There was once a man who lived by the river on the bay. Every morning he’d wake up, put on his shoes, and walk to see its bends. The river was this man’s pride. It bathed him when he was dirty. This river by the bay was his truest confidant. It hydrated him when he was thirsty and it held him when he was lonely. It can be said without question this man living by the river was indeed a river man. He missed his river friend in winter times but soon learned a thing all river men know: rivers all return. And for many years this was the case, the routine never wavered. The man and his friend would play and laugh and when winter finally came they’d turn and go; each waiting his friend’s return. But this winter was different from all the years past. For when winter ended and spring came the hollow troff was dry. The man ran the dirt and sand and slowly wiped his eye. His friend was gone and only dirt remained and he never said goodbye.
I walked up to a man on the street today and in perfect unison we say to each other, “How am I supposed to know if I suffer from narcissistic personality disorder?” Taken aback we stare at each other in disbelief. Finally the owner walks out and says, “Sir this is a mirror store.” To which I replied, “SHUT UP! Can’t you see I’m flirting?”
So here’s the story (strap in, it’s a doozy): I’m sitting in the audience waiting for the hosts to call me up on stage to do a few minutes of comedy at a show in downtown LA. I’m watching other comedians go before me on stage in a room with 50 chairs ALL FILLED with people with amazing energy, wanting to laugh. I was excited and nervous and at times jealous of the great jokes. The other comedians were funny people. Hilarious funny people. And I got to preform next to them? Crazy. I’m laughing so much that now I have to pee. I was sitting in the back. This venue was tight. Like close quarters. Touching your neighbor’s leg tight (not in the good way). And I had to pee. Not the best situation. I’m in the very back, in the corner, no leg room, no escape. Crap. If there was a fire we’d all would have died. Guaranteed. So I’m going up soon. There was such little leg room in the aisles I couldn’t even do the polite movie theater shuffle, “excuse me, pardon me, sorry…” I didn’t want to ask everyone to get up messing up their focus ON TOP of messing up the comedian’s rhythm who was on stage already. It was quite the dick-pickle I found myself in. AH-HA! WAIT! I’m seated in front of a curtain in the very back. My saving grace. I push it to the side and there’s a little hallway kind of thing. PERFECT! So I push the curtain back all stealth-like, no one saw and I see that there’s a little bit of room to walk around behind the curtain to make it to the bathroom! I won’t bother anyone, I’d make it to the bathroom and back again in time to do some dumb jokes about tinder and the ice bucket challenge; no problem. WRONG. SO VERY WRONG. The adventure begins… I climb behind the curtain and tip-toe and come face to face with a twitchy looking fellow, early 30s, hostile attitude, jerk of a guy. This was the guy who works at this place and unfortunately was the one who was “in charge” this night. He looks up in a panic and says, “Whoa! WHOA! WHOA!” We’re behind the curtain in the back. I can hear the other comedian on stage. There’s a row of people just past the cloth barricade I find myself in with this bro. So the guy pushes me (ACTUALLY PUSHES ME) and says: “Who are you? What are you doing here?” Now dear readers I’m not an angry person. I’m weird and wild and at times say things I shouldn’t like: dick-pickle and I like Pitbull’s new album but I’ve broken up more fights than I’ve ever been in. This guy was a douche and I’m a pussy. And usually pussies and douches go together but not this time. I ignore the push and simply say, “I just have to pee. I’m trying to go around.” I’m whispering because I don’t want to make a big thing. The guy puts his hand on me and grips my shoulder and says, “No go back to your seat.” Just like that and says:“You can’t fucking be here.” At which point I say, “Okay. Fuck you.” I’ve never IN MY LIFE told another person: fuck you and meant it. He must have realized my sincerity because then he says, “You’re outta here buddy.” Like he was a umpire or something waiting ALL NIGHT TO SAY IT. So to match his cadence I call him a “fuckface”. Again something so wrong felt so right coming out of my lips. And then the pussy-part of me comes back and right after I call this guy a “fuckface” I say, “Never mind.” HAHA! And just head back to my seat. I’m fuming and sweaty and the worst part: STILL HAD TO PEE. My name is finally called. I do this bit where I climb over people and say, “Sorry, excuse me, sorry.” (Ironic given my predicament, I’d do it as a bit or comedy moment but regular Nate didn’t want to put people out…Interesting retrospective.) I climb over bodies and stuff and it’s very physical, crowd’s laughing. I get to the mic finally, breathing heavily, people applaud kindly cause I finally made it to the stage, I take a beat and say… “Shit. I forgot my book.” And climb back over people back to my seat and then back to the mic. Funny, funny. So I’m coming back the second time climbing over people and who do I see at the mic but fuckface himself. And I swear to you. HE’S HOLDING A FUCKING YARDSTICK. Like he’s an angry schoolteacher. As if I was going to fight him and his defense was going to be measurements! He grabs the mic and says, “You’re out of here buddy. You think you’re soooo special.” I bow my head. And walk off sadly. No one knows what’s going on. Was this part of the show? NOPE. IS THAT A YARDSTICK? YUP. As I’m leaving I hear people chanting my name. It was quite beautiful. Bitter sweet. The show goes on. I leave. At this point in the story I could do one of two things. Go home. Live to fight another day. OR!!! OPTION TWO. Wait for the show to end and when people come out. Do my set standing on the stoop outside of the venue. I’ve always been an option two guy. I wait. I pace. Finally the crowd exits out. Lots of people! I don’t know. 50 maybe? Standing on the sidewalk at 10 o’clock at night in downtown Los Angeles. I shout: “Ladies and Gentleman I’ll be performing my set now!” They quiet down and began watching a guy do stand up on a stoop. THE BEST PART: THEY’RE LOVING IT. Perhaps it was the unique setting or the vindictiveness in my voice or perhaps at times some of the material I was saying but they laughed, they applauded, and it felt glorious. Sticking it to the man. Anarchy comedy to the T. I took my bow, thanked them and finally…peed my freaking pants.
