Chapter 18: I’d Like To Use a Lifeline

My blog should actually be called, “I Shouldn’t Be Alive.” But that’s already a show, so I guess I’ll stick to what I got. Do I even remember the name of the guy who drove me home that night? Hell no. But this was 2002. Word wasn’t out that stand up comedy was a breeding zone for creeps yet. (If you want a visual, he wore David Koresh glasses.)

It would have been nice to get back to Huntington Beach and have some sort of support system waiting to hear how it went, but obvi that wasn’t the case. Has anyone ever crawled into bed with a sleeping human you’re pretty sure hates you? There’s no specific adjective for that feeling, eh? What an anti-climatic ending to my motivating night at the Laugh Factory. I just left a boyfriend in Canada who had no interest in comedy and now here I am with another. (I like to travel thousands of miles to determine what my “type” is.) Could it be attributed to the fact nobody thought women were funny at the time? So why would a man support a woman chasing a dream that was seemingly impossible?

I minored in psychology in university. I don’t know why I feel the need to announce that seeing as how we live in a Tik Tok world where education is just an overpriced sidekick. Learning the words to “Hangin’ Tough” is probably more profitable these days. I’m only bringing it up because I remember taking this personality test (not Buzz Feed) in my second year that sticks out. The inner/outer locus of control. The test basically measures whether you blame yourself or external forces for your problems/present/future. Is it fate, or your actions? When I took the test, I placed right in the middle. I could blame this man for persuading me to ditch my life and join him in his, but I’m also responsible for taking the action to jump.

The worse it got between me and “him” (don’t want to capitalize the H and make him seem like God,) the closer I got with his roommate. It’s not clear if he was being helpful because he felt sorry for me, or because he knew more about the man I was sleeping with than I did. But he really did get me through that last stretch of living there. And true to my 23 year old brain, I don’t remember his name either. (It was probably Dave. Most guys my age are Steve’s, Mike’s, Bryan’s and Dave’s.)

I knew I had to get out of their house before Natasha arrived, but I didn’t have a lot of options. I was down to $900 in the bank (with a huge student loan debt, but when you’re in your early twenties those payments seem optional)  so I had to rack my brain hard to think of who I knew in California…

If you’re a comedian, you know a ton of Canadian comics live in L.A. today. But back in those days, not everyone B-lined it for Hollywood after their “Comedy at Club 54.” I didn’t even have that. To this day I’m not sure Ben Guyatt knows who I am. 

I knew Shaun Majumder and Harland Williams were living in L.A, but I had only met them once, so it might be a little pre-mature to ask if I could move in.

But who else…

Oh ya…

In a strange turn of events, Marcus, my first comedian ex-boyfriend was living there. WHAT ARE THE CHANCES I’D NEED TO ASK HIM FOR A FAVOUR? (Murphy’s Law of dating: The second you break up with someone, you need something from them.) He was more like me than I thought, though. He didn’t move to L.A. for comedy either. He was doing yoga teacher training at Bikram School of Yoga on La Cienega. (I know, I know… What are the chances a male comic would be attracted to learning from Bikram Choudhury?)

I straight up phoned him and told him I moved to O.C. for a guy who eats more cheddar flavored Goldfish crackers than a toddler and now I need a place to crash- for me and Natasha.  Luckily Tash and Marcus got along, so he said yes. BUT he needed to let me know he was now dating/living with his old roommate’s girlfriend Tanya. (I know a lot of Tania/Tanya’s too.) I liked her, and didn’t give a shit who he was fucking as long as I could crash on his couch. (At the risk of hearing my ex-boyfriend fucking another girl. These are the chances Canadians take when they move to L.A.)

So now that I had the destination plotted out, I would have to make my dramatic exit. Obvi I would NOT do it face to face. I’m not made of balls. I would wait until one of his busy Friday shifts at B.J.’s Pizza and WRITE A LETTER! In hindsight, the tragic part of writing letters is that we don’t have copies, like we would an email, or text. I don’t know what I wrote in that letter, no more than I do in the letter I wrote to Agnes Nixon trying to convince her I should be a writer for All My Children. (The irony, I was 11. I was a child.)

But I left that letter on his nightstand table like a cursed stone. I hugged his roommate goodbye, and then…

Oh ya, you’re probably wondering how I’m getting from Huntington Beach to L.A,

Well…

I called a Lifeline obvi.

She might have said it as a joke, BUT…

I made the phone call that she never expected to actually get.

“Lisa? Remember in Kingston, when you were like “This is a huge mistake! When it doesn’t work out, you’re broke, can’t afford tampons, you call me and I’ll come pick you up!” Well… I’m ready.”

