It was around 5 p.m. at the Fourth of July party in my front yard and the cornhole bags were being tossed with purpose.
The Tourney was in full swing and my squad, The Cloggers, were steamrolling teams and showcasing our impending victory. Like Paul Revere gobbling up miles of dirt roads we announced to the people where all eyes and ears should be turned. My partner Jason Sohm’s high-arching throws were beautiful — punctuated by him holding a hand aloft in perfect form, much the way I’m sure Thomas Jefferson did with a feathered quill letting a room of young Americans know “That’s how you sign a Declaration boys!”
We were 3-0 on the day and made our way to the table of glorious BBQ’d delights. The party was a lovely hodgepodge of colors, nationalities, and races painting the front yard palette — as often a collection of comics does.
Though the specter of current social upheaval and COVID loomed, comics are amazing at reading the room and putting a collective lid on the subjects of the day. Or it will get ugly.
Almost a no jazz before the rumble credo. No point in sullying the day with alcohol lubricated talk of unrest and a nation eroding in front of us. We have the rest of 2020 for that.
Why, just the night before close friend Anthony K and I got into a midnight knockdown, drag-out argument while watching Hamilton on Disney Plus.
Yes. During Hamilton?! Thank you, fifth glass of Sangria.
The point being that as The Cloggers made their way to the food table, allowing the losers bracket to play out, it was only the sound of pleasantries being shared. The way Fourth of July has always been.
Paper plate in tow, I shuffled down the line, noticing that a friend I hadn’t seen in probably seven to eight years had arrived. We’ll call him “Beni” for purposes of anonymity and national safety. He was on the arm of a female “friend of a friend” and on the Fourth, all are welcome.
Or so I thought.
The food line is a place for keeping it moving, the old head-down Henry Ford production line method. Nobody likes a line chatterbug. Much less one that was about to turn the party upside down with his hard-line opinions.
“Teicheira, brah, did you really jus put ‘catch-up’ on ya hawt dawg?!” Beni laughed. Looking around for others to join in his asinine opinion.
As a comic I know it best not to address a heckle head on. Misdirection lets the crowd know you aren’t shook by the interruption and puts the banter ball back in their side of the court — allowing for a second of recovery from the initial blow.
“What did you just call it? A hawt dawg?!”
I had been sitting on privy information that Beni had returned from his move to the East Coast, and had somehow cultivated a Boston accent. A friend had seen him a few days before, and said they’d run into each other at Food 4 Less (or as Beni would say, “Fewd Fa Lass”).
I didn’t believe it. He’d been raised his entire life in NorCal — what kind of identity crisis was this?! I asked again, just to be sure.
“Like, he’s Mark Wahlberg doing a play about JFK playing basketball for the Celtics in 1960.” — John Coldren
This gave me the tactical advantage. The old “One if by accent, Two if by condiment” angle. Or something like that.
Beni was caught off guard, and the food assembly line came to a halt. He was unable to return the volley, I almost felt bad.
“It’s just weird. I don’t get it.” — Me, now smiling with advantage
“It’s not weird. I live there now.” — Beni
“I meant it’s weird you were judging my condiment choice, not your silly new dialect” — Me
Misdirection is a magical thing when involved in this type of dance. I was able to reiterate what I thought about his decision to appropriate a different culture’s way of speaking, while putting the onus back on his apparent “Condescending Condiment Confederacy”
“We donw’t do dat on da east coast, only mustahd, catch up is fa babies” — Beni.
I respected the fact he’d doubled down on the “Bawston” accent, attempting to really hammer home the fact that is how he speaks now.
“What do you mean ‘We,’ like a whole condiment culture of people that judge and care what others eat? Must be a lot of free time east of the Mississippi.” — Me in my smuggest tone
It was at this point Beni took stock of a table full of comics and realized he should wave the white flag — but didn’t. Much the way General Cornwallis must’ve done at The Battle of Yorktown, commenting on how the American version of Bangers n Mash weren’t to his liking.
“You know, thas like ova cookin a steak, or pineapple on a pie” — he stammered.
“Do you mean pizza when saying pie?” — Me (Deep down in full agreement with his pineapple on pizza assessment)
Before we could continue this Battle of Nothing, a welcomed, “Hey idiots, the rest of us wanna eat” kicked the assembly line back into gear.
This column is in part a long walk to nowhere. The day went on, and Beni and I laughed off the abbreviated battle.
But it illustrates the senseless and petty differences we all have and often choose to perpetuate without thinking. Why do I care? Where did my version come from? Who is it hurting? Why do I need them to fall in line?
It’s a big dumb stupid world full of people with learned and forced idiosyncrasies — let them have them. Stop trying to control other people’s narratives, and just let them play out.
I know it hurts to be wrong, but it’s far worse for the herd when you have to be right.
Just keep it moving and nod pleasantly while putting toppings on your personal hot dog. After all, you’re the only person on Earth that has to stomach it.
If I’m being honest, I waited ‘til everyone left the food table to return, and smear mayonnaise on my ‘hawt dawg’, something I’ve done since childhood (and am sure many of you also do in shame). I chose to keep this bit of condiment conspiracy to myself, or face the possibility of being shunned by my BBQ constituents.
The fun continued, and The Cloggers never lost a game of cornhole. It was nearly dusk when roommate Connor showed up with several pizzas in tow. He is a cornhole dead eye, and was well aware The Cloggers were holding court, as we shot the look of champions his way.
“I’m here for America’s birthday, and plan to eat pizza, and overthrow The Cloggers!” he yelled from the food table.
A small voice from the crowd cried out. “What kind of pizza did you bring?”
He spun as if on his 10th step of a duel — “Pineapple and ham. Just the way our Forefathers wanted!”
Gross. This of course meant war!
“It’s not Where ya do, It’s What ya do”