When one is young, things happen in your life. That time may seem like it will be the first of many, but often it’s the last of one. The first flush of success for me happened at the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival in 1986. I was performing my one-man show, Trapped on a Lawn Chair. I was young, lucky and dumb in equal measures. People came and, even better, I was paid cash. I was given fistfuls of two-dollar bills, which I stuffed into the pockets of my storm-rider jean jacket. Like “cash-headlights,” they lit my way down Whyte Avenue as I went to celebrate my obvious success.
I drank bourbon back then. First for the idea, then for the taste. The only problem was that the province was locked in a bitter Alberta Liquor Control Board strike at the time. The bourbon that young Mr. McCulloch required had dried up. What was to be done? Enter … Mom.
Mom had hung in my life like a bulldog. On my 18th birthday I hosted a few friends to something called “Tequilafest.” We totalled Mom’s house. She came in, took one look, wobbled out and had a heart attack. After that she had fallen on tough times, had trouble finding work. Now she delivered pizzas for a living. But she was fearless and loved me – both qualities I used against her. I told her of my “bourbon problem,” and that I had learned there was still some airplane-sized bottles at one particular liquor store.
I handed Mom a pocketful of cash and she crossed the picket line for me. I sat in her AMC Hornet and watched, worried someone would recognize me.
Days later, my hotel room and I were trashed. It was littered with tiny bottles, now empty, and three more shows worth of cash. It was 2 a.m. Me and “some girl” (it actually said that on her ID, I think) had been partying. There was a knock at the door. It was the pizza we’d ordered. She opened it and there stood … Mom. I gathered up all the cash and gave it to her, pretending that was my plan all along.
Afterwards, I felt sick and not successful at all. I knew it was the last time I would ever feel that ashamed. But as it turns out, it wasn’t the last of one. But in fact, the first of many … I was young.