She’s in shock, even though she predicted it.

“Christina… You do understand it’s Friday…. Of Memorial Day weekend… it’s gonna take three hours to get to you… then three hours back… I’m on my way. 

Canadians in L.A. take care of each other better than anybody in David Koresh’s compound ever did. 

When she showed up, there was a box of tampons on the passenger seat.

Still didn’t have the heart to tell her I use pads.

This is Lisa-Gay Tremblay. You should def check out her comedy. She crushes! But please don’t ask her to transfer you between counties. That’s not what I was trying to solicit here.

P.S. I took one picture of me and the guy I moved to Huntington Beach for on a Kodak Funsaver. Funny enough, that didn’t turn out either. 

Chapter 17: I’M GOING TO HOLLYWOOD

I didn’t have a lot of intel on the Hollywood scene, but there was an Irish pub in Huntington Beach that had a comedy night. Seemed like a good spot to start.  And lucky for me, the guy who ran the room knew EVERYTHING. I hit the jackpot. He shared his knowledge, opinions and grudges of the whole town. (I don’t think he watched his own show.) His name was Doug* and if you know him, you know him. Still a bit of a legend among comics who got this gig.

I got the scoop on the Laugh Factory. Open mic night was Tuesday. The show starts at 7, sign up is at 5, but “YOU BETTER GET THERE EARLY CUZ THEY ONLY TAKE THE FIRST 15 PEOPLE IN LINE!” And yes, he yelled this through the show he was producing, as the comics were on stage. (Cut to me begging for a spot here years later.) When I get to the Laugh Factory, I’ll make sure to name drop Doug. That should help.

I had only navigated Southern California from the back seat of my dad’s mini-van, so this was gonna be different. Since a total stranger I met in a bar was giving me a ride to Long Beach, I had to be ready to go at 6:30am. (Do you think this worried me after I moved across the continent for a guy in Vegas?)

My “boyfriend” seemed un-phased by my early departure. Most people move to Hollywood to get back at someone who treated them like shit in high school. I moved to California and then found that special someone to prove wrong. We didn’t have revenge porn back. It was success or nothing.

The ride to Long Beach was a little further than I thought. Every mile that went by was a mile I’d have to get back, but I’d worry about that later. He dropped me off at a Metro line stop that was above ground which I thought would make me feel safer, but it took about thirty seconds to witness a man selling crack. Or maybe he was ordering it? All I know is he was shouting,

“CRACK!!!!!” 

I got on the train and started working on my set list. Sure I look a little lost, but I’ll just act like I’m going to work or whatever. As the train stopped in Compton, my naive 23 year-old Canadian tourist worries were some how calmed by the sight of a Home Depot.

After changing trains in DTLA and heading north up the red line, I finally see an exit that says Hollywood Blvd and spontaneously hop off. I’ve at least heard of that street. I can walk the rest of the way. Again, let me remind you it’s 2002 and I’m doing this without a cell phone or map. I just kept asking people which way I should go.

(I do that with my career in general, but we’ll learn more on that later.)

It takes me about an hour to walk to the Laugh Factory. I get there a little after 9:30am and there’s ALREADY PEOPLE IN LINE for the open mic! Holy shit. I thought I was early, but these guys had me beat. Or they were homeless people slumped up against the wall? Comedians often profile as bums. 

“Are you guys in line for the open mic?”

They look up at me proud.

“Yup!”

I don’t really want to sit down on the dirty Sunset Blvd pavement so I just smile and say, 

“Cool!”

While continuing to stand. But I can’t stand for seven hours straight. Not even at 23. 

I crouch down on the pavement. I only had my joke notebook on me. As the day progressed, more people joined the line. Everyone was so outgoing and funny. I found myself uncharacteristically shy and quiet. It was one thing for me to be the life of the party in front of all my friends in Canada, but around a bunch of L.A. comics? No way. I can’t compete. 

And that June Gloom had definitely faded. Or was just a beach thing? It was so cloudy when I left Orange County I didn’t even think about sunscreen. Now I could feel my skin morphing into the colour of Clifford the Dog. There’s no way Crunch gym could protect me from the UVB rays. 

One of the guys in line starts chatting me up. Let’s call him “Pistachio.” (I change names to protect the delusional.) Pistachio was an actor, comedian and model. The model part was unexpected, mostly because of his brown, socially distanced teeth. Maybe he does some “Before Picture” work. He asked if I could hold his spot in line while ran across the street to McDonald’s for a 49 cent cheeseburger. (HUGE special that year. Sorry if you missed it.) I thought maybe he would bring me back one, but when he returned he just offered to hold my spot while I went. 

