Jul 08, 2009, 12:03PM

The man just can't catch a break

"The Seven Suicide Attempts of Sinbad"

It’s 1976, and David Adkins stands on a chair in the middle of his childhood bedroom in Michigan. He’s surrounded by pot smoke and triceratops wallpaper. Around his neck is the zebra-striped belt that his high school girlfriend Michelle bought him for his Halloween costume four years ago, back when things were still okay. Right now he misses her like crazy. He knows she wouldn’t answer if he called.David is only twenty years old, but already he feels like a failure. As he tightens his makeshift noose, he remembers all the painful memories that made up his short but shitty life. His lingers on the moment just one month ago when things went so horribly wrong:The night before the big basketball game he was out with some friends at the Denver Improv. Drinking. Smoking pot. Performing bad stand-up comedy. The next day, he was so torn up by the night before that he blew the big buzzer shot. It would have put the University of Denver in the play-offs.Hindsight. It’s 20-20, isn’t it?The chair teeters. David’s house phone rings. For reasons known only to that bitch we call The Universe, he slides the belt-noose off his neck and hurries downstairs to answer it. It’s his ex-Navy buddy Calvin. Bad news, Dave: Tommy Bolin, the guitarist of Deep Purple, just died of a heroin overdose. Everyone is going over to Robin’s house to get fucked up and listen to records. David says in a whisper that he’ll be there and hangs up the phone.He goes there. And it’s there that he dies. For twenty whole minutes he’s dead. No pulse; nothing. His heart nearly exploding because there’s too much goddamn Dr. Pepper and crank in his veins.When he’s finally brought back to life on the table with a pair of electric paddles he’s no longer the same man.He is Sinbad.2.
Cut ahead eight years, to 1983. Sinbad has a loaded pistol in his mouth. He’s crying, repeating over and over to himself that he doesn’t want to die. He says this like he’s not the one holding the gun. Like there’s someone else around. But there isn’t. He’s alone, in the green room of the Dallas Chucklebox, a club that hasn’t heard a legitimate laugh in over twelve years.He’s high as a kite.Sinbad wonders how long it’ll take Dolores to find his body. It could be years. He cocks the pistol and closes his eyes. He hopes that there is no such thing as an afterlife, because haunting this shithole would be the absolute dregs.Goodbye cruel world!Why does Sinbad want to die this time? Why else? No one came to his show. Not even the bartender stuck around for his set. How’s that for a joke? The sad motherfucker performed his entire routine anyway, pausing after the punchlines because he thought he could hear the universe laughing.There’s a knock at the door. Sinbad stuffs the gun between the couch cushions and cracks the door open a little. A young girl with long black hair and a pasty complexion stands in the hallway. She works the box office.She says she just got a call from something called… Star Search?3. Let’s go to 1993. Pants are big. Jurassic Park is making triceratops cool again. Sinbad is cleaning out his garage when he gets the crazy idea to drink a gimlet of drain de-clogger. He’s sitting on the hood of his Camaro with the bottle in his hand and could end it all right now if he can just get this darn cap off.You always wonder why someone would choose to kill themselves in such a gut-destroying manner when there are so many other viable and far less-painful ways of exiting this world. The answer is this: Sinbad feels like he deserves pain. He’s been a terrible man for the last ten years. A giant, bald black prick.He thinks this will be a fitting end to his life. Poetic, even. A Different World was axed way before its time. Sinbad could die with it. He grabs a rag and uses it to get some friction on this cap. It’s no use.He glances sadly at the empty parking spot next to him. He blames himself for the dissolution of his marriage. It was always about him, his career. What his next movie was going to be. Where his next stand-up gig would take him. No time to have a baby, Baby. The career is just taking off.Sinbad, Sinbad, Sinbad!A selfish end to a selfish man. Unfortunately, the cap proves far too difficult to remove and Sinbad abandons the drain de-clogger plan after twenty minutes of strained groaning. He returns to the living room and flips on the TV. As he nurses the burning in his arm with a six-pack of Coors Lite, he briefly wonders if there really are such things as guardian angels. And if there are, can’t they just leave him the fuck alone?4.
