Don’t Be A Chump, Be A Sal Instead

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I don’t know why, but it always seems that when someone passes away that was influential in my life, it relates to comedy because there are lessons from that person which the comedy community as a whole should embrace, but do not.

I used to be big into the karaoke scene in the city before I got entrenched into stand-up comedy.  Since I was about 21 years old, I hit up the karaoke bars all over town.  Ralph’s Diner, Wah Qua, Pookaroos, Blue Diamond, Crackers, Cheesetoast on 7th, Molly’s, Coachman, Whiskey Jacks, Dublins, Blue Rhino… I’m sure there are ones I can’t think of that should be on this list.

From karaoke is where I formed a bit of my identity, being comfortable in front of a crowd, hosting karaoke shows allowed me to work on my crowd work and timing, while meeting many, many, many good people that I still have friendships with to this day.

I don’t sing very much anymore, because for one thing, I am 46 years old and my pitch and range ain’t what it used to be when I was a 40 year old.  Also, my side project (which you know about but I am not able to discuss on here), in addition to working full time and volunteering, and playing bingo (geez, how did I get this busy all of a sudden?) has me busy enough that when I do have down time, karaoke is never a priority.  I don’t need it the way some of you do because it doesn’t define me.  No, why would I go singing and do something I am good at when I can do comedy instead and fail with nobody giving a shit otherwise?

It seems like every few years now someone passes away that brings my world to a momentary standstill while I remember that person, and the lessons I should learn from their life, and put into practice.  First was Roger Parent, then Ron Larson.  Now, today I can add another name to that list.

Last Friday Saul (Sal) Reis passed away at the age of 59.  He was born in Portugal and if I remember correctly, had a couple of different careers as a window washer and a caretaker for the Saskatoon Catholic School system.

I didn’t see Sal that much, once in a blue moon at the Blue Diamond singing a few songs.  I had his business card from his window washing business, and knew he and a few other karaoke guys had lunch on Tuesdays at the Mandarin Restaurant.  I have Tuesdays off, but only met them for lunch once.  That’s it.  Never called him either to get together for lunch or drinks.  Never added him to keep in touch on Facebook either.  Now, it’s too late for me to do any of those things.

The family pictures Sal took before his passing showed him and his family smiling and laughing, in other words, things that are foreign to my family.  Sal was an easy going guy, hard working, loyal and could take a joke as well as give a ribbing to a friend.  One of his gifts was taking an interest in his friends.  Instead of simply asking how they were doing and what’s new, he would take that opportunity to encourage that person.  He was always positive, smiling, happy and full of insight.

I remember the last time I saw Sal.  It had to have been more than a year ago, maybe a bit longer than that, since I don’t get to the Blue Diamond much anymore, even though I live pretty close.  He mentioned that he stopped in to sing a song or two because his wife had the girls over, and he decided to give her some space and have a ladies night, so he went to see Gus and sing a few songs.

He talked about his window washing company, and mentioned something along the lines of he knew people maybe looked down on him or looked down on window washers in general.  But, Sal told me that he still took pride in doing that job because of the equipment and physicality of the job itself.  Some windows are dangerous for people to try and reach to wash in a residential setting, so that’s where a guy like Sal would come in.  Once his customers saw the job he did, they appreciated it and had a newfound respect for the work that was performed.

He also talked to me about my comedy career, asking questions and quizzing me on how I can make money as a comedian.  He said that painters who paint have to put a monetary value on their work in order to benefit from it, to make a living and allow them to continue, so why can’t you put a value on your comedy?  I mentioned that I wasn’t that good (and still aren’t) and therefore had no opportunities to try and make money.  He said that Jerry Seinfeld is very successful now, but even he started at the bottom and the first few times he tried comedy he wasn’t that good.  He was trying to encourage me when he saw I didn’t have that kind of confidence, getting me to try and think outside of the box.

The ones in life that leave that kind of a mark on you when they pass away, could almost certainly make time for you if you asked.  But we all get too busy in our lives to remember that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for any of us, regardless of who you are or what you do.  When you get lonely like I do, you don’t often think about reaching out to those people who could mentor you, because they are too busy themselves and don’t ever bother to reach out to me, or they say we should make plans but get too buried in their own lives to realize that somebody (me) could use some mentoring to.

I try to keep in touch with people as I am probably the only one I know of who routinely messages friends to see how they are.  I never get that same respect back, except from my life coach.  You cannot change the past but you can take what the past has taught you and use it for your betterment.  Will I ever get it right?  Probably not.  Then again, you won’t get it right either, and haven’t thus far with me.  So, I guess that leaves us all in the same boat, with the only difference being you haven’t noticed I’ve been the only one in the boat wearing my life preserver.

Stop being selfish, get your head out of your ass and go be a Sal to somebody today.  I’d say you should start with me, but that’s selfish coming from a comedian, right?  LOL

 

 

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