After seven hours in this line, I was convinced I must be the least funny person. I was ready for a nap. (And some aloe vera.) There were two girls in line, Christian and Barb. Obviously we bonded. Three out of fifteen was above average for 2002.

At 5pm, the big wooden front door of the Laugh Factory opened. Someone wrote down all our names, while saying that would NOT be the order. The line up would be posted at 6:45 and we each would have 3 minutes.

(Not to brag, but I had fifteen minutes of material. Wow. Finally an opportunity where I needed less time. I’m gonna LOVE L.A!)

After the sign up, I went for a walk along the legendary Sunset Strip. I walked by Dublin’s, Miyagi’s and a bunch of other bars that have changed names a million times since then. I turn back to the Laugh Factory fast though. I’m nervous, might bomb, or spontaneously start peeling on stage, but at the very least I’ll be punctual.

There’s an older man named Harvey hosting the open mic from the side of the stage. I’m going on 12th which is mild torture cuz now I have to watch all the funny people kill while I do whatever the fuck I can. And when they say you only have three minutes they mean it. Harvey said, “THANK YOU! NEXT” enough times I don’t even think of Ariana Grande when I hear those three words.

The show didn’t exactly go the way I thought it would…

All those confident people in line that I was so intimidated by…

Had no material.

I was so spooked by them talking about all their “credits” all day. I had no idea starting comedy in Canada was mine. It’s like an secret industry undergrad.

Barb and Christian were great though. I could quote a Barb joke right now, which is a good sign if I can remember one of your bits from 19 years ago.

My set went by so fast. I used only the BEST jokes of my illustrious three year career in comedy. Jamie Masada was gonna sit with us at a creepy set of chairs upstairs and let us all know if we have any future in this town, so I needed to go with tried and true. 

I watched most of the comics storm away from Jamie after their chat. When it was my turn to sit down, I plastered a giant, optimistic smile across my face. He leaned back in his chair and took his time.

“Where are you from?”

“Canada. I just moved here- well, Huntington Beach- for a guy I met in a nightclub who convinced me I was his soulmate but it’s not working out. I wanna move up here STAT.”

“Canada? You work for Yuk Yuk’s?”

“YES! You know Yuk Yuk’s!”

It’s the only comedy club in Canada. Of course he knows it.

“You’re funny… very likable… You come back… do a few more open mics… and maybe you’ll get a showcase.”

Holy fuck. SHOWCASE! The magical word as a comedian or contestant on the Price is Right. I want to hug him. I actually might have. A Canadian with hope (pre- Me Too movement) can be very physical when showing enthusiasm. 

I fear this blog is already too long for one week’s adventure, so let me wrap this up right here at Jamie Masada’s upstair’s chair:

“Also, how the fuck do I get back to Huntington Beach?”

P.S. This was the year I got a new camera with a panoramic setting. It seemed neat at the time, but I accidentally left it on that mode so all my pictures got developed in the shape of a CVS receipt and out of frame. 

P.P.S To all the Dougs out there: It’s hard for me to drop the name “Doug” without me remembering my friend Laura in Toronto coming across a guy on Tinder who’s profile read, “The name’s Doug. The “o” is silent.” She didn’t swipe right, but I would have. That’s gold.

Chapter 16: June Gloom

I had never heard of June Gloom until I moved to California. It never made the brochures. But within days, I was living in it. Both physically and emotionally.

I cut off my exorbitant Canadian cell phone STAT. (On a side note, I just Googled old cell phones and couldn’t even find the one I had. That’s how tacky it was. No one ever took a photo of it.) So when it came time to bite the bullet, and call my parents, there was no denying it. I was in the 714.

My parents were shockingly supportive, probably cuz it would give them a reason for an impromptu trip to visit. (Which by the way, nobody does when you live in Ottawa.) My mom was quick to say, 

“AWWWWWWWW, YOU’VE GOT A CALIFORNIA BEAU!”

Ya mom. I’ve got beaus… in different area codes.

(You know that went in my act.)

I’ve never been a fan of discussing my love life with my parents. Too awkward. If you tell family about your relationship, you’ll also have to tell them about the break-up. And what if it jinxes things? A fear of commitment was already starting to lace my personality and it was only 2002. (I still refuse to get a tattoo to this day. I know a week later I’ll want it off.)

We had lunch with his dad, who was in town from Utah. He seemed pretty conservative. My bf had mentioned something about Mormons but I literally knew nothing about that. We only got a few American channels in the city I grew up in, and every time a commercial came on that mentioned “The Church of Latter Day Saints” I got up and went to the bathroom. Pre-Google, you could pretty much roam the whole planet knowing jack shit. 