The next attempt is only a year later, in 1994. Sinbad stands on the wrong side of the railing of the George Washington Bridge. It’s the middle of the day, so a crowd of people are watching the television personality with exaggerated looks of disbelief.This is before everyone had cameras in their phones, so right now all they can do is watch. Watch and hope that the people back home will believe they saw Sinbad jump off a bridge. You should have seen him, Gladys! He was much taller than he looks on TV!Tears stream down Sinbad’s face and leap off his chin into the water below. The reasons he has to die today are too numerous to count. This year has been nothing short of sin-bad. There’s no other way to put it. (Though I wish there was.)Meteor Man came and went and made a paltry 9 million dollars at the box office. Sinbad’s big cinema debut was in a dud, an asteroid that broke apart upon reaching atmosphere. The world isn’t ready for a black superhero. Or meteors. Or something. To make matters worse, The Sinbad Show is abruptly cancelled. This cuts the man deep. May you never know the failure of a product that bears your moniker! The pain is the pain of a thousand mental deaths.The final nail in the coffin was the death of Clive Jones – Sinbad’s Jack Russell Terrier. Poisoned himself off that blue 2000 Flushes shit in the toilet bowl. A dead dog made dead by Sinbad’s carelessness. He was too fucked up on speed to remember to put the lid down.Sinbad has one hand off the rails when a car screeches to a halt. A very gay man in a fedora turns up his radio. Kurt Cobain is dead. A shotgun to the head. The crowd is stunned speechless. They all turn and stare at Sinbad.The world needs comedy, their faces say. Please. Don’t leave us now.So Sinbad lives to see another miserable day.5.
It’s seven years later. 2001. Remember that year? Man. That was one for the books. Anyway, right now none of that shit has happened yet. Sinbad has never even heard of Osama bin Laden or Al Queda and he certainly doesn’t have those things on the mind as he sits in his front seat of his Cadillac and waits for the engine fumes to overtake him.So what’s he got on his mind? Himself, of course. That should come as no surprise.He’s depressed that his career never took off the way he thought it would. He’s depressed because he’s an old man now. Bald not by choice anymore. His dreams of being the next Eddie Murphy have been thoroughly dashed. At this point, he’d be lucky to be compared to Chris Rock.Sure, there was a movie here and there. Jingle All the Way. That was a decent flick. But Sinbad made the mistake that a lot of unconfident actors make: he saw his movie in a movie theater. Sitting in the back row, a ballcap pulled low to hide his face. And you know what happened? People laughed more at Arnold than him. The fucking Austrian bodybuilder got more laughs than the stand-up comedian.So that’s why the offers didn’t come rolling in. That’s why the best gig he got all year was the Miss Universe Pageant. And he couldn’t even enjoy that because his dick has been limp for eight months.And lets not even get into the $2,522,424.10 he owes to the state of California in back taxes.Sinbad feels light headed. He leans forward and rests his head on the steering wheel. Sleep. Sleep. That’s the way to go. Drifting off into a nice sleep. Oh, look! The garage door is opening! The sunlight is so beautiful! Meredith’s car is so shiny and new! The baby is sitting in the back seat eating French fries! To him, everything is so wonderful and new! Honk, honk! Why would anyone ever want to die?!6.
Let me answer that question with a question. How is it possible that in 2006 Comedy Central named Sinbad the 78th greatest stand-up comedian of all time while Maxim magazine labeled him the worst stand-up comedian of all time?By that logic, there have only been 78 stand-up comedians. Ever.Sinbad makes a list of all the comedians he knows as he waits for the bottle of horse tranquilizer to do its job. He’s sitting on the back patio, looking out over the pool as little Royce bats at a drowned bee with a foam stick in the hot tub. He’s already at forty-four by the time he loses his faculties, well on his way to naming over a hundred.His final thought before he blacks out: “Maxim was right.”Imagine the disappointment of waking up in a hospital after a failed suicide attempt. Sure, you’re alive, but now you have to deal with so much bullshit that you only want to kill yourself more. You’ve got your family and friends paying visits, trying to pretend that you didn’t just try to do what you just tried to do. As if they just ran into you at the supermarket. As if you hadn’t decided that they weren’t a good enough reason to stick around and see life through.Of course, Sinbad’s done this six times now. Two are common knowledge. Everyone’s here is an old hand. They sit at his bedside and conduct business as usual. His scattershot suicide attempts are no longer personal tragedies, but an event that brings everyone together every five or so years. A reunion.Pauly Shore brings a bottle of wine.On his second night in the hospital, a nurse asks Sinbad if he’s friends with actor and comedian Mark Curry. You know, Mr. Cooper? From Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper? Or the Drew Carey Show?Of course he is. Why?Well, Mark was brought into the emergency room a couple minutes ago with burns on over 18% of his body. His arm, his back, and his side were scorched while the poor guy was doing laundry. An aerosol can trapped between the dryer and the water heater exploded. Bad luck. I’m sorry.Sinbad visits Mark three days later. The man is in bad shape. He’s loopy, hopped up on painkillers, reciting old jokes from bits that have been dead for a