As I finish up this series of entries about the best year of my life, I sit under the spell of liquid Percocet, trying my best to get over a viral infection I picked up somewhere. This year, everyone has the flu, or a cold, or something severe. I spent much of yesterday in the waiting room of the Walk-In Clinic at Mass General, waiting patiently to be examined, waiting desperately for someone to give me something to take care of the rattle in my chest and the excruciating pain in my throat. Because of my sickness, I had to cancel my trip to Washington DC to see the Drive-By Truckers (twice!) and I had to cancel my New Year’s Eve plans: visiting bears and theater friends at big parties. Am I disappointed? Of course I am. I would have loved to have seen those concerts, and I bit the cost of the tickets, and one of my best memories of this past year was kissing Shawn in a huge crowd of friends, cheering as we welcomed the new year in. And I would absolutely rather not be sick, because I don’t cotton to it well. But in a way, I’ve made my peace with it, because it’s allowing me to do the one thing I didn’t do much of in 2012: relax.
I started off December in Walt Disney World. One of the more hilarious aspects of my year is that, starting in August, I was going to be at a Disney park at least once a month for the rest of the year. That won’t be happening in 2013, for reasons I’ll be getting into soon.
My new sketch troupe, Duct Tape Revolution, finally took the stage on December 20th. We got a huge crowd. Shawn and Ian came. Not only did I get to be super proud of my actors and writers, but I also got to be an actor – my longest time on stage yet. I didn’t speak much (I was in a dentist’s chair most of the time), and it wasn’t anything shocking like showing up onstage wearing a Sasquatch outfit … but it was the best acting I’d done yet. Acting, at least in small doses, is something I can apparently do. How about that?
Though I’d hoped that Drive-By Truckers would complete My Year of Concerts (the tally: Bruce Springsteen with Neil, Blue October with Marty, Patterson Hood with Joe, Drive-By Truckers with Joe, Drive-By Truckers alone, Bruce Springsteen alone, Bruce Springsteen with Ian), getting to see The Gaslight Anthem at the House of Blues with Neil was the best possible substitute. They were fun, they were thrilling, and man oh man were they loud. Neil and I both got T-shirts. My Year of Concerts could well be My Year of Concert T-shirts. I got maybe a zillion Bob Seger shirts this year, a few DBTs, one Springsteen shirt from Neil and one from Jeff for Springsteen’s Fenway shows – an early Christmas gift. An awesome Christmas gift.
Speaking of awesome Christmas stuff: Shawn and I rented a car the second Saturday of the month and, after months of planning and saving, came home with our first HD flatscreen television (and our first live Christmas tree in two years). We also spent our pre-Christmas evening with my Dad and his girlfriend Donna, a Christmas tradition three years running. Dad got me The Last Picture Show on DVD. I got him and Donna Kindle gift cards. Dad got me tickets to the Drive-By Truckers three-show run in mid-January in Athens, Georgia. So, (1) my Dad is the best ever, and (2) there’s a reason I’m not too-too sad about missing the Truckers this weekend.
On Christmas Eve, Shawn and I made our way over to Tracey and Liz’s house for our annual gift swap and meatball eating. I think we’ve been doing this for literally a decade now. I went a little nuts when I realized Tracey wanted Disney movies and stuff involving cheese. (I saw they wanted cheese knives, so I went rogue and got them a cheese serving dish and also some Gruyere. I’m … getting into cheese). Tracey got me Adventures in Babysitting on Blu-Ray, because of course. Late in the evening, Marty arrived bearing cheese of his own. I brought out the Yule Log I made from scratch (from scratch!) and we all dug in.
Christmas morning, halleluiah! From Marty: the DBT documentary The Secret to a Happy Ending and Quarry’s Ex by Max Allen Collins. From Joe: the new Fables hardcover and the Disney movie The Apple Dumpling Gang. From Paul: the Batman: the Black Mirror hardcover. And from Shawn: The Art of Betty & Veronica, which I desperately, desperately wanted. I have simple wants. They’re plentiful, but they’re simple.
When Shawn’s friends arrived, we ate our huge Christmas brunch and I lulled them with the Disney Christmas Parade on TV. My buddy Neil showed up to partake and gifted me with a new sandalwood shaving soap in its own wooden bowl. Then all of us sans Neil went out to see The Hobbit, which I thoroughly enjoyed. After, we all (including Neil) headed out to Kowloon in Saugus to have deliciously trashy Asian cuisine. I had the masaman curry, because some traditions are meant to be kept.
I wrote one article for FEARnet, and one poem, “Lost Boy.” Me and my actors rehearsed for the final World of Hurt show in January. I began to structure next year’s Sketchhaus schedule. I continued (but did not quite finish) the Irving Cycle, in which I inexplicably read or re-read John Irving novels at a pace befitting a normal year with me and Stephen King. As it stands, in 2012 I read: In One Person, The World According To Garp, The Fourth Hand, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Hotel New Hampshire, The Cider House Rules, and I am about fifty pages from the end of A Son of the Circus.
I also picked up The Color of Light, by William Goldman, a book I first (and last) read fourteen years ago. When I set that book down after first reading it, I went to my computer and immediately began composing my first novel, Spare Parts. Stephen King and my many wonderful English teachers convinced me I could be a writer. The Color of Light convinced me I could be a novelist. I was terrified to start it again, thinking it couldn’t possibly be as wonderful as the book that changed the course of my life. To my delight, it was. (To my further delight, my friend Jeff had actually read the book. People just keep surprising you).
I started this year off a bartender, a box office clerk, a guy who could only get his books on Stephen King published, and someone who hadn’t finished writing a novel in over two years. I’m ending it as a director, producer, monologist, and actor, whose shows did pretty damn well – well enough to give me complete creative control of the night. As a guy who has a short story published in a book featuring Stephen King. As a writer whose short story collection and poetry collection are published by an actual publisher, and whose novel is coming out this winter. As someone who got mentioned in Cemetery Dance magazine. As a guy who finally made it into The Stephen King Desk Calendar. As someone who made at least one amazing new friend. As someone who got reborn in the crucible of rock and roll, over and over. As someone who stepped onto Buena Vista Street and wept, knowing that it was just as beautiful as it had been in my dreams.
So, here it is, for 2013:
1. Get into cheese.
2. Get some abs.
3. See comedy in other cities.
4. Write more sketch.
5. Finish this novel, edit an earlier one, and start a brand-new one.
6. Get a new laptop.
7. Take your friends to Disney World.
8. Write for Archie comics.
Are you ready? I am. Let’s make next year even better.