But we had gunned it for parental approval when we hadn’t even figured each other out.

I thought it would be a funny gag to pull the toupee out of my hair brush and put it in my underwear the first time we slept together, but I refrained. I’ve never been one for physical comedy, but for him to believe I had a huge bush even for just ten seconds would have been hilarious. It’s probably for the best I didn’t pull the stunt because our sex life…

Never really got off the ground. 

I blamed myself for not being hot enough. 

And he turned into a total asshole. 

As it turned out, we were only “the perfect couple” over the phone. 

To make things scarier, my money wasn’t going to keep me afloat very long. I didn’t even have a bank account yet. I was still stashing cash in a bag like some psycho in Gone Girl. And you know I already bought a Hurley hoody. The stack was diminishing. 

He started pressuring me to get a job. He fully knew that would be nearly impossible before I got my papers. I told him that before I even bought the ticket. But I was dealing with someone totally different now. He directed me to some shit hole bar in Huntington Beach.

“Go there. They’ll hire anybody.”

(This moment is reminiscent of Swoosie Kurtz telling Winona Ryder she could get a job at Burger-rama in Reality Bites, pointing out they hire handicapped people.)

This wasn’t my only problem.

My friend Natasha had a ticket booked to come visit me in a few weeks. Not only was I pretty sure I was about to be homeless, but I was gonna be homeless with a house guest. 

I went to the dirty bar to apply for a job. The manager must have thought I was a mole from ICE, particularly cuz I started the conversation with, 

“Hey, do you hire illegals here?”

When it was clear I wasn’t gonna be cracking open bottles of Bud for pool players, I hit the pay phone in the back. My dad had given me his calling card number to use whenever I needed. I  called Natasha and burst out crying.

“It’s not working out. I think you should cancel your trip. I have to come home.”

“No… who cares about the guy? You don’t have to stay with him, but you’re not coming back here.”

“What? Why?”

“Because… You belong there.”

I couldn’t decide whether to stop crying or cry harder. This was the most powerful thing I could hear right now. 

“But where will we stay when you get here? I have to move out. I can’t stay there much longer.” 

“We’ll figure it out.”

My boyfriend wasn’t using the word “we” anymore. But hearing the word from an actual friend felt a thousand times better anyway. 

I hung up the phone and ponied up to the bar. I asked if they had any Canadian beer, just to be an asshole. The bartender was pretty proud to crack open a Moosehead for me. 

I sat there, teary-eyed, looking down at my green bottle. Maybe Natasha was right… I do belong here… I’m a stand up comedian. Peter Bobak even nicknamed me 90210 during Frosh Week. Maybe this tragic romance was just the universe’s plot to get me down here. I didn’t have too much Intel into the comedy scene in L.A. (We didn’t even have MySpace yet!) But I knew there was an open mic at the Laugh Factory on Tuesdays. That’s where I needed to go. 

There’s a not so creepy man sitting beside me. Time to get some answers.

“Hey, is there a bus that goes to Hollywood?”

He laughs.

“Public transportation isn’t really our thing.”

Hmmmm….

“How much do you think a cab would be?”

Harder laughs. He see’s I’m quite serious.

“You don’t have a car?”

“Nope. I’m Canadian.”

Why did I say that? As if Canadians don’t have cars. This is why people think we live in Igloos. I fucked it up. 

He buys me a beer, and I tell him how I moved here for a guy I met in a nightclub in Las Vegas who convinced me I was his soulmate. 

He laughed harder at the cab thing. This seemed to actually worry him. 

“Listen, I work in Long Beach. I can’t drive you to Hollywood, but if you want I can drop you off at the Long Beach train station. From there you can get to Union Station and hop on the train or bus to Hollywood. But you’d have to be willing to leave early.”

YAS! I knew there had to be a way! Back then I watched more Amazing Race than true crime so I wasn’t concerned with getting murdered. (Kristeen, I know you were busy watching Reba.)

I made it all the way to California…

Sure because of a guy… 

BUT-

That doesn’t mean there’s not another reason why I’m here.

And I ain’t turning back until I take a shot at the big leagues. 

And just like that…

The June Gloom cleared. 

(Natasha, me, Bobak, an old school camera and everyone in Ottawa’s fave cigarettes back then, Belmont Milds. This pic is a wee more recent than blog story but captures us all perfectly. I messaged Tash five seconds ago asking her for pics from 2002 cuz I’m Last Minute Magoo. Next week maybe lololol)

(Pic at top of blog- me, Tash, Erin Binks and Mo, who I nicknamed Cookie after watching Mickey Blue Eyes together.)