A man built a temple to worship an idol quite unknown. In the middle of the desert is where he called it home. People came from near and far to witness the construction. The gold roof. The horses hooves. And the acres of eruption. For it was the man and him alone who laid brick by brick. The strangers asked, “Who do you worship in such a beautiful temple?” “The Jewish God? Allah? Buddha perhaps?” “Which god do you prefer?” As the wanders wondered posing questions to the man with blisters on his back, they never tried quiet, and simply just relaxed. The man never spoke. He simply laid his brick. Until the final brick was laid… He was happy and almost sick. Looking at his creation in the heated blistering sun. His eyes went soft and his hands went numb when a ragged boy tugged. The beggar asked calm and sweet, “Who’d you build it for?” The man blinked and smirked for once and said, “I built this for a whore.”
It’s not about you! Don’t you see that you fucking scatological insignificant rube?! You think you’re the only one who’s dealt with heart break?! You think your tiny, insignificant speck of experience is a modicum more important from anyone else’s who’s ever felt sad or mad or crappy in a relationship. Your life is a tepid, dreary, place to live my friend; if it’s under the delusion you’ll never be happy again. “Well you don’t know. You don’t understand. This is different.” No. You’re simply and utterly wrong. Situations – Circumstances are different but emotion is the same. I felt love. I’ve felt pain and anger and betrayal a hundred times over. But every time I felt sadness, every single time, after I felt sad, I felt happy after. And I’m not just talking about finding a person or people to love. Find something to love. ANYTHING! A book, a pet, a cloud, something that gives you purpose. Love is a purpose, sadness is an excuse. The again…I might be over thinking this.
A hotdog without a bun. A fish who failed school. A blonde named Mensa. Love without madness is life without flavor, a shoe without a scent, a boat with wheels. Worry only if you’ve never worried. Regrets, heartbreak, insecurities; they’re all good things. Without regret we’ve never acted, without heartbreak we’ve never loved, without insecurities we’ve never discovered. Bad things are good things wrapped in a lesson. A waffle without syrup, a metaphor without purpose, an empty existence in an overflowing world. Fear not, you’ve not gone mad, you’re simply learning without knowing it.
There’s a peephole into people that often goes unseen; Their thoughts, their looks, their internal books, regression toward the mean. As a passerby says goodbye and a greeting goes unsaid; We think, we look, we close our book and pretend we’re in our head. There’s a way to say it’s all okay without seeming curt; You stand up proud and announce it loud and say you’re feeling hurt. A misfired smile is a smile awhile when a frown is still a frown; We laugh, we cry, one day we die and our peephole goes to town. A town where people wave and cheer and no one ever wanders; We connect, we share, we overly care and finally only sonder.
A word is limiting and expansive simultaneously. We are constricted by words yet they set us free. Through poetry, through drama, through dramatic texts or poetic conversation; words are what make us as a species unique. Written language. Spoken thought. But what is the word unique? Think of what it means to be unique. If everyone is unique how can unique be unique? Uniquely so. You see, these are words. You’re listening to words right now. Realize that. Conceptualize that. This is self-aware terminology now. Listen to them. Hear the words. It’s like being reminded you’re breathing, once you have the thought in your head, you control it, it no longer is done manually and it takes twice the power. A word sticks in your brain as long as you need it to. You’re thinking and listening in words right now. Words are in a word thought to be considered fact, unless that word is a lie, or the thinker is drunk. A word, in whatever language, means exactly what that word means. Think of that. A fish is a fish is a fish and so on. The world around us gives perspective to the world inside ourselves; our minds, our imaginations, who we are, who we want to be…but words are dangerous because they claim fact out of subjectivity, bliss out of ignorance, filling variables with past experiences like how a person was raised, what a person was told, taught, or titillated by. Each of these unique experiences a person beholds teaches or rather, instills, a certain italicized meaning, a definition with an annotation, meaning words are inbred with the ability to change their meaning from person to person. Faggot is a word. Nigger is a word. Heaven, hell, tits, dick. Everything is words. Words start wars, words cause hatred, align allegiances to segregate the antonyms. Before words actions did it, after words, words did the talking and now words hurt worse. My final word: choose your own more wisely. Then again I might be over thinking this.
They say the first line is one of the most important parts of a book*. Get it right and the readers’ eyes are all yours, get it wrong and they’ll start looking around, distracted by the feet of strangers or two birds fighting over a sandwich.
Over on our Instagram account (here, follow it here) we’ve been asking people for the first lines that have grabbed them. So, along with a few of our own personal favourites, and a pleasingly alliterative title, here are fourteen fantastic first lines.
Sympathy is the greatest weapon man suffers. Not bullets or cans of gasoline, no, pity is the quantum bomb. A genocide of the soul. To understand who I am…You must understand who I could never be. A saint. A God. A person who has the time to care. I’m the itch in the back of your furthest thought. The fear at the bottom of your stomach. The unmistakable, unavoidable, unmaintainable truth. I am you down to the marrow. I think your thoughts. I say your words. I am you, flesh and blood. I am you, here and now. My right is right, isn’t right. My right might be wrong, makes it right. To understand me, you must understand who I could never be. I could never be anyone other than me.