I wake up my cousin Karim who’s staying with me at my parent’s house in Fremont. It’s 8 am and he’s driving me to the San Jose airport so I can make my 930 am flight to Austin. I wave bye to my niece who says, ‘Bye, Uncle Sam!’ It’s hard leaving home, where I’m treated like a celebrity. My mom says, ‘You know, Sam, you’re the star of the family.’ I’m like, ‘Well that’s not saying much.’
We head out the door and are off to a slow start, as South Bay morning traffic is always bad. The clock nears 9 am and I start to panic, but we pull up, and I jet out to get my boarding pass and run up to the TSA. I start to take my belt off, and the TSA agent says, ‘No wait! You don’t have to take it off. You can just come right through!’. I was like ‘Really?!’ He’s like ‘Yea! Wait, you are with that woman and child right there, right?’ He points to a woman and child behind me. I say ‘no’. He says ‘Oh, yea, well then take off your belt.’ Ah TSA, always keeping us guessing!
I pass out on my flight and wake up in Austin, hungry for some food trucks. I text my cousin Paul who went to UT and ask him where the best food trucks are. He says, ‘Do you not have a phone with internet?’ Remember back when we used to use other people as Google? I do. He gives me a few suggestions and I head there, but most of the trucks are closed this time of day. Passing through Austin always has some sort of familiarity, even though this is only the second time I’ve been here. I think it’s because my parents both went to UT and this is where they started dating, so the foundations of attraction that formed me on the molecular level were constructed in Austin. I stop by Whole Foods, which was also founded in Austin, no wonder we have a special connection.
I have a 3 hour drive to Texas A&M University, and I have a pounding headache. I was only home for 1 day since my last college tour trip. I need rest. I’m driving alone in a rental car, and my back and head are throbbing. I push closer and closer to the show, and I just don’t feel like performing tonight. I’m hosting their talent show too, which will be rough, going up after each act and smiling. Ugh, I wish I just had a break! I pull up my email to look up the phone contact for the show, as I’m half an hour away. I click on the number but accidentally pull up the address of the college.. The map shows it as being 5 hours away, near Dallas. Wtf? I thought I was half an hour away. There’s got to be a mistake. I map it again and it says 5 hours. Then, I call my agent. Apparently there are two Texas A&M’s. And I booked my flight, rental car, and an extra day in Austin, for the wrong location. This is where asking a real person instead of Googling would have come in handy. The show is in an hour and I’m 5 hours away. There’s no way I will make it. Looks like I actually will have a break tonight…be careful what you wish for.
I sort it out with my agent and the school, who are surprisingly understanding even though I feel like an idiot, and I’m out about 2 grand. Probably shouldn’t have blown $50 at Whole Foods. I could have gone to Dallas, stayed with my grandma and saved even more money. But now I’m in Austin for Halloween, with nothing to do. But somehow, even though I have a 2 hour drive back to Austin, I feel relieved. My headache is gone, and now I feel free, to do whatever I want tonight. So I call up my comic friend Maggie Maye and ask if she can get me on any shows tonight. She gets me on two open mics, which will make up for my lost stage time at the college. It’s pouring rain in Austin, with lightning and thunder going off every few minutes. If you’ve never endured a Texas thunderstorm, it’s a little scary, because Texas even likes it’s thunder bigger, to the point where you think you are about to be struck down at any moment. To die in Texas, what a fate that would be. I navigate my way to the two shows, one which I bomb and the other where I do decently. No new fans, no pay. So this is what I came to Austin for. I thought maybe some of the comics in Austin would have seen me on Conan, and not make me sign up and wait in line. Something to make me feel like I’ve paid my dues, and didn’t just fly out here out of pocket to be at the bottom of the ladder. But alas, no one recognized me.
I’m staying with a Persian family that I’ve never met, but is friends with someone who I’ve also never met, but is a fan of mine online. She put me in touch with a 27 year old named Ali, who lives with his parents. I get to the house, where he shows me to my own room with a bed, and his mom makes me a fruit platter and chicken with the Persian crisped rice (tahdig). Royal treatment. His dad comes and talks to me about life and the flawed politics in the Middle East, and refers to his son as ‘the ugly one’ and talks about how stupid and lazy he is. Only been here an hour and I’m already the favorite child, nice! Back to family celebrity status.
I sleep brilliantly, best sleep I’ve had in months, and wake up a new man. I hang out with Ali for a while then hit the town, get some food, and go to buy a Halloween costume for tonight. I get in the store and there’s just too many options, so I leave for a few hours, and come back, when there’s less stuff left, to just let fate pick for me. I see an opened package with an Uncle Sam hat with a white beard and see that it is reasonably priced. I put it on and head to my show at Cap City Comedy Club, where I promptly take it off, do my set, and then put it back on. Again, no one recognized me from TV at the club. What’s the point of being on TV if only your family recognizes you? I head to the downtown strip with some new friends, where everyone is walking around in costume. I know mine is nothing special, but it’s enough to fit in the herd. And then I realize, I needed to pay $20 just to walk this strip and not feel like I was disappointing others by not being dressed up. And yet my costume is generic, and likely someone else in this town who’s wearing it too. Why am I wearing this stupid costume? And then, as we walk down the strip, a guy looks at me and says, ‘Hey! It’s Uncle Sam!!’ And then it all made sense. I’ll tell you, I know I’m not really Uncle Sam, but it did feel good to finally have my wish, to be recognized.