Editor's Note: Writing for Daylight

| Utne Reader May / June 2007

Back when my idea of a cocktail party involved plastic cups and a keg, I earned my rent working the box office at a small comedy theater conveniently located across the street from a pizza joint with a late -- night happy hour.

Like restaurant workers, fledgling theater types are a tightly knit lot who keep late hours. When a show is up and running, work starts in the late afternoon and ends when your 9 -to-5 friends are brushing their teeth. Unwinding usually involves a tavern or a house party or, when the bottles are aligned, both.

One evening, then-Saturday Night Live cast member Chris Farley came by the theater to join the cast for a special late-night set. Afterward, we all went across the street to celebrate, and Farley, a volatile talent with a growing reputation for bawdy behavior, did not disappoint. His liquor of choice was whiskey, and with every shot his jokes and gestures got more outrageous. By last call Farley was drinking from the bottle. My stomach hurt from laughing.

The next workday, while fumbling with the coffeemaker, I ran into the one actor at the theater who was a bit older, engaged to be married, and seemed to make a point of avoiding staff after hours. As she brewed a pot of tea I regaled her with highlights of Farley's drunken monologue. She listened patiently, smiling politely at the punch lines, and then took a sip of tea.

'I can't be around that anymore,' she said quietly.

Over the next several weeks we got to know each other better. I came to learn that she was a recovering addict and alcoholic, and she told me about the rituals she'd begun to beat back the demons: attending midnight films at a nearby campus cinema; going out for leisurely midweek brunches; cooking late-night dinners with her fiance, who was also attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. She told me how much fun she was having, how alive she felt -- for the first time in memory.

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