like, I came to it after I dealt with all my shit. Well, like a lot of my shit. And it’s just sort of, like, nice. Nice to feel seen.
[00:51:36] CHRIS: Happy to help. Glad you got something out of it.
[00:51:38] CALLER: But I feel like I’ve traded the one existential crisis of, like, “I don’t want to live” to‒ For, like, the existential crisis of the world dying.
[00:51:48] CHRIS: Yeah.
[00:51:49] CALLER: I might not have a choice. And so, I want… I want to kind of like tie that, but also, like‒ I don’t know. I have a lot of thoughts about, like, how people who are born with a dick are raised in terms of, like, how to‒ Obviously, like, how to be in general. Like, it’s like, toxic masculinity and everything with that; it’s, like, a mess. But especially, like, how we’re raised to be sexually and like what we expect‒ How we should expect ourselves to be, like‒ Whether we expect ourselves be hypersexual and, like, dominant. And, like, for me, that’s had, like, a real negative impact. And, like, I’ve had to‒ It’s a continuing journey of, you know, recognizing that I am who I am, and that isn’t this, like, picture-perfect definition of [inaudible]‒ Like, of, like, what a man is or like‒ And, you know, I don’t necessarily‒ I don’t identify as a man, but I don’t identify as anything. Which, I identify as an octopus jokingly. But somehow, like, that joke feels more accurate than any other word I could use.
[00:52:51] CHRIS: Well, this is taking a fascinating turn with eight minutes left!
[00:52:55] CALLER: Listen, listen, you gotta… you got‒ Sometimes you just gotta hit the… hit the swerve, you know?
[00:53:01] CHRIS: You gotta spend 10 minutes on JD‒ James Dolan’s band to break the ice before we get to the fact that you identify as an octopus more than you do as a man.
[00:53:13] CALLER: Yeah. Yeah, I guess. And I’ve‒ I don’t‒ Just to be clear, like, when people ask me, like, what I identify as, if I jokingly say octopus, I would then, like, say, like, well, like “non-binary.” I don’t want to‒ I don’t‒ Like, I know some people are like, “Oh, like, they/them, ha ha ha.” Like, it’s like, in theatre world, like in a standard first rehearsal, people are going around and it’s, like, kind of, like, standard practice now, that people go around and be like, “Okay. Name, role, and the pronoun to use.” And there’s always one asshole who’s, like, some, like, motherfucking, like, older white man that’s like, “Uhhh they/them/theirs. Just kidding! He/him/his.” And like, I’m not that. I’m so not that. I use, like, they/them. That‒ It’s, like, something where it’s‒ I don’t care too much about people I don’t really know using it, because I can just kind of‒ I’m a private person, so I generally don’t feel a need to be really open about myself with people that I don’t know and don’t trust. But yeah. So, I take it very seriously, and I don’t want to sound like, with the octopus thing, that I’m not and I’m making a joke out of it.
[00:54:18] CHRIS: I don’t think it‒ I think it came off as good-humoured, but not joking about it.
[00:54:27] CALLER: That’s good. As you can tell, I’m anxious. Anyway, sorry.
[00:54:30] CHRIS: No, that’s okay. No need to apologize for being honest.
[00:54:37] CALLER: I’m a very apologetic person, Christopher.
[00:54:40] CHRIS: So am I. Also, I was going to say, to loop it back in to Baltimore, a city that I’ve always felt, like‒ It’s a reputation which I think you’ve brought up, where it feels like you got to be a little tough, and that doesn’t always fit in with people who aren’t interested in traditional masculinity.
[00:55:00] CALLER: Yeah, yeah, for sure. And again, like I said, I think for me, my experience, I felt that a lot in middle school for sure because I was still, like‒ Even though it was, like, a private Catholic school, it was still, like, in, like, Baltimore. But, like‒ Then, like, once you get to high school out in the county, that’s where it’s just sort of‒ The Catholic thing becomes more of a thing, and there’s a sense of, like, what’s proper, what’s appropriate. But, yeah, no, I mean, like, there’s a couple weeks ago where, like, my girlfriend painted our nails, and the next day I was, like, “I’m gonna go to the Y for‒ To play basketball,” and I was like, “Meh, probably‒” It’s not like‒ I took the nail polish off not because I was, like, like, worried about being seen, but it’s just sort of, like, the reality. I was like, “I know if I, like‒ I’m going to go to the Y with‒ To play basketball and have nail polish on, the odds having a confrontation are high, and I don’t really want a confrontation when I’m playing basketball, because that’s not what I go there for.” So, I took them off. But‒ Yeah.
[00:55:59] CHRIS: And that sucks. That’s a bad feeling.
