As a child, it was the library. A place of quiet, solitude and books, the kind you could smell as soon as you walked in. It was a place to do research, a place to dream, a place to gather your thoughts, a place to lose yourself in books.
For me today, that place is the modern book store; mostly Barnes & Noble, who have managed to drive all their competitors out of town. I really miss the mall book stores, like Walden; and most especially, I miss Borders. They coddled their customers with plush sofas and comfy chairs that were well placed and abundant. Borders treated browsers like myself really well, but they didn’t keep up with technology the way that Barnes and Nobles did with “Nook”, so they lost out in the end.
It’s pretty hard for me to go into a book store and not spend a few hours. The best of times is when I am armed with a gift certificate and have no real agenda; just wandering about to see what catches my eye.
Sometimes I get lost in the philosophy section, often check out the best sellers, and then there are those coffee table books that always arrive just in time for holiday gifting.
And then I noticed it. Darrell Hammond penned an autobiography about his struggles with mental health issues and hospitalizations, drug and alcohol abuse, self mutilation, and a whole range of childhood horrors. “God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F*cked” was the title, it seemed to be just a few years old , and it was in the clearance rack.
There is something so compelling about a story where one overcomes tremendous obstacles, and puts on a happy face for the public. Darrell Hammond has always been a favorite of ours on SNL. With 14 years, he had the most longevity of any cast member, and was said to have done over 100 dead-on impressions; his most requested being the Bill Clinton, with the overbite and the thumbs up. Still makes me laugh .
His talent for impressions came from his desire to appease his mother, who was abusive in every way possible. During the course of his stay on SNL, he was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, Multiple Personality Disorder, Bipolar, and Borderline Personality Disorder. He was on multiple prescription meds, abused cocaine and alcohol regularly, cut himself backstage before every performance, and was even removed in a straight jacket from the NBC offices for emergency psych hospitalizations.
He went public with all this back in 2011, while we were all still laughing at reruns and being amazed by his talent. For me, it went unnoticed until yesterday. It shocked me, made me sad, made me want to read more. But, I just couldn’t bring myself to buy it.
There are poignant moments in my own past, not to this horrific degree, but moments which changed me as a human being; this was a reminder and I didn’t want it gracing my book shelves.
There is nothing random about the fact that his story caught my eye. I have written volumes about my childhood, my personal issues, my struggle to overcome. I will never publish them here. It would be too painful for my birth family, and I don’t know what it would do for anyone else. It was enough for me to write them privately. Getting them all out on paper, or at least as far as I was willing to go, was my only goal. And it was so very therapeutic.
I am so impressed with the courage and candor of Darrell Hammond; it makes me want to watch his comic segments even more; and admire the strength and resilience of the human spirit. Wishing him all the blessings he deserves going forward.