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HOW TO PAY FOR OTHER PEOPLE'S INDIFFERENCE.

When I told Tax I'd just found out I was going to perform on Premium Blend later this summer, his immediate response was, "What's that pay now?"

Tax is always very concerned the bottom line. It's nice to know this is a quality that extends all the way from multi-billionaires down to guys with chapped hands who ask you for spare change outside Ace Supermarkets. Money has been the central theme of our small talk ever since Tax found out I perform stand-up comedy sometimes. Tax is convinced I should be making Flip Wilson cash as a stand-up; Redd Foxx dough. It has become increasingly depressing each time we have this little talk. It's almost like a ritual. He sees me. I give him money. He asks if I'm coming from or heading to a gig. I usually say "no." He says to tell me when I've got an upcoming show, and I promise I will. (knowing I won't, and he won't, and somehow through it all I can't believe I'm actually having a bit of that phony LA-style "we should totally get lunch!" chatter with a homeless man.) Then, just before I can get away, Tax asks, "they pay you good money for that? You make nice money?"

I don't. I have made more in an average week of work as a summer camp counselor than I've made across my entire brief tenure as a comic. But I'm getting a bit of cash for this Comedy Central thing so I hung around a bit longer yesterday and let Tax know, partly because I wanted to make sure he understood that I'm sort of making a living from this (I'm not) and partly because, honestly, I was pretty excited about the news and would have told the guys inside Ace Supermarket if any of them spoke English.

"I'm making a little cash, yeah. It's TV so, you know..."

Tax's face lit up. "Oh yeah, what's it on?"

When I said "Comedy Central," a little too loudly, Tax's expression darkened again, and his creases frowned.

"Oh, so not real TV," he said. "Not like NBC or-or-or wun-uh-dem?"

"Well," I said, "Comedy Central is real. I mean, it's not network or anything but "

Tax gave me a weak, encouraging smile. "Never heard that but I'm sure that's nice for you."

WE FIRST MET ON 06.07.2005

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