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The Same Sad You

Every generation thinks theirs had the best Saturday Night Live cast. I was too young to stay up late and catch the show when the comedic groundbreakers known as the “Not Ready For Prime Time Players” lit up the SNL stage. But I have watched all their re-runs and I love their brilliant and hilarious sketches. John Belushi and Bill Murray’s classic “Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger, Chips, Pepsi” skit. The suave and dapper Chevy Chase reading the headlines in “Weekend Update”. Dan Aykroyd and Steve Martin as “two wild and crazy guys”, newly arrived immigrant brothers from some unheard of eastern European country. Oddly enough, in this skit from 1977, the brothers, Yortuk and Jorge Fenstruck, were fleeing the “Russian tanks” that had invaded their country - so I guess some things never change. And who can forget the brilliant comedian Gilda Radner in the classic “Jewess Jeans” commercial. That skit did get a firm rebuke from the anti-defamation league…but it’s priceless nonetheless.


I didn’t really start watching SNL until I was out of college, but the early 1990s was not a bad time to start tuning in as the cast members performed some legendary sketch comedy in those years. Chris Farley and guest host Patrick Swayze as Chippendales dancers. Wayne's World starring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth, a misfit pair of basement-dwelling metalheads. Phil Hartman, who I had a bit of a crush on in those days, played Garth's dad “Beev", so named because of his unfortunate teeth. And who could forget the hilarious cold open, “Rockers Explain Whitewater”, with the cast doing spot-on impersonations of Elton John, Cher, Tina Turner, Kurt Cobain and Axl Rose in which they chillingly parodied the Clintons’ involvement in the Whitewater scandal. A scandal that would, had it happened in the age of the internet, surely have destroyed their glittering political aspirations.


But my all-time favorite SNL skit has to be from 2019 in which Adam Sandler plays Joe Romano from Romano tours, a family-run company offering tours to Italy. This skit is a direct spoof of Perillo Tours, which has been advertising on TV since the 1980s. From everything I have read, the Perillo family, instead of being upset by Adam Sandler’s depiction of their patriarch, were instead “flattered”.


In 1995 Adam Sandler was fired from SNL due to poor ratings. He came back 24 years later to host the show and in his opening act invited Chris Rock (who had also been fired from the show) onstage to sing a song roasting producer Lorne Michaels and his poor casting decisions. Sandler proudly announced that since his firing he had made over $4 billion at the box office. “So I guess you can say I won” he declared.


In this 2019 “Adam Sandler returns victorious to the SNL stage” skit, Joe Romano has apparently received some negative reviews online about his family's tour operations and he has made an infomercial to set the record straight.


“I want to be very clear about what we can do for you” Adam, as Joe, says as he stares straight into the camera. “We can take you on a hike. We cannot turn you into someone who likes hiking. We can take you to the Italian Riviera. We cannot make you feel comfortable in a bathing suit. We can provide you with a wine tasting in Tuscany. We cannot change why you drink. Or the person you become when you do. Okay???”


“If you’re sad now, you might still feel sad there” he continues. “If you are sad where you are, and then you get on a plane to Italy, you, in Italy will be the same sad you from before, just in a new place.”


Adam Sandler as Joe Romano wants to be very clear about what his tours can do and what they cannot do. “A tour of Italy” he assures us, “cannot fix deeper issues, like how you behave in group settings or your general baseline mood. That’s a job for incremental lifestyle changes sustained over time.”


“This may sound rude” he tells us, “but I’m trying to temper expectations.”


I love this skit. I watch it several times a year and it always makes me laugh. But it also makes me cringe deeply, because at the end of my drinking days that was me. The person getting on a plane, running from myself.


In A.A. we call that “doing a geographic”, which means traveling or even pulling up stakes completely and moving across the planet. Active addicts will often pull these “geographics” in a futile attempt to run away from themselves, their minds, their crushing addictions. But as I have learned in A.A. and from my own bleak experiences, “wherever you go, there you are”.


I remember a stark example of this. I was traveling through Thailand and Bali in 1997, two years before I stopped drinking. At the time I was there the Thai government was doing a big crackdown on alcohol consumption and alcohol was only allowed to be purchased at weird and inconvenient hours in far from town places. It was impossible to find a bottle of vodka (trust me on that…impossible) which was what I had been looking for since the second my plane touched down in Bangkok.


So I was miserable. I hated Thailand. And Bali too. Because at this point I was addicted to alcohol and it was hard to get my medicine in those countries. To tell the truth, thanks to the constantly narrowing point of view my alcoholism afforded me (eventually turning “getting it” and then “drinking it” into the center of my universe) I thought all of Indonesia just sucked.


I was, as Joe Romano had promised, the same sad me as I had been in New York. The same sad me addicted to alcohol. As I traveled through those stunning countries all I could think about was where the hell I was going to find a bottle of vodka. I didn't appreciate the Buddhas, the temples, the landscape, the culture or the food. I was desperate to get the hell back to New York City where alcoholics can happily find whatever they want to drink, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.


But now I’m sober. And I’ve been sober for quite a while. In sobriety the world has opened up to me. I can go anywhere and have a good time because I am no longer trapped by alcoholism. No longer a slave to the repetitive, demoralizing, and quite boring grind of active addiction.


So now when I travel, instead of taking the same sad me everywhere I go, I take the sober me. This non-addicted, open and curious (dare I say happy?) me now travels with me wherever I might choose to go.


And we usually have a wonderful time.


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