Cold Italian Pizza

Cold Italian Pizza

Rachel Butera

The Tiny Gesture

Last weekend I did a comedy show in Stockton, CA, a town about 5 hours from here. I was anxious to drive up there myself and nervous about doing 2 shows in a night. The guy that hired me had a whole evening of comedy and his naughty hypnosis act planned. I wanted to do a good job. 


All week leading up to the trip I was unusually nervous. By the time I got there and checked into my room my heart was pounding and I couldn't seem to settle down. Performance anxiety, self-doubt, being away from (what isn't even my) home, alone. All this worked me up. 


The day of the show was a long one. I was up at 6am and we drove 45 minutes to be on Good Day Sacramento, which was cool and exciting. Then we drove back, ate lunch at the bar where the show would later be, and I went back to my hotel to go over material. I felt shaky and sweaty. After the appearance on GDS, calls started coming for tickets the show. To see me. More pressure. I'm not gonna make it. 


Nervous dumps before the performance

In a large back room of a sports bar where the show would take place, the crowd started rolling in for the 7 o'clock show. The room had its own bar and a bartender, Adam, with whom I chatted briefly as I sat and waited for it all to begin. I asked him what was in the jar on the counter. "Sangria," he said. "Wanna try some?" I said yes and it was pretty good. Didn't really want to drink before the show. 


The crowd looked tough. Middle aged. Old and tired. I'm in trouble, I thought. But I won them over and killed. Adam watched the set and asked where in Jersey I was from. He'd spent some time living in South Amboy, so we hit it off and started talking about the Garden State. Didn't hurt that he was tall and cute, although he mentioned right away that he had a fiance. Oh well. Not like I was gonna move to Stockton or anything. 


I was milling around in between shows and I found I kept gravitating to the bar. Adam asked if I was a Bruce fan and that set the two of us bonding over The Boss. Shows we've seen, songs we love, records we own. He put a Bruce tune on, asked if I wanted another drink. I was sticking with water. There's a special kind of connection you feel with someone who's shared your home state. Whenever I catch myself getting excited to meet someone in LA that's from New Jersey I think of The English Patient. Juliet Binoche's character Hannah explains to the embittered and charred Count Almasy played by Ralph Fiennes that "There's a war - where you're from becomes important." He hates that. I get that. Living in LA it seems that where I'm from is more important than ever. So I felt a connection to Adam. Everyone else in that bar was a stranger to me, but suddenly I didn't feel so alone. 


My second set wasn't as successful as the first. The crowd was much younger and for whatever reason, less responsive to me. It wasn't a total bomb, but I was struggling up there. It was late. I was tired and spent. I came off stage and slumped in a chair against the back wall, feeling like a loser and watching languidly as the second hypnosis show began. I felt like crying and like the lonliest girl in the world. Just then Adam came walking by on his way to the back storage room, and in this magical, miniscule nothing little gesture, he placed a cup of red wine in my hand. "Thanks doll," I said, but the exchange for me was so moving it lives with me still, a week later.


One could argue that he was simply a bartender who saw my set and knew I'd felt beat and thought I could use a drink. But to me it felt like understanding and connection. A shorthand than only comes from knowing somone a long time. The movement was so fluid it's as if I raised my hand in anticipation of the glass before it even got to me. It wasn't about sex or lust or hooking up or anything like that. It was simply that invisible, inexplicable connection you sometimes feel toward a fellow earthling. Maybe that's what God is.


Call me melodramatic, vulnerable, sensitive, a wreck. I'm all those things. I'm also lucky enough to be someone who can recognize and relish the magic in a tiny gesture. For it is the stuff of which butterflies in the belly are made.



It's Hot, I'm Distracted...

I’m sitting at Le Pain Quotidien in Hancock Park in Los Angeles and there are at least 3 famous people here, but I don’t care. I’m supposed to be writing my own jokes for the James Franco roast so I can live-Tweet and show Comedy Central how funny I am. At least that’s what my big shot guardian angel at Brillstein Entertainment Partners said to do. He said, “You’re a great fucking writer” to me last week, and he bases that solely on my Facebook jokes. And this man represents some of the funniest people you know. So I do what he tells me. He’s trying to make me make it. I barely know him but I love him. Hearing that I’m a great comedy writer makes me prouder than anything I’ve done.


