Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chapter Four

“Midnight already”, Tucker asked himself. The show had gone a little long. It was the last show of the tour - might as well use it all up. The four of them had thrown out all of the regular bits, plus trying some new stuff that they might want to use on the club circuit as they waited for another steady gig to come along. Thus was the life of a comedian.

What to do now, now that the show was over? Tucker was too keyed up to be able to go home and sleep right away. He knew from these many nights on the road that it would take a couple of hours more to burn off the energy and be able to lay down for some zzzz's. The difference tonight, though, was that he was back in his hometown.

Tucker had been invited over to a fraternity's after-hours parties, and had declined. Really, he was past that in his life. Not that he hadn't had plenty of nights in his life where he had gone out after a show on the road and found any of the myriad ways to get in trouble when no one knows you personally. He had. He had his share of wild nights, both enjoyed and regretted. But, he was grown up now. Now he was into more sedate entertainments. The other comedians had taken up the frat on their offer though, especially Courtney - who would be worshipped there. Tucker wished them all good luck and said he would see them out on the circuit in some dive somewhere sometime. He had spent enough time with them in the last 6 months that he didn't need to draw out the good-bye.

It was just a quick walk over to his off-campus apartment. Down past the Student Union and over across the Quad. Past the Performing Arts Center and down some side streets to a small apartment building, where he had found a short-term sublet on an efficiency apartment from a student who was departing the campus early. He had gotten a good deal on it actually, and had gotten it mostly furnished. He had moved his few possessions, a TV and Stereo and some books and bedding, in earlier yesterday. That was before his disorienting afternoon nap before the show.

Tucker turned on the TV and flicked through the channels while his laptop was booting up. He settled on Fox News Channel, even though he had missed the re-run of Hannity for the night, just to have some ambient noise. Searching through his luggage he found the electro-neuro-stimulator device that he had gotten from a chiropractor somewhere on the road for his now frequent back pain. With some practiced care he could now affix the electrode pads to just the right places near his spine and shoulder blade to get the most relief. The first time he did it by himself one of the pads slipped off and he had shocked himself trying to put it back. He was still nervous about turning up the current too much, even though you had to in order for it be effective. Tucker stared at the device for a moment, wondering with his engineering mind who had invented it and how they knew that running current through his back muscles would relieve pain. Whoever invented it had his gratitude at the moment as the relief was kicking in as the adrenaline from the show was wearing off. Some people wear the neuro-stimulators 24 hours a day and sleep in theirs, the doc had told him. He just needed to wear his for an hour or so at a time, and would take it off before hitting the sack.

Tucker popped his new Verizon air card into an available USB port on his laptop to get connected to his social network sites. The aircard was one of the best of the growing number of gadgets in his life and fit his transient lifestyle better than hardwired internet in his apartment would. He had a pretty strong signal on campus and would be online quickly, networked in with his vitural buddies. It was becoming an everyday activity, enabled by Verizon and Blogger, and Twitter, and all of the other sites that he frequented and participated in. What could he say? He was an online addict, and he knew it. It was his way of dealing with loneliness.

He could put nice face on it and call it "solitude" instead of loneliness in the times when it bothered him. Strange that a man who made most of his living on stage entertaining hundreds or thousands in his best gigs preferred solitude. He reveled in it, actually. But, that was just who he was, honestly. On-stage a clown, off-stage a loner. Not having many friends IRL - in real life - was an occupational hazard for Tucker. That was certainly one tangible cost of living life on the road out of a suitcase, transient. On the rare ocassions when he stopped to consider that cost, Tucker would admit to himself that what he had were more like acquaintances. Some, at church for example, were long-term acquaintainces that had never really progressed to more than that.

Virtual friendships and virtual habits had come to compensate for what he lacked in his life in the flesh-and-blood department. Wherever he was, whatever town he was in, wherever he was staying, he had the internet to keep him company. He could connect, sign on, and surf and meet up with his network of online friends. Facebook was his tool for keeping up with family, coworkers, and old high school buddies. Twitter served a different purpose, and was for expressing himself out into the world 140 characters at a time - micro-opinions - and for keeping his small coterie of fans up to date on his travels and gigs.

Tucker could also indulge his hobby of browsing multiple familiar websites offering up the full spectrum of news and political opinion. He would start with the news aggregator sites like “The Drudge Report” and click on many of the links that would take him to an array of online newspapers and magazines with topical articles on current events. Then he was off to the mainstream partisan sites for links to editorial columnists, which formed a lot of his understanding about more complex issues of the day. Finally to the highly-partisan forums, both left and right, for flame-thrower chat from the commenters. Those were always highly entertaining, as long as you remained a lurker like Tucker did and stayed out of the line of fire.

No doubt about it. Tucker was a news junkie. And these were interesting times with a never-ending supply of disasters and scandals. And, of course, a national election coming up whose significance to the nation’s future that the college kids he had just left were mostly oblivious to. Oh well, we all grow up and learn from life. A job and a life and payments and taxes and retirement planning all had a way of focusing your attention on the national figures who affected those things.

Tucker picked up a copy of the campus newspaper off of the coffe table while he was waiting to get online and skimmed it. News on the front cover and sports on the back page. Various news stories of interest to a college community in between. He was, as usual, chagrined at the tilt of the news coverage. Why couldn’t people see the bias in most newspapers? A bias not just in the way a story was written, but in what was covered in the first place and what was omitted. Frustrating. A large full color ad caught his eye as he was flipping through the pages. The ad was recruiting students to participate in an ongoing research project in the biomedical department for an extensive “pain level” study. Well, Tucker thought, that’s one way to pay for the growing cost of college these days. How did kids afford tuition and board these days, even at a state school? They must be paying well for participation, though. Someone had spent a lot of money on that ad.

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