It has taken me the better part of half a century to learn that I am not a good public speaker. This is not due to a fear of getting on stage, or speaking to large groups of people, but a realization that my mind does not like to perform in real time. I am not a performer of any kind, and despite my abiding love for standup comedy, and the secret fantasy that I might have it in me to perform in this manner, I am not that guy.
“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”Mark Twain
I have experienced glimpses of it, when drinking, when I was in what they call flow, that moment where your synapses are firing and you are loose and everything is working. In these rare moments, I could sense what that might be like, but I recognize that this is not a reality I am destined for.
I firmly believe in having a point of view, a voice of one’s own, and a platform to give that voice resonance. But after careful introspection, it has become self-evident that while I may consider myself a man of words, I am better off in front of keyboard, than in front of a crowd. I can be witty and charming, cruel and romantic, sardonic or sentimental; I can be all these things, but I am better reading what I have had the time to write, rather than remembering that which I endeavored to say.
I believe, were I ever to find an audience willing to sit and listen, that I could train myself to read, quite effectively, in the manner of writers such as David Sedaris, Calvin Trillin and Garrison Keillor. I am not comparing myself to them, either as writers or as performers, but only that they found a way to read aloud what they had written, and to do it with a sense of style that I enjoy.
Bill Bryson has a new book out titled, “The Body.” In an interview I saw, he was marveling at having visited a medical school and observed a dead human body, and was reflecting that without life, it really wasn’t much different in texture and substance than a Thanksgiving turkey. Without the spark of life, it was just meat.
We are this strange collection of water and proteins, some part of which causes electrical currents to pulse throughout our body and here we go along, thinking up Star Wars and nuclear fission, Buddhism and The Big Lebowski, submarines and supersonic jets, Beethoven’s Ode To Joy and Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. And that’s just the shit I know about in English. It’s madness.
I really did have something to say when I sat down to write this, but damn it if I haven’t forgotten what it was.