But I’m tired, I’m distracted. I’m thinking about my headshots sitting in the photographer’s mailbox across town that I’m going to get after this dentist appointment.  It’s hot, I have my period. I’m tired- did I say that? I’m wondering if I’ll see the hot 26 year old after his long, arduous first week at school. Cue the Rod Stewart. It’s not love, it’ll never be love, but he’s a good kisser and it feels nice to have big, strong arms around my body. It’s been too long. But mostly I’m just worried I can’t write enough jokes in the next three days. It’s not just Franco. It’s all the other ones. The number of roasters is overwhelming and I’m tired, it’s hot, I have my period.. I don’t want to let Papa Brillstein down. I don’t want to let myself down. So Labor Day Weekend will be writing. Today… not so much. Unless you count this.


I’m distracted…


I heard a story this week about a guy I used to work with in the office back in Jersey. His wife died of cancer shortly before I left 2 years ago. We all loved this guy, he is a top-notch gent. A rare one. He kept a smile on his face through the whole thing and never lost his composure, though he did lose a lot of weight. You say Anthony, you see Anthony, you smile. He’s one of those. So I hear Anthony found a new love and that he’s moving down to Florida to be with her. He’s already secured a new job. He’s changing his life. He’s not just chugging along after being let go from Medco, our company, along with hundreds of others. He made this change. He’s living. I love this story.


I’m about to go get my teeth drilled some more. I gotta deposit 2 checks first. I should just hand them to the DDS.


I'm always amazed when people completely change their lives, whether they move far away or convert to a new religion or drastically change professions or leave a lover because it's not working out. It's so rare because for some reason we humans convince ourselves that we're stuck. How did we learn this behavior and attitude? I think a lot of why we're afraid of change is rooted in guilt. Guilt for even WANTING it. Guilt is a learned behavior and such a wasted emotion. I’m guilty of it. Of guilt. The thing is, we're so free and we don't even know it.


It’s hot, I’m tired, and I’m distracted by the thought that death is certain and soon. And that we should live. 


"They're writing songs of love, but not for me." --George Gershwin


I understand now that I was born to suffer so I can make the world laugh. It’s the only explanation for why I’m forced to be alone when all I want is to be with someone. For too long I wondered why I couldn’t find the amazing love I grew up seeing in the movies. It’s not fabricated by Hollywood—it exists. I’ve seen it happen to real people. Whirlwind romances with true passion and devotion. Love that plumbs the depths of hell only to rise again unscathed. Sex, crazy intimate, soul-purging sex, where you stare in each other’s eyes and lose all sense of time and space and people and you’re the only two that exist on the planet. I think I felt that for a minute or two in my twenties. In the basement of a bar on the lower east side with a tall, beautiful boy. Or maybe it was just the pot.


For the last few years of my life, people have been fond of saying, “You’re going after your dream! You’re making your dream come true!” I don’t correct them, but the truth is I never had this dream. I didn’t dare dream of going to LA to make it in the entertainment business. I never had any kind of confidence or wherewithal to think that that would have been a possibility. Dream? Perhaps a fantasy. A fleeting, forbidden thought. “Maybe I could—no way.” “But I do believe I have somethi—but I can’t.” But hardly. It was definitely not my dream. My only real dream was to find love. To be understood. Not by the masses, the millions, the madding crowds, but by one special person. For what could be more powerful, more moving than that connection? It’s rare and elusive, and when you think you’ve found it, if you’re me… you’re wrong. You haven’t found shit.