Chapter 15: The Shitteth Has Hit The Fanneth

I’ve never been good at telling people I’m a comedian. It took me years- almost decades. And once I did start blasting the fact, I was annoyed cuz then someone always says,

“You’re a comedian? Tell me a joke.”

But in my younger years, I always felt like I had to say, 

“I’m a comedian/bartender.”

Cuz that was the honest truth. Humble? Maybe…

But that second job always helped me cross the border.

(Canadians know what I’m talking about.)

When the customs agent asked what I do for a living I was swift to pick the better of the two careers. 

“I work at Boston Pizza!”

Sure, “worked” would have been more accurate, since technically I was moving to Huntington Beach for a guy who convinced me I was his soulmate in a nightclub in Las Vegas, but why mention THAT? I still have a warm pay stub in my purse with OVER TIME on it because I’ll need to buy Billabong shirts once I land.

Even if they call my boss to verify I work there he probably won’t hear the phone ring. He’s still using his keys as Q-Tips to clean his ears. Every other word is always,

“WHAT?”

But luckily it didn’t come to that, so I continued into Little America, aka that part of every major Canadian airport where your passport says you’re officially in the States, even though you’re still on Canadian soil eating Tim Bits. (Donut testicles.)  

As I get on the plane, I hope I have a seat close to the TV screen. I lost my glasses sometime after I “finished” university but never replaced them because who cares? I don’t have to read chalkboards anymore. Why waste the money? But in this moment, I was really worried about how I was going to watch Cameron Diaz in The Sweetest Thing.

When I land at LAX, my first fear is,

“What if I don’t recognize him…”

Maybe I DID need new glasses.

But I got a new passport and that seemed responsible enough. I was quite confused by the fact this was the first year they DIDN’T let you smile in your photo. Weird… Isn’t dental work how they identify dead bodies? Why would they want you to hide teeth in an essential picture? They should MAKE you smile. Added security, cuz every one notices an over bite or snaggletooth. Anyway, this is just a round about way of saying I’ve looked like shit in all my passport photos every since.

As I walk into the arrivals area to look for my suitcase and now boyfriend, I’m approached by an older man.

“Hi, how are you? I’m so sorry to do this, but my bag got lost by the airline and all my travelers cheques were in there. I just need $20 to get a cab. Could you please help me?”

Seems legit. I hand over $20, even though the Canadian dollar was so tragic it cost me $1.46 to buy one American dollar, so my life savings turned into $1600 USD. Whatever. That should last for a while.

I see a guy I think could be Mr. Huntington Beach, wearing checkered Vans and a Hurley baseball cap, looking bored sitting on a bench. It’s 2002, pre-smart phones. If you didn’t bring a book to pick someone up at the airport you were staring at baggage carrousels and counting fanny packs. He looks up and gives me a nervous wave. I walk over.

“Is it you?”

(Facetime really would have helped. All these phone calls and AOL chats didn’t do anything for remembering what he looked like.)

“Yes!”

He seems a little upset I forgot what he looked like. Or he’s pissed I missed my first flight. But I sit down beside him and hug him. He warms up immediately.

“You’re just as hot as I remember.”

“You are!”

Phew. I was so scared I looked gross after traveling across the continent. Plus I’m so much paler than him. I tried going to the tanning bed a couple of times in Ottawa, but I always got scared it would break and I’d land on all the burning hot bulbs. (I think that eventually made it into a plot point of one of the Final Destination deaths.)

We cruise south on the 405 in his Ford F150, the preferred ride of surfer dudes in SoCal. He blasts punk music, appeasing me only slightly with a version “A Thousand Miles” I had never heard before. Due to my lack of knowledge in this genre of music, I assumed all songs were by Blink 182.

The exit for Beach Blvd approaches. I can’t believe I’m going to LIVE on BEACH BLVD… it all seems so surreal… (A phrase we all use at 23, eh?) We ditch the two suitcases I narrowed my life down to in his townhouse and head to Fred’s Mexican Cantina to meet his friends. 

The Huntington Beach pier looks so cool. As I hear the waves of the Pacific Ocean crash, I feel so far away from Ottawa. I can’t help but think,

How crazy is it that you can just LIVE somewhere else in the world when fate takes over…

 (By spontaneously purging your job, car, boyfriend and apartment.)

I’m a little spaced out and tired at Fred’s. I didn’t worry too much about my lack of personality since I was fighting a three hour time difference. Plus I had already met his roommate in Vegas (who I liked) and my “bf” had trash talked the other girl at the table so hard I didn’t worry too much about impressing her. (Classic 2000’s! Trash talking people you hang out with on the reg. lololol.) On the way home, he took me to the Del Taco drive-thru, because I had never had it before, and he said it was a California delicacy. 