[00:56:03] CALLER: Yeah, I mean, I guess, like, it wasn’t, like, a bad‒ It‒ I don’t know; it actually wasn’t a bad feeling. Like, it was kind of, like‒ It wasn’t‒ Like, I would recognize, like, this isn’t great. I felt‒ Honestly, I felt more ashamed that I was just‒ Maybe I’m being a bad, like, queer for, like, not going ready to fight if someone calls me, like‒ If they, like, called me anything. Maybe… Maybe that’s me being a weak queer. But‒ I don’t know.
[00:56:34] CHRIS: I mean, you can’t think like that. I mean, the idea‒ That‒ It’s just illustrative of the fact that the world has made massive progress but you still feel like you can’t wear nail polish to the Y without getting called a homophobic name or somebody looking to use it as an excuse to push you on the basketball court. That’s not about you being weak. That’s about the world being tougher than it still should be. I think next time‒
[00:57:00] CALLER: But also‒ And then I feel bad because I’m like, “Well, I’m making assumptions about these people, like, that, like, I could be playing basketball with.” But you know. So, it’s just, like‒ That’s another‒ It’s like, [inaudible] because, like, it’s like, maybe I’m the asshole for making assumptions about being called things.
[00:57:15] CHRIS: Maybe, maybe. But that’s… that’s what‒ That’s one of the great questions we all face in the world, right? Do you…
[00:57:23] CALLER: Yeah.
[00:57:23] CHRIS: Do you assume the best of people and become pleasantly surprised when that’s true, or do you assume the worst in people, which protects you, but cuts you off from the world? That’s a really major question…
[00:57:35] CALLER: Yeah.
[00:57:36] CHRIS:…especially when you’re living in a tough city. How do you learn how to trust everybody all the time? Not easy.
[00:57:42] CALLER: Yeah, especially as someone who‒ I’m not a trusting person. Like‒
[00:57:46] CHRIS: Next… Next time you got to wear that nail polish on the court and then back some fool down in the post, hit a little jump hook over him, and then nobody’s going to call‒
[00:57:54] CALLER: Oooh, I cannot‒ I cannot do that. I’m‒ Listen, I’m 3-and-D. I like‒
[00:57:58] CHRIS: Same here. I play from three-point line to three-point line. You’ll never see me in the key.
[00:58:02] CALLER: Oh. Mm-hmm. I go into the key, like, if it’s on a fast break. And also, like‒ My… My role, also, is if I get the ball, I got to shoot it. Because, like, if I pass it, I’m probably not touching it again for a few minutes.
[00:58:14] CHRIS: Yeah.
[00:58:15] CALLER: And if I have it, someone’s going to take it. But‒
[00:58:16] CHRIS: Shooters gotta shoot. Shooters gotta shoot, baby!
[00:58:19] CALLER: Mm-hmm!
[00:58:20] CHRIS: We play the same. It’s funny. Everybody on my team‒ Whenever someone new joins my team, inevitably they’ll try to… try to pass me the ball while I’m running, and I’ll bobble it out of bounds, and then we all have to explain to them. No, if I am moving on the court, it’s to try to get to a different spot to shoot a three, or I’m trying to set a moving screen to get someone else open. I’m never looking for the ball while I’m actually‒ I cannot have the ball and move at the same time. I get it and I shoot…
[00:58:46] CALLER: Yeah.
[00:58:46] CHRIS:…or else I’m throwing cheap shots to get somebody else open, baby.
[00:58:51] CALLER: Yeah. Just treat me like Kyle Korver. Do not ask me to handle. Just pass it to me and I’ll shoot.
[00:58:54] CHRIS: Yes. I am JJ Redick. I am Kyle Korver. This is who you’re dealing with. We’re not looking‒
[00:59:01] CALLER: Mm-hmm.
[00:59:01] CHRIS: I’m… I’m not James Harden out here. You’re not going to see no Euro steps. No way. Now‒
[00:59:08] CALLER: No.
[00:59:09] CHRIS: Fascinating convo. I thank you for it. I want to just loop it back to the beginning with Baltimore. Can I tell you‒ Are you familiar‒ One of my favourite stories on earth, and something that illustrates Baltimore’s weirdness; and we’ll go an extra minute just to get this out. Do you know about the Poe Toaster?
[00:59:26] CALLER: I do not! Educate me.
[00:59:27] CHRIS: The Poe Toaster‒
[00:59:28] CALLER: Oh, I know that! Are you talking about the guy that leaves, like, the bottle of cognac?
[00:59:30] CHRIS: Yes! My favourite thing!
[00:59:33] CALLER: I thought you were talking about a literal fucking electrical toaster. I’m an idiot.
[00:59:36] CHRIS: No, not some type of toaster that you can only use and buy in Baltimore. This is a thing‒ I want‒
[00:59:40] CALLER: I was very confused. I was like, “I do not [inaudible] a toaster in Baltimore?
[00:59:43] CHRIS: No, his name is the Poe Toaster. I want everyone listening to Google this. It’s one of the strangest stories, I think, out there, and I love a strange story. For many, many decades, literally, someone would show up, I think on Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday. They would show up dressed as him, go to his grave, and leave a bottle of cognac and would not speak to anyone.
