#938: Tears of a Clown

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.

 

17 comments

  1. Wow. This post bought a tear to my eye. I got sick once too and did therapy. Very well written Mike. It’s a real wake up call when someone like Kenny passes. A reminder to us all of the fragility of the human condition.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey thanks. I wrote it yesterday. My friend posted a memory of her son for suicide prevention day, and I commented about how her son really knew how to rock a skintight spandex suit. She laughed and that inspired me to write this.

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  2. Reading this made me sad. It really sucks when someone dies before their time. Doubly so when they had so much potential.

    Tears of a Clown is such a great song. It’s quite different to their usual style but they nail it and it fits seamlessly on the album. They even played it live on the early dates of the tour.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry to have made you sad Harrison. Not my intent although I was aware that could be a biproduct of telling this tale.

      To not be sad, totally agree with you on TOAC. Quite different, especially in the lyric. Book of Souls really was proof that Maiden were multi-dimensional and just uber talented all around. Intelligent lyrically and musically. I know we have a list show coming up and I may put Bruce Dickinson on my list. I think my list will be more individuals than bands.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was a passing sadness thankfully. And Tears of a Clown is just one of 11 reasons I consider The Book of Souls to be Iron Maiden’s best album, and musical perfection.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I actually think Senjutsu is perhaps a little more diverse than The Book of Souls. It’s a good album too. I’d put it at second or third place out of all the reunion era albums.

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  3. Wow, your experience is really eye opening, especially as to how you got through it all. I agree with Buffalo Crows, you very eloquently reminded us of the frailties of the human mind and that anyone can have mental health issues.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for sharing this story Mike. It is important. Mental illness is something that should be talked about with no stigma attached especially since in reality more people have it than probably don’t. It is also very hard on those that support someone with it so it really impacts everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Another thing John is that so many of the artists we love and admire also have their own issues that we may not know about. Maybe it comes out in the lyrics. Artists are a quirky bunch.

      You can imagine that with everything Jen’s been through, she’s ended up with her own issues so we try to be mutually supportive. One good thing about us is there always seems to be one of us who is strong when the other is down. If it’s me having a down night, she’s usually got the strength to help me out. When it’s her, I’m the one who has the energy to keep us going. It just seems to work out like that. That’s why I believe in God. We are together her and I for a reason.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Was eyeing that super box set of Senjutsu at my local today…

    Sad to hear about your friend’s son. Thanks for sharing the story of that special day u shared!

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  6. Thank you for taking the time recounting that day. We all had so much fun and so many belly laughs.
    Often I feel very alone in my grief for my son. Thank you for reminding me that I’m not, and that “Kenny” touched many more people’s lives then I always remember. I’ve often felt biased when I describe “Kenny” as being so ridiculously hilarious. You just proved I’m not.

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  7. I think that comedians are similar to hockey enforcers. What? Hear me out.
    Enforcers only have one job. They have to fight the other teams tough guy every game. That brings a lot of anxiety and stress. Most of these guys are affable, loveable guys. But they know their role.
    Many of them have taken their own lives or died from drugs and alcohol.
    Comedians have one job. To make others laugh. No matter how bad they feel. It would be hard to be always “on”. No matter if you are an enforcer or comedian.

    Speaking of Seasonal Affective Disorder I am currently reading Ghost Rider and that is the name of the chapter I am in

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I see the reference between Robin Williams and your friend’s son. Both tried to force a smile on their face while trying to deal with their inside demons. “Katy”‘s son sounded like a sweet kid. I’m sorry for her loss. I listened to “Tears of a Clown” today and I love the lyrics and Nicko’s playing in that song!

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  9. Damn, that’s tough stuff. You just never know what’s going on for people on the inside. You know, of course, that my lovely wife is a therapist and has training in CBT (and DBT) and it’s her job every day to help folks going through this very stuff. Every bit of empathy from here, brother! Stay strong!

    Like

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