I take not a thing for granted when and if someone chooses to attend one of my comedy shows. If they've spent valuable time viewing my product, I'm happy as a starving bat hanging in a dark room full of obese mosquitoes.
Counting both inmates and guards I'm guessing there were close to 100 souls in the Rutland Correctional Center's gym/theater watching my show, and I was hoping they understood I was performing in deference to them, sincerely grateful they had signed up to come watch me spout jokes and play guitar.
At middle age we are quite possibly at the peak of our earning and creative powers, so every chance I get to perform is a chance I feel to realize how blessed I've been, not only with my career, but with family, health, friends, environment - just about everything one could think of.
I wonder if the inmates at the Rutland jail would profess similar gratitude related to the lives they've lived; lives that have led them to the big house.
Put a gun to my head and I'd have to say many of them would say they've lived blessed lives. I'd rather believe that instead of blurting that old tired line "Oh, there but for the grace of God go I, we're all just a hair from crossing the line and screwing up badly too," because you and I don't really think we've been very close to crossing the line, do we? I know I haven't. So phooey. Let's not look like idiots by faux empathizing with the plight of crooks and criminals, they're much too smart to believe us.
Dudes and dudettes who're in jail decided on their own to purchase their tickets in; that's a fact. But it doesn't mean that they aren't in many ways able to feel blessed and hopeful about the life that lies ahead. Criminals are just like us. Except they're not.
Toward the end of my performance I picked up my guitar, which I hadn't had time to tune. My battery-operated tuner requires a quiet room to be effective, and I thought the white noise in the gym alone would upset the sound waves enough to make a tuning attempt moot. I also figured one hundred or so men waiting while I tuned might start to get antsy and begin to chitter chat, and the commotion would really throw off the tuner. But I choose to tune anyway thinking at the very least I might get it closer than it was.
Tuning the low E worked well. The next string, the A, also tuned well. As I moved on to the D, I snapped my head up for a quick scan of the room and noticed the audience was completely focused on what I was doing, they hadn't made a peep. I took my time as I successfully tuned the G and B strings. Still not a rustle from the inmates, not so much as an uneven breath. I took extra time tuning the high E to see if I could draw out any sign of discomfort from the inmates, but the energy the group possessed continued to be relaxed. When I was finished tuning, I lifted my head to the content group of inmates and said, "Here's a truck driving song."
A few bars into the song the entire room came alive. Criminals are more polite than the rest of us.
Rusty DeWees tours Vermont and Northern New York with his act "The Logger." His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen for The Logger, Rusty DeWees, Thursdays at 7:40 on the Big Station, 98.9 WOKO or visit his website at www.thelogger.com