But as I woke up the next morning, I realized there were a few loose ends I forgot to tie up before I left Canada…

Like for instance…

I forgot to tell my parents I was moving.

Oopsies. It must have slipped my mind. They live in Vancouver. I couldn’t even use them for a ride to the airport, so how were they to know?

And remember how I refused to give my family my cell phone number?

Well, Daddy Walkinshaw sure did call my sweet Glebe apartment in Ottawa. And my roommate sure was home and picked up.

“Hi, is Christina around?”

“No, she JUST moved to California, but if you talk to her can you tell her Kïrsten says HI!”

A few days later, I get an email from my cousin Debbie in Surrey. (Ya, Kristeen. I said SURREY! I know you’re excited.) The subject line reads:

THE SHITTETH HAS HIT THE FANNETH!

To be fair, the part of this conversation I was avoiding was less about moving to Orange Country and more about my issues with discussing boyfriends with my parents. A girl with my level of turnover can’t mention EVERY guy to mummy and daddy. (Using those words makes me sound posh but I assure you I was upper white trash at best.) I had to be sure a guy was lasting at least four months first before my introducing them to family.

Soooooo….

Should I wait another two months to respond to the email?

(This is me and my cousin Debbie and she will LOVE I used this pic.)

Chapter 14: What Happens In Vegas…

What year did the phrase, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” come out? Surely it was after May of 2002, right? Otherwise how do you explain a Canadian girl coming home from Sin City just to dump her boyfriend, quit her job, sell her car, sublet her apartment, and move to Huntington Beach for a guy she met on the dance floor who convinced her she was his soulmate? 

OR could it be that at the ripe age of 23, she thought the phrase was just in reference to the yard stick cup you spend $42 on to drink a watered down margarita out of? No point in dragging that through customs. 

(On a side note, I had a boyfriend once who was very inexperienced at filling out declaration forms, and thought he had to put down the amount of money he SPENT in the States, and not the value of items he was actually bringing back in to Canada. When the border agent asked him what he spent $2000 on, he casually said, “Mostly booze.” Took a few minutes to sort out.)

Upon returning to my cozy Glebe apartment, nestled behind Kettleman’s Bagels (24 hrs, FYI) I was very entertained by the messages Mr. Huntington Beach had left. He had NO voice after getting home from Vegas, so it was hard to make out anything he was saying. I’m probably to blame cuz we chose to get to know each other beside a blaring DJ.

I suppose I could have given him my cell, but considering the phone plans of 2002, he’d have to go on the land line list, just like Daddy Walkinshaw. WHO COULD AFFORD ALL THESE PHONE CALLS? 

(Plus I still had a boyfriend for a week or two.)

Our phone calls went long and late- super late for me since he was on the west coast. He had just quit his day job, convinced corporate America wasn’t for him. He took a job at BJ’s Pizza and Grill, which only made us feel more like soulmates because we were both servers at PIZZA restaurants! (Me, Boston Pizza, respectfully.) Both chains, so he didn’t really escape “corporate,” but how would I know that in Ottawa? (And no, I’m not going to insert blow job jokes into dating a guy who works at BJ’s. I had enough of those in my act already.)

I spent many nights driving down Bank St. to an internet cafe so I could instant message him on ICQ. (In hindsight, didn’t the sound this site made when you had a message sound like “UH-OH!”?) We’d spend hours online, then I’d return home so we could talk on the phone. He’d pay for the calls because we both knew Americans tipped better. 

One day, he finally broke down and declared.

“That’s it! I’m moving to Ottawa!”

This startled me for several reasons. 

First of all, it was WAY too soon after breaking up with my boyfriend. I might have been a dirt bag, but I did feel bad. I couldn’t just have a new boyfriend landing in Ottawa, immediately living with me. (Especially when I met him on a trip with my ex. BAD GIRL!)

Second of all…

If anyone is moving, shouldn’t it be me?

I’ve dreamt of living in California all my life. So many road trips to Disneyland as a kid, cruising up and down the I-5. It always felt so right to me, even if my dad was writing off family vacations by going to car auctions and buying used cars while we were at the pool. The most embarrassing year being the one my dad bought ex-cop cars to sell to cab companies in Vancouver. My parents drove separately with my sister and I each in black and white Chevy Caprices all the way from L.A. to Vancouver. The good news? Nobody ever cut us off. (I KNOW I have pictures of this in the motherland and I WILL publish them when I turn this blog into a book.)

