Tonight at 9:00, I will raise a glass and toast Eddie Werner. I will be timing it to coincide with an open mic in Kent, Ohio, where some people who knew Eddie will be briefly remembering him. I've got an alarm set to remind me.
Eddie Werner committed suicide. He was nearing middle age, rode a motorcycle, and he was a small part of the open mic comedy scene in northeast Ohio. By all accounts, he wasn't very good at it. Most of us aren't, ever. That's nothing to be ashamed of. A lot of people enjoy fishing, or golf, or square dancing, and look like fools to everyone else while they have their fun. I have an unreasonable love of old video games, and I'm awful at nearly all of them.
I met Eddie once. I doubt it made an impression on him. It was at an open mic Mandi Leigh put on, in Akron, at a dive bar called Old Haunts. That place is my kind of septic tank, from the punk rock and death metal show flyers stapled blithely to the wall, to the gaptoothed drywall and cheap leaky plumbing in the horrific bathrooms. There was a tiny stage, an unattainable roller derby bartender, and I don't think the air conditioning worked.
Eddie sat next to Jerry Jaffe. I don't remember if he even went up, and if he did, I don't remember his set. Mike Szar and I drove to Akron, did the mic, Matt Brady gave me some Atari games for my collection, we took a picture with Yusuf Ali, got great hugs from Mandi, and drove home. We probably ate shitty turnpike food. Eddie barely registered. It didn't seem like his kind of bar, but then again, I didn't know a thing about him.
I still don't. But I'm upset at his passing. I didn't lose a friend, but I feel that everyone who goes up, who gives it a try, and keeps coming back, is a part of the same tapestry. Comedy gave me a sense of community, as well as a creative outlet, almost as soon as I started pursuing it. It's a shock to me that someone could come into the fold, be present enough to be mourned by so many of our mutual friends, and find nothing in that association worth living for.
I nearly died in 2004, and I now live with an aortic dissection that's almost certain to shorten my existence. I've also gone through bleak periods of life when it seemed impossible that anything good was going to come along. I had bad luck, made terrible stupid mistakes, and dealt with depression and self-doubt. But there's always been a desire for more. Nothing has snuffed out, at the very least, a curiosity to see what happens next. It's frightening enough to imagine someone living without that -- actually experiencing that void is something I can't comprehend.
So toasting a dead man I didn't know at an arbitrary time is a dumb, empty gesture. But so is getting on a stage and making people listen to shit you wrote. So is collecting records or superhero toys or guitars. So is making friends with a bunch of people who are gonna die anyway, and making new finite broken people that are gonna grow up and die too. Where do you draw the line?
The toast is for Eddie. I hope his time with the beautiful finite broken people who do comedy in Akron and Kent and Cleveland made him feel better. I hope it helped a little. But it's a toast for me, too, and for those people. It's a toast to the fact that when I feel anchorless, a night like Old Haunts happens -- a random, unremarkable night -- and I can think of a dozen tiny, gleaming points where I interacted with my friends and was glad to be on this side of the dirt, laughing and drinking and gossiping and writing and taking dumb pictures and making enough dumb, empty gestures to fill up another colorful day. And then I'm fortunate enough to go to a home, and be loved and missed, and chided like a dirty pet raccoon that wandered off for a bit, and sent to bed content.
Please, reach out to someone if you feel as empty and wound down as all that. We'll try our best to help. There's so much good and light, and so many reasons to see what comes next.
Where I write about the stuff I do when I'm out doing the stuff I do.