decade or more. He recognizes his friend, calls him David. Sinbad is patient with him, sits at his bedside for a few hours and reads.There’s a brief moment of terrible clarity that afternoon, as Sinbad is about to leave:“I don’t want to live,” Mark Curry says. “I can take being a washed-up comedian. I can take being on Celebrity Mole Yucatan. But I can’t take being a burn victim.”Sinbad doesn’t know what to say. He’s been in Mark’s position before. Kind of. He’s heard a thousand different sympathies that never seem to stick. A million different inspirational speeches that slip out of the brain the minute one leaves the hospital. He opens his mouth and is about to say something about having trust in the Lord and his Plan and that things can always get better, but he doesn’t want to lie to his dear friend Mark. He wants to help him. He wants to be honest. To say something truthful.The ultimate observation about life.But before Sinbad can enlighten Mark Curry, a special guest appears from behind the privacy curtain:Bill Cosby. The stand-up comedian to end all stand-up comedians. The Alpha and the Omega of humor. The creator of Fat Albert. A comedy God who walks among us plebeians, restoring our faith in humanity with his every anecdote. Sinbad can’t believe his eyes. Looking at him is like trying to stare at the sun. His mind can’t comprehend him, as if he was a trick of the light or one of those impossible objects.“Bill…” Mark groans.Bill Cosby speaks. His words are perfect and pointed. His wisdom is infinite. His gravelly voice floats through the hospital wings like a stiff breeze, wedging itself in the ears of the deaf and the mouths of the mute. It reverberates through the burn ward; rings like a seraphim bell through the trauma center; travels through the hospital vents and blows into the rooms of every sick or damaged creature. All who hear it feel the warmth of humanity. It does more than cure the ill. It resurrects them.And when he’s finished Mark is a man transformed. He’s weeping. Of course, Bill. Of course. You’re right. Thank you for coming to see me.Bill Cosby nods and kisses Mark’s quaking hand. When he turns to leave he gives Sinbad a long, meaningful look. As if to say, Do you see?7.
This is now. We’re caught up. Present day. And wouldn’t you know it, we’ve come full circle. Funny how things these things tend to.Sinbad stands on a chair in his basement with a belt around his neck, just like he did 33 years ago. But this time it’s different.This time he knows he’s a failure. Not only at life, at comedy, but at dying. If there’s anything he’s failed at, it’s this. Six times he’s tried to kill himself, forty more times he’s considered it. But it’s never worked.A rational, sober man is taking his life into his own hands in a totally rational, sober way. That’s where he was going wrong. He was so fucked up that he kept fucking up.Upstairs, someone is pumping Billie Jean. The bass is throbbing. Dust falls from the ceiling and onto Sinbad’s sweaty forehead. He wipes it off and examines his hand. Are there guardian angels? Is it possible that some greater power is watching over him? Keeping him alive so that he can witness his dreams float away from him like a handful of balloons?The chair teeters. Sinbad tightens the belt so it’s choking him. He’s going to do this right. He’s going to die today. The papers are going to say COMEDIAN SINBAD FOUND HANGING IN BASEMENT OF HOME IN TOTALLY SUCCESSFUL SUICIDE.
Sinbad takes a step off the chair.He hangs there, his lumbering frame twitching in the air like a fish on a hook. Billie Jean is pumping so loud that buckets of dust are dumping on him. He doesn’t care! This is the anthem of his death! He’s doing it! He’s dying, finally! That white light that they talk about, it just gets whiter and whiter. Thoughts that Sinbad can’t help but think he thinks, like someone is scraping the back of his brain with a spatchula.For some reason everything starts with a B:–birth and balls and bikes and bullies and bears and break-ups and boners and Boston and bills and bunkbeds and Bill Bixby–Then, suddenly, it’s all F’s:–failure after failure and failure after failure and failure after failure and failure after failure and failure after failure after failure after failure–His wife stands at the foot of the stairs, misty-eyed. “David,” she says. He answers with a gurgle and a leg spasm. “David, Michael Jackson just died.”Sinbad’s eyes roll up into his head. Unbelievable. What bad luck! “A heart attack. They think it might have been prescription pills. It’s all over the radio,” she goes on. She grabs the chair and pulls it toward him. Sinbad wriggles in space and tries to laugh at the absurdity of it all but all that comes out is a little vomit. “David, what are you doing?” she asks.Being saved, of course. It suddenly strikes him as serendipitous. If he had died now, there’d be hardly a blurb at the bottom of the Arts & Leisure section. People would be too busy listening to “A B C, 1 2 3” to revisit The Best of Star Search. It’d be a joke how forgotten he is. You can’t compete with the King of Pop. That motherfucker healed the world.Sinbad didn’t see it before, but here were his guardian angels. Not his wife, who so delicately removes the belt from around his neck and caresses his pasty face with a cool dry hand and says everything is going to be okay and calls for an ambulance, but the Tommy Bolins, the Kurt Cobains, and the Michael Jacksons of the world. Multi-talented instrumentalists who burn too bright and supernova before their time, jettisoning endless potential across the universe. They have saved him three times already, and will probably save him another four, the dead talented fucks.



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