So Mr. Huntington Beach put the pressure on.

“Okay, then you’re moving here!”

He did live mere blocks from the beach. Paled in comparison to my proximity to the canal… 

And we did have such a good connection…

Both Sagittarius’s…

It just made so much sense!

So I walked over to the travel agent on Bank Street.

“Hi, I’m looking for a one way ticket to L.A, maybe in like two weeks?”

(That’s how long a 23 year old thinks is takes to move across a continent.)

The travel agent was nice, but concerned. 

“Oh… can I ask why you need a one way ticket?”

“I’m moving there.”

“Do you have a Green Card?”

“No, I’ll get that once I’m there.”

“Oh… well it’s really not advisable to get a one way ticket into America right now. Since 9/11…”

That day was still haunting us.

“I’d recommend getting a return ticket. We’ll make it exchangeable so you can come back whenever you’re ready.”

Ummmm, I’m moving for my soulmate. I’ll never need the other half of that ticket. But I get it.

“Sure, let’s do that.”

I handed over my credit card with a $500 limit, and she handed me a ticket to LAX.

I had two weeks to binge work before my departure. I took every shift I could, and had one last weekend on the road, going back to Kingston. This time with a comic who coincidently lived in L.A, so I figured it was a sign! The hilarious Lisa Gay Tremblay was headlining. I told her the big news. She was VERY concerned.

“Wait?! What?! No! You can’t just move for some guy you just met! No, no, no!”

Should I tell her I already bought the ticket?

“Well, when it doesn’t work out, and you’re broke, can’t afford tampons, you call me! I’ll come pick you up, AND bring tampons.”

Jokes on her. I was still wearing pads.

The rest of my time on Planet Canada consisted of going away parties. And if I can recommend one thing to people in their early twenties, it would be DO NOT HAVE GOING AWAY PARTIES THE NIGHT BEFORE YOU MOVE!

Cuz guess what? Multiple people crashed in my living room that night, none of whom had the power to wake me up in time for my flight. I woke up 45 minutes before it took off.

Ooooops.

There was that hippy part of me thinking,

“Is this a sign?”

But I refused to believe this wasn’t meant to be. Plus nothing is more embarrassing than having multiple going away parties then still lurking in town.

I’m going.

So I marched back up Bank Street to Travel Cuts.

Same girl working.

“Hey… remember when you said I had to buy a return ticket… well I should have bought TWO one-ways. I missed my flight. Can you fix it?”

That miracle worker had me on a new flight by 6pm. Just enough time for me to squish in one last round at Mexicali Rosa’s, to prep for real Mexican food in my near future. 

And just like that, I left Canada even faster than a young comic today.

(The pic of me at the top of this blog is from Vegas in 2016 but this one is from 2002. You can tell by the weight difference and the Sens hat. Thanks again to Andrea for these pics of me, her and Tania:)

Chapter 12: A Relationship, Marijuana and 23-Year Old Female Comedian Walk Into a Bar…

I caved. I got a cell phone. It’s 2002- who knows? These things might actually become the norm. My plan includes 200 minutes Mon-Fri, and unlimited calls after 6pm and on weekends. Since I want to keep the bill down, I’m not giving my number to my boss and family. They can still believe I only have a land line. 

I’m also starting to have solid turn over in my love life- a sign you’re a true comedian! I have no patterns with dating, I just like who I like. My latest boyfriend is pretty much the opposite of the last one. He’s a bartender (so he has money) and also grows pot. His roommate didn’t want me to know, but I figured it out. I had questions, like,

“Who lives in your third bedroom and why are his lights always on?”

I was smoking a lot of pot myself, leading to many late nights of Bronson Pizza combos. Ottawa has a serious deep fried zucchini scene. To this day I don’t think I’ve ever been to a city with this as a staple on every menu in town. 

I started writing bits about my new vice. 

“I moved to Ottawa cuz I heard Parliament Hill was having a joint session.”

“I have a friend who doesn’t smoke pot, so I asked why and he said, “Cuz one time, I was smoking THE marijuana, and I was high for five days….” I’m thinking “Fuck… my dealer sucks. I have the stuff where you pass out with chicken tenders in your lap watching Ally McBeal .”

I was trying to figure out if I should call them chicken strips, tenders or fingers. Even without reading Judy Carter’s book, I was gravitating towards funny words.