"It seems unfair when there's love everywhere but there's none for me." --Jeff Fortgang

I’ve spent a good portion of my life adoring men who don’t adore me. Oh, they dangle the carrot, so to speak, and they’re somewhat fond of me and find me attractive and want to have sex with me. But they don’t love me. They won’t move mountains to be with me. And I’ve come up with all kinds of excuses about why they won’t. He’s got emotional problems…  He knows he’d be bad for me and he doesn’t want to do that to me... He likes me TOO much (that one’s my favorite)…. If he wasn’t married he’d be totally in love with me…. He knows I’ll make him too happy and he wants to be miserable (second fave!)… He’s gotta be with someone he can control... He’s gotta be with someone who’ll control him.


On and on and on this nonsense goes in my twisted brain when I know the truth is simply that I have made up these imaginary relationships in my head. There were no relationships. I make it convenient for them to use me when it’s convenient for them. Hands on my tits on the dance floor while he swayed to the Ramones, hands down my pants in the afternoon when his wife was away, holding his hand at a Sunday matinee when that other girl cancelled on him, screwing him on a Monday night while he leaves the game on in the background, hand jobs on deliveries in his truck while his wife worked at the hospital, stroking his cock after hours in the office before his birthday dinner with his family, being eaten out in his Jeep in the parking lot between bitter arguments with his ex, with whom he was still in love, one last unprotected fling before he married that cunt who would divorce him 6 years later…


I don’t blame any of these men. They are men and this is men’s nature. I pick these men. I pick the same man over and over and over again. I’m attracting them. I know this. I don’t know why or how to stop it. Perhaps the thought of that real love scares me so much I chose men I know can never give it to me. Unavailable men, beautiful men, emotionally disturbed men and yet… these are the only men with whom I feel a connection. But the connection is a farce if only one person feels it. Or acts on it or believes in it.


Dreams indeed. I’ve been walking through my life in a dream believing that these men give any real kind of thought to me. The one who can’t sleep, can’t eat, can’t do anything but think of me? That’s for other girls. And it is not just a matter of time. I’m 41 years old, how fucking many nights do I have to come home to an empty house and go to bed alone? The answer: every night. Because I’m a comedian. I was born that way. I’ve been doing the dance for love and acceptance and laughter since I could figure it out. Observing, watching, imitating, imagining—that’s what makes up all the flesh of my body. It’s pretty tough armor and it works to keep the real world out. So how can I expect to get love when all I do is make fun of it? I cant—but I also can’t stop making fun of it. I believe you have to choose between love and your personality. My personality is going to be a challenge for most men. I’m not the easy pick. I’m not “hot” enough to look past the pain in the ass personality. So it’s gonna be a tough road. No, it’s gonna be a fucking ripped up, gravelly, raised manholes ahead road where love is concerned.


Either that or I drop the act.


"So I made my mind up, I must live my life alone, though it's the easy way I guess I've always known I'd say goodbye to love." - Richard Carpenter

By the way, check out the original version of Rod Stewart's "Some Guys Have All The Luck."

I'm a believer

I figured my first blog should start on a sour note. That's so me. Real quick:


I strolled to the farmer's market today looking shoddy. I was wearing an old dress I've had for years that seems like a rag to me. My new haircut has already lost its appeal for me and last night's makeup was clinging to the bags under my eyes.


Yet, as I was getting a charcoal-roasted $2.50 cup of coffee, a sweet, young girl who looked like Maeby Bluth said, "That's a lovely dress you're wearing," and then she asked me if I was an actress. I was embarrassed to say yes, not because I think acting is silly (I do). But because I thought if I say yes she'll think, "Yeah right, she's not pretty enough to be an actress--she's fat! Who would put her in anything? Just another one out here thinking she's an actress." 


So I nodded reluctantly and said, "Well, mostly voiceover, but yeah."


And she said, "I can see how you would be an actress--you're very beautiful." I demurely said thank you, looked away and shook my head with an eye roll. And with such a pure heart, this girl looked at me and said, "Why would you shake your head at that?" I replied, "Because it's a crazy thing to hear." 


And I instantly recongnized that I'm still doing this to myself. Believing what I heard in the past, past, past. This past that doesn't even exist. I'm still believing all that shit, here, among the zucchini and beets and feta dip. 

I would never look at this girl and think actress or very beautiful or lovely dress. 


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