RECORD STORE TALES #938: Tears of a Clown
Yesterday, September 10, was Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day. I was reminded of a good story, about a special young man that I met only once. It was years ago, but for background, I’m going to tell you some things about myself that I’ve never shared publicly before.
The stigma on people who suffer from mental health issues is real. We get called “crazy” or “weak”. In reality we are some of the strongest people you will ever meet because we wrestle daily with things just because the chemistry of our brains is a little bit out of whack. Every day that we finish is a day that we won. Support is hard to find. Everybody here should know by now that I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This is compounded daily by the stresses of supporting a wife sick with untreatable epilepsy. Nobody can accuse me of having it easy. I went to the doctor and got some “happy pills” but they didn’t agree with me. One day when I couldn’t take it anymore, I went back to the doctor and she immediately put me on a sick leave. I begged her not to. I didn’t want my work to have to deal with it. The doctor talked some sense into me. I went on sick leave, and I made damn sure I did not waste my time. As far as I was concerned, I might not have been “at” work, but I had to work, and that meant working on myself.
I enrolled in a class called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It’s called “CBT” for short, which means something else too. I’ll get into that in a bit.
The people I met at CBT group were just like anyone else I ever met. There was en executive. There was a goth. There were people who worked in finance. Parents and grandparents. People who cared for sick family members. All walks of life. Some I’m still friends with today. We worked through things together and it was heavy. We had some laughs too, as you should, but we dealt with a lot of things in that group.
One of the ladies I met there, “Katy”, became a friend immediately. She was an office professional in the world of finance. I think when she was younger, she worked as stage crew for touring bands. We knew a lot of the same groups. She was a fan of the Genitorturers, who I believe she worked for in the past. One day in CBT class she leaned over and with a sly grin and whispered to me, “Do you know what else CBT stands for?”
I had an idea. Thanks to some friends in the UK tattoo and piercing community, I knew that CBT also stands for “Cock and Ball Torture”.
She laughed that I knew it, and our bond was cemented. It was an intense class and I needed a friend. We got sad and anxious as the weeks wound up, and we were set to go back to our lives. A bunch of us exchanged phone numbers and made plans to stay in touch. I was really in a state of worry about heading back to work, as was “Katy”. I wanted to get some new shoes for the job, and she agreed to help me pick out a pair.
“Is it OK if my son comes along?” she asked. “You’ll like him.”
I did. I liked him a lot.
I met up with “Katy” and her son “Kenny” at a central Tim Hortons location. He reminded me of a young Jeremy Taggart from Our Lady Peace. We drank coffee for an hour or two, while “Kenny” kept me in stitches with his natural sense of humour. He reminded me of a stand-up comedian. He just had the natural ability to make people laugh and entertain. It was one of the best coffee visits I’ve ever had with anyone. I asked him if he’d ever be interested in working together. I didn’t have any clear ideas, I just knew that I wanted to do some kind of video with him. A commentary, a discussion, a stunt…I knew he’d be hilarious.
After coffee we went to a store looking for my new shoes. When we got there, “Kenny” asked if he could try on some skin-tight spandex workout suits. He had no reason to try one on…he was not getting into cycling all of a sudden. I think he just wanted to make us laugh. He came out of the change room in this ridiculous outfit that was far too tight. I’m sure his circulation was cut off and he couldn’t feel his feet. Seeing him pose around the store in this skin-tight wrapping was both awkward and hilarious. I recall he had a devil of a time trying to get it off.
I really enjoyed my day with them. I wore my new shoes on my first day back in the office and it felt good to be in the driver’s seat again. “Katy” and I kept in touch a little bit. I knew “Kenny” had his own issues, but I was always a big supporter and fan of his.
Then one day in 2015, “Katy” sent me a message on Facebook. Her son was gone. I froze in the shock of it. One day, I guess he just couldn’t take it anymore. A feeling that I thought I knew, but had never taken further. I simply could not believe what I was reading. It seemed impossibly wrong. This young man, destined to be someone truly special, who made me laugh so hard I couldn’t breathe, was gone.
“It’s always the funniest ones,” I thought to myself. The year before, Robin Williams took his own life. Iron Maiden wrote a song about it called “Tears of a Clown”.
“All alone in a crowded room, he tries to force a smile.” Could I ever relate to that. “Wonder why he’s feeling down, tears of a clown.”
When I think of all those comedians who struggle or have struggled with their own problems, I think of my friend and her son. Without exaggeration, one of the funniest people I ever met, if only for a few hours. It was a long time ago but I still talk about that day. He was a special kid and I’m sorry that you’ll never get to see the two of us in a video together like I hoped. It would have been hilarious.