Radical concept: Eat your food; don't talk about it. Off-Ramp for October 6, 2012

Dylan Brody: In a small town, at least people know you. Liking is optional.

Courtesy Dylan Brody

Dylan Brody

(Dylan Brody is recording his next CD on October 18th at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Hollywood and he'd like you to be there. He also produces Thinking Allowed, a monthly evening of spoken word performance at the Fake Gallery in Hollywood.)

Perhaps I was fortunate to have been told early by my mother, "Not everyone you meet in life is going to like you." Although, I could have lived without the end of her thought, "The sooner you can learn that, the sooner you can stop trying to win my affection."

I grew up in Schuylerville, a tiny little town in upstate New York. I remember moving there when I was four and a half. My parents, my sister and I drove all night long in a big, pink Plymouth, a vehicle from which, in times of emergency, smaller vehicles could have been launched. We drove past a sign that said, "Welcome to Schuylerville -- Population 954." And to give you a sense of what sort of town this was, the day we moved in, the old white-haired mayor drove out to the sign with a bucket of paint and, in a Norman Rockwell moment, amended the sign to say, " ... and some Jews."

This was the kind of town that showed up in nostalgic Twilight Zone episodes. Everybody knew everybody else by name. When Tommy Corsign shuffled by, the story of his return from Vietnam, his violent mood swings, and his parents' decision to follow a doctor's advice and have him lobotomized flashed through the mind of each person he passed in almost identical images.

When Cal Hempsworth was arrested over in Mechanicsville, nobody in Schuylerville was surprised; nobody needed to read the whole article to know that it was for arson. That's what Cal did.
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When Al Murphy finally passed away at the age of 88, people brought his widow casseroles but nobody brought her anything with nuts in it because, while she claimed to be allergic to nuts, they actually just made her very, very gassy.

In Schuylerville, we knew one another. Even for those of us who were not well liked, there was a comfort in simply being known.

This explains the allure of fame, the willingness of so many people to expose themselves to public scrutiny in the most unappealing of reality-show circumstances. The illusory sense of intimacy one has with a celebrity, the affection one feels for a person known only through the veil of a public persona, can confuse people into thinking that if they too become famous, they will be well-known and well-liked.

And that explains why live story-telling shows proliferate like rabbits on a competitive mating show, a series that will be coming out on The Learning Channel next year. From the low-key atmosphere of Story Salon at The Coffee Fix in Studio City; to the high-end polish of Sit 'n' Spin at the Comedy Central Stage; to The Moth, Snap Judgment, and This American Life on public radio.

I don't think everybody wants to be famous for 15 minutes. I think we're all starting to figure out that we just want to be listened to for 5. Come out to a show. Listen to some people and, if you like, find someone to listen to you.

And when you find someone, just pray it's not my mother.


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