If you want to make it big in showbiz in the States, at some point in your career there’s something that you
absolutely must do. You have to tear up all your roots, pack up your core belongings, bite the bullet, and go either to New York or Los Angeles. So right
about the time I turned twenty-one I took the plunge and moved to Houston,
Texas. Because I’m an idiot.
And for one other reason. I did it because there
was a sketch comedy and improvisational group there that was auditioning for
new members. If you got in you would become part of a company of players who performed
improv for money. Literally getting paid to make crap up on the spot. Where
else does that happen outside of politics? Long story short, I got the job, and I became an Houstonian for the better part of a decade.
Little known fact: Houston is
not named after Sam Houston, as so many people, even native Houstonians
believe. The name is really a corruption of “hustoon,” which is a Native American
word meaning place where in summer you
sweat like a horse even underwater in a pool. They will tell you in Houston in July that it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity that gets you. This is like saying that being cut wide open isn’t a big deal, it’s only the actual disemboweling that’s a drag. I’m going to go out on a limb to say that it’s kind of both.
Our story begins on one
sticky, soggy, summer night when the power suddenly went out. I could see
lights still on in the other half of the apartment complex, which led me to believe
that it wasn't a general outage; we had probably just tripped a circuit breaker. Most likely cause being that it was still in
the mid-nineties at 11 PM, and everyone had been running their AC on full blast in a desperate attempt not to grow mushrooms in their shorts.
In any case I decided to work on getting the power back on, since lying down and trying to sleep without air
conditioning risked me drowning in my own sweat. I soon located the circuit breaker
room for our dark half of the complex, aided by the fact that the overall architectural design was bilaterally symmetrical and the other half's room was open. Unfortunately the door to our half's circuit breaker room was locked and there was no super
on duty. I, however, had studied some lock-picking as part of my magic and escape artist self-education (long story), and I thought I could get the better
of this particular lock.
Two hours later, pick and tension tool
in my tired hands, I sat there T-shirt soaked with sweat, eyes stinging with salt, hair plastered to my skull, and still locked out. I had even
tried to remove the door's hinges with a hammer and screwdriver, but I could
not. I hadn't felt so totally defeated since the first time back in my teens that I attempted to
have sex with someone else there. As then, I just gave up, totally humiliated.
And at that very instant the door to the
circuit breaker room swung wide open. My roommate Mike stood there inside
smiling out at me.
“How?” I blurted.
“There’s an open window around the
back,” he said.
Moments later we located the main
circuit breaker and flipped it back on. The lights popped up all around us.
I had gotten so fixated on the obstacle that I forgot the goal. Just get in the damn room there. Any way you can. Or, if we back up a little,
just get some cool air to sleep in. Which a motel room could have provided too. I had made it all about the stupid door.
I try to remember that lesson when I
encounter similar barriers today. The goal is not necessarily tied to
overcoming some specific obstacle. Sometimes it requires a simple going around to the