The Ottawa comedy scene was really becoming a tight knit group. Rick Kaulbars wrote a movie called Hell Gig that we were all gonna be in. The whole gang- me, Ben Miner, Jon Steinberg, Jon Dore, Jen Grant, Oliver Gross, Mike Beatty, Don Kelly, Wendi Reed, Jason Laurans. Rick would direct it, and somehow the whole thing would be made in days, AND in Ottawa. I didn’t even know you could make movies in Ottawa. I tried in my last year at Carleton, but my tech skills were so bad I ended up with a cassette for my audio, and VHS for the actual movie. I had to hit play on both machines at the same time to present my project to my class.

(Me, Jen Grant and Rick Kaulbars. And I’m guessing Alexander Keith’s cuz that’s all anybody drank back then.)

Things were going pretty well. My boyfriend had finally come to one of my shows. It took a while. He had zero interest in stand up. If he wasn’t staying home to play online poker (which he told his parents was not real money,) he was busy with this foosball league. Our relationship was actually quite good, even if I did fake being Catholic in front of his family. (I took communion in their church lololol.*)

I was smoking a lot of pot. Sometimes I did my dishes so high, I’d hide all the knives afterward just in case someone broke into my apartment and didn’t bring their own. (CANADA, baby! Even high, I never worried about guns.) Meanwhile I’d pass out with my lava lamp still on and who knows what days of the week I was actually taking my Tri-Cyclen. 

I was also over thinking my relationship- BIG TIME. 

I was dating someone who had NO interest in comedy.

Was it my comedy, or comedy in general?

(Cut to me in 2021 not wanting any guy I’m interested in watching my comedy cuz I’m scared he won’t want to fuck me anymore.)

I had big dreams. But what were his dreams? Was foosball a good prospect for the future? Or growing weed? (In hindsight, it actually probably was.) It sounds cheesy to write now, but these diaries from 20 years ago pour it out. After returning from the Canada Loves New York rally at the end of 2001, I wrote this:

Here’s my little trick that will help determine whether or not you’ve found your ultimate goal in life and how I know what mine is: When you think about your passion for something and cannot fathom how anyone else in the world wouldn’t want to do the exact same thing, you have your dream.

(Remember I’m high, it’s post 9/11 and I’m 23. Don’t judge me.)

I didn’t feel like I was dating a guy with a dream. 

And it bothered me.

As much as I loved him, I decided we needed to break up. I was barely out of my old technique where I just avoided a guy until they broke up with me. This one would have to be done properly. I was really growing up.

I played Paul Simon’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” on repeat every night for weeks. It didn’t really help me figure out how to do it, but I did learn all the words.

I managed to get it done, but it didn’t take.

I make it sound like I was this straight forward about my reasons for breaking up to him, but in reality I probably said:

“So ya ummmm I think we should break up, but I’ll see you at work! Let’s see if we can get different shifts!”

A week later, we met at Irene’s, a classic dive pub on Bank Street in the Glebe. (Is it still there? Tell me it is!) It was such a weird location for an emotional conversation. The only goal I ever had at this bar was getting the cranky old waitress to like me. But now my barely ex was asking for clarification on our break up.

“Why…? We get along great.”

He was right. We really did. Sagittarius/Aquarius combo. Things that really meant something back then. I took a big gulp of my Keith’s and decided to spit out the corny truth.

“I have dreams… BIG ones… I don’t want to live in Ottawa forever. Don’t you have dreams…?”

And he responded with something so powerful I don’t even need my diary to remember:

“Maybe my dream is just to be in love with a great girl.”

Fuck. 

That’s a good one. 

I’m a dick. 

Instantly that line won me back.

And he added in another fun invite.

“Why don’t you come with me to my foosball tournament in Vegas? It’ll be fun.”

Oh that does sound like fun! We haven’t been anywhere other than Pembroke together. I’m IN!

Besides, what could possibly happen with a rocky relationship in Vegas…

To Be Continued…

(Because blogs don’t get red lights.)

*I finally came clean about not being Catholic. I tried to make it better by explaining my that family did go to church, we just went to a United one. (I left out the “once a year” part.) His uncle responded, “Ohhh, UNITED… just in case there’s a God…” I’ve never forgotten that. 

(Also, I fear this blog drifted between past and present tense. As a writer, I need you to know this bothers me. How did they do it in The Wonder Years?)

I’m bummed I don’t have more old shots of the Ottawa Yuk Yuk’s scene, but we didn’t live life on phones back then. Here’s one though: Jon Steinberg, Howard Wagman, Wafik Nasralla, me, Allison Dore, Tracey MacDonald, Jen Grant, Don Kelly and Pete Zedlacher even though he was from Toronto.

Also, here’s a clip from Hell Gig. I’m not even in this one, but it made me laugh my ass off.

https://www.facebook.com/kaulbars/videos/10150091150045525

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