Dean dressed like a bum and Little Dog* in her stylish down jacket, walking across the pond. Image credit Alex Tuller.
I’m looking for ways to avoid the things I don’t want to do. There’s this long list of practical, business-side things looming over my show, Voice of Authority, before it opens in NYC in February, and then goes to Edinburgh Fringe in August. PR and publicity. Promotion. Audience development.
Just having those things on my to do list stresses me out and my ADD kicks in. The deadlines approach and pass by unmet, and it feels like failure. It feels like empty seats, and the show doesn’t open for a month. Every performer wants there to be someone that handles this for them. But so few of us are at a point in our careers where we can afford that.
This is where I am the moment a friend texts me: “I booked a job in Boston, can you dog sit for me?”
“Sure,” I text back. Dogs are good for stress. I have my own dog, but this other dog is what I need for my stress.
Then I text her, “Hold on one second,” and I text my wife to tell her a friend is asking if we could dog sit over the weekend.
“Okay,” came the response. I read that with the “OK” inflection and not the “okaaaaaay?” inflection she might have intended.
“No problem,” I text back to my friend.
Then my wife texts, “Is it house trained?”
I didn’t ask. Can you imagine having a dog in the city that’s not house trained? What a nightmare.
Also, my wife should text faster.
“It’ll be fine” I text back. “I’ll take care of it.”
I meet my friend and collect her five-month-old, three-pound-max Little Dog*, who shows up sporting a miniature t-shirt and down jacket. Her mom hands me a stack of wee pads. Okay great, I’m all set.
Although Little Dog* is a little disoriented and she misses that wee pad entirely the first night at 1am. I clean up discretely. Puppies make mistakes. No need for the wife to know about it.
And at 4am, Little Dog* misses the wee pad again. Apparently Little Dog* has no idea what a wee pad is. And she has a digestive system the size of peanut.
Have you ever been around a dog that relieves itself every two-and-a-half hours? Because I have not. Not until now.
My dog, Odi, a 40-pound Icelandic Sheepdog, can hold it in forever. We drive to Atlanta from New York with him one time and he was freaked out by the drive and the highway. He doesn’t go once until we get there. Fourteen hours. To me, that’s a dog.
But no worries, Little Dog*. We’ll walk it off.
The first two days we spend hours walking, hours I don’t have to think about PR or audience development, and Little Dog* takes care of business outside. So far, so good.
“There’s an ice storm coming,” my wife says, which sounds like nonsense to me because the sky is crystal clear.
But five hours later, we are covered in a rock hard layer of ice three inches deep, and I’ve learned something new about Little Dog*. Three pound dogs can’t walk on ice or they turn into three pound popsicles pretty quickly.
And you remember what I said about Little Dog* going to the bathroom every two-and-a-half hours? I was so naive back then.
The first crap hits the floor at 4am. The second, while I’m making breakfast for the dogs because I’m up now and I might as well.
“Really? You just went,” I say to Little Dog*. She stares me down and squats. Two feet from the wee pad.
The third time I walk into the bathroom and there she is with another crap. Honestly, I admire the thinking, I come here for this too.
And now she’s eating it.
We find the fourth at noon on the bottom of my wife’s shoe, and she’s starting to suspect that Little Dog* might not be all that house trained. And the 12 paper towels distributed all over the floor, soaking up pee, are reinforcing this idea.
But I’m taking care of it. I have actively chosen to play chamber maid to a three-pound shitting machine who keeps me up all night instead of working on PR and audience development for my show. And now, I have to figure out how to clean the treads of my wife’s shoe while everything outside is frozen solid.
At least I’m not working on PR, right?
In Voice of Authority one of the principle questions is: Are you willing to suffer for something you want? Just as a big a question is: Why are we so often willing to suffer for something we don’t want?
I don’t know how to do PR. Or promotion. Or audience development. So they’re scary. You don’t know where to begin. You don’t know if you sound or look like an idiot. That doesn’t just make those things daunting. It makes me question whether I can even do this show.
If you try and fail, the seats are empty.
If you don’t try, the seats are empty, and you’ve failed.
It’s so incredibly easy to get distracted from the task at hand by the shit in your life, literally in my case. But who wouldn’t rather fail the first way than the second?
If you’re going to have the privilege of being on stage and sharing that experience with an audience, then I suppose there’s a price you’re going to have to pay for that. You can tell yourself it would be more meaningful if you could focus on the performance and someone else would handle the business, but it probably wouldn’t be. At least not until you’d earned it.
And with that in mind, I pull out my computer and start contacting the press about my show, stopping only when I hear my wife scream that, once again, Little Dog* is doing what she does best.
*The dog’s name has been changed at her mom’s request, although true story, I called her Little Dog for her entire visit. That, or LD! It just fit her.
Dean Temple’s comedy solo show Voice of Authority, a true story about getting sued by the US Dept of Justice for $19 million and saved by the choreographer of the Metropolitan Opera, will be at the Kraine Theater in NYC Feb 21-Mar 9 (Tickets»), at 59E59 Theaters in NYC Jul 17-21, and at Surgeon’s Hall at Edinburgh Fringe Aug 2-24. Follow him on Twitter @deantemple and follow the show on facebook.com/deantemplevoa