[01:00:08] CALLER: Yeah.
[01:00:10] CHRIS: And people started showing up every year to see this. And people would try to trail the guy, and he’d shake them, and no one knew who he was, and if I remember right, he was finally in his 90s when he stopped. I believe it went on for, like, something like 60 years, 70 years. And I think when he‒
[01:00:28] CALLER: Mm-hmm.
[01:00:28] CHRIS: Maybe when he passed away, his family revealed who he was. But then the tradition stopped, obviously. But from what I’m reading, the tourism board in Baltimore has appointed a new Poe… Poe Toaster, who also remains anonymous. And it’s this thing that people gather at the man’s grave.
[01:00:45] CALLER: Yeah.
[01:00:47] CHRIS: Now, that’s a weird story, and that strikes me as very much of your region.
[01:00:53] CALLER: Very Baltimore
[01:00:54] CHRIS: Is that in the‒
[01:00:55] CALLER: That’s in [inaudible].
[01:00:55] CHRIS: That’s in the borders of Baltimore?
[01:00:58] CALLER: Sorry?
[01:00:59] CHRIS: That‒ And that grave, that’s in Baltimore, right? That’s not out in the county?
[01:01:02] CALLER: Yeah, yeah. It‒ Yeah, no, it’s in… it’s in Baltimore, like real Baltimore.
[01:01:07] CHRIS: That’s… That’s a crazy-ass thing that I feel like isn’t going to happen anywhere else. Some silent lunatic visiting that horror writer’s grave. I love it.
[01:01:12] CALLER: Can I say one quick thing? So crazy. Can I say one more thing to you real quick? It’s a short request.
[01:01:20] CHRIS: Yes, absolutely.
[01:01:23] CALLER: Can you read the book‒ It’s a book of poetry. It’s called The Book of Endings.
[01:01:28] CHRIS: The Book of Endings.
[01:01:28] CALLER: By Leslie Harrison. She doesn’t use any punctuation in it.
[01:01:32] CHRIS: Okay, let me write this down.
[01:01:34] CALLER: She’s a former professor of mine, and I love her very, very much, and I just wanted to spread her work to one person and any other people that might want to read a book of poems.
[01:01:44] CHRIS: Okay, The Book of Endings, by Leslie Harrison?
[01:01:48] CALLER: Leslie Harrison.
[01:01:50] CHRIS: All right. I’ll do my best to check it out, but I’m perpetually tired. But poems move quick. Hey, this was a great conversation. I have loved talking with you. We sound like we have a lot in common. And I’ll tell you what, really fun for me to laugh at a lot of the things you brought up and feel like I was on the same page with another person. What a great way to go‒ To face the rest of the day. Thank you for it.
[01:02:15] CALLER: I’m glad. It was great for me too. Thank you very much for everything you’ve done.
[01:02:18] CHRIS: All right. And your friend needs to step up the text game!
[01:02:23] CALLER: Mm-hmm. She does. She does, she does.
[01:02:34] CHRIS: Caller, thank you. Thank you for‒ Like I said at the end there, every once in a while I get to do this show, and I know that I get to walk back out into New York City in January, where everyone’s cold, and not just emotionally cold like they are year round, also physically cold, which makes the emotional coldness worse. But I now have this conversation in my head and I get to giggle about JD & The Straight Shot all day. Thank you for that gift. Thank you to everybody who helps with the show, including Jared O’Connell, Anita Flores, Anne Kristins. Thank you, Shellshag, for the music. You want to know more about me, Chrisgeth.com. Sometimes I’m out on the road; you find out about it there. Apple Podcast, rate, review, subscribe. Really helps when you do.
[NEXT EPISODE PREVIEW]
[01:03:29] CHRIS: Next time on Beautiful Anonymous, a politically progressive identical twin tells us a lot about golf.
[01:03:37] CALLER: And‒
[01:03:37] CHRIS: Are you identical twins?
[01:03:39] CALLER: We’re identical, yeah. I don’t think we’ve ever had a teacher that could tell us apart. Because we always had the same teachers.
[01:03:45] CHRIS: Yeah.
[01:03:46] CALLER: And so, I always used to take her history test and she used to take my math test.
[01:03:51] CHRIS: Yes!
[01:03:52] CALLER: And then‒
[01:03:52] CHRIS: Oooh, if I had an identical twin who could have taken my math tests, my life would have been so much better.
[01:03:57] CALLER: Yeah.
[01:03:58] CHRIS: That’s amazing. And you never got caught?
[01:04:01] CALLER: No, we never got caught. But then one time, I remember I got her a better grade than myself, and so I stopped doing it. I said, “I’m done. You got a better grade than me because I couldn’t‒”
[01:04:12] CHRIS: The competitive side of you couldn’t handle that you got a higher score than yourself.
[01:04:19] CHRIS: That’s next time on Beautiful Anonymous.