Mexico Denies Responsibility for Prototype Spy’s Downward Spiral into Addiction and Comedy

Mexico Denies Responsibility for My Failures

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Written by


This Mule’s An Ass

Growing up in the mountains of southern Mexico, my main interests were avoiding homework, actin’ a fool, and stayin’ alive. Still actin’ a fool, failed 2nd grade, and I’m still alive — mostly. A toe will die sometimes, but then I can feel it again. Not sure what that’s about.  

At around 8 years old, they catapulted me to upstate New York (maybe there was a plane involved). That’s nearly Canada, from the equator. Take that, elementary school! 

Five frozen years later, they split the difference and booted me to Zephyrhills, Florida. I swam in the springs and peed in the water. You’re welcome. You’re disgusted, I know, but you’re also welcome. 

NOTE: The title was to read ‘Mexico Denies Responsibility for Prototype Spy’s Downward Spiral into Addiction and Comedy’, but the lawyers I don’t have would likely say it’s a potentially problematic title. Also, I’m not a spy, but everything else is pretty accurate in some form or another. 

In all my years of school, I never — ever — developed an interest in studying, and my grades showed it. But I was such a pain in the ass that teachers just kept finding ways to push me into the next grade. Poor things. I get it now.

It was a struggle for me, hell for them, but I did my time and made it to 12th grade. And I wasn’t surprised when they informed me I was a half-credit short, so another round of summer school would be needed. No, ding dongs, I’m the fuck outta here. 

While my classmates practiced the graduation ceremony, I was doing keg stands in someone’s home across the street. I had only been at that school for 11th and 12th grade, and I spent most nights bar-backing at a nightclub in Tampa, so I hung out with very few people.

Then I did LSD at Universal Studio’s Grad Night and they saw me come outta my shell. And a little outta my skin.

That was how we all became lifelong friends — is something that didn’t happen. I was on a bus outta town before the ink dried on their diplomas. 

With a GED and a dream, I began trying to ruin my life in every imaginable way.

Worked a couple jobs in construction, but was hired to wait tables in a restaurant/brewery called Hops Grill & Bar when I was about to turn 20. This was before there was a brewery on every corner, and a bar in every brewery.

Waiting tables ain’t great, but it’s also NOT OUTSIDE!  

I quickly became one of the best servers, which is how I got away with still acting a fool. “Folks, I know he dropped a lot o’ plates on your head, and, yes, you are bleeding a little, but he also got you to pay for it, so…”

I started binge drinking when I was about 15-16, but not very often because I didn’t have money. Now I had cash, direct access to tanks of beer at work, and drank heavily while shootin’ pool and darts at an Irish pub down the street. Occasionally, someone new would get hired and card me, but then we’d clear that up with generous tipping. The law’s the law. 

Being a drunken child didn’t keep the restaurant from offering me management opportunities in the company. “Plenty of room for growth. You could even be a GM one day!” 

Back then, I thought that meant I was special. Now I know they probably just grabbed my wrist and found a pulse. Also, the GM/Owner of that store would go into the office calm and collected, then come out — let’s say — hyper?

Pretty sure it was a Pepsi place, but he always had access to Coke. 

I declined management every time, and with great relish. I mean, they said it was great, but I’m not a relish guy, so I never even tasted it. I’d scoop it off with a spoon and fling it at their faces.

Probably said something like, “I’m gonna be a filmmaker, dear friends angrily wiping mashed pickle outta your eyes. I wanna do drugs with hookers at MGM, not sitting on a box of gift certificates with a GM.”

Then I found LSD again. It was right where I’d left it.

I would trip waiting tables, at the bar, with friends, alone, with friends alone. My nickname was Paperhead because they weren’t good at nicknames. Carried that shit in my wallet and popped it like breath mints. Should’ve popped breath mints more often. Right, ladies? That’s all it was. 

Incidentally, I would also physically trip at work — all the time. Known for it, like Chevy Chase, but without a 3 Picture Deal. Or health insurance. I’d make plastic chairs fly up behind me as I went down. I’d blame customers for tripping me. Fell face-first into fake cakes I made to look like ones people brought in for a birthday celebration. Used large trays to surf down a ramp into a dining room. 

“Where are the goddamn managers in these places?!”

Filming it.  

Back to LSD. One morning, found myself sitting in a living room surrounded by strangers teaching me how to sell Melaleuca products to family and friends.

“Alrighty, folks. Just gonna slide outta here right quick. Separate checks? Too late for that? Door’s over here? That a door? Okey dokey. Bye bye.” 

But I was having fun making good money that I never spent wisely. So, take that, someone. 

I was never a good drug dealer, but I often tried. Tried selling 10 hits of Ecstasy at a rave and took 4, gave hot chicks 2, then math stopped working. At 11 a.m., six months later, I was blowin’ up at work while the manager wanted to know if he should put that I quit or got fired. 

I said, “Whatever works for you. I’m going to Blockbuster to rent several movies. They do face massages there? I need one.” 

There’s a reason Ecstasy’s not called Meh. 

Now let’s fast-forward through the next 20+ years so I can get back to work and stop thinking about Not Meh. 

Wookin Pa Nub — On Stage

Three things dominated the majority of my adult life: creative dreams, the restaurant industry, and tryin’ — no, dyin’ — to get laid. 

I thought partying my ass off was the key to all three. I’m not sure where I got the idea. Maybe every single thing I ever read and saw. Those things were kinda right, and hella wrong. 

After years of saying I was gonna do it, my first time on stage was May 31, 2001. It was at an Irish pub, I was the only act, I borrowed the mic and monitor from a musician, it was Memorial Day, and I was flying to Costa Rica for two weeks the next morning.

Plan was, if I ate it, I’d be thousands of miles away.

As I closed the show and thanked the crowd, I said, “Well, I’m off to Costa Rica in the morning,” and realized, Shit, I gotta pack!

Quick vacation hack: to make time fly before a trip, schedule a huge nightmare the day before it.

So it’s my first show, my first trip alone, and the fine-dining restaurant next door fired me because I did the show instead of working, even though I’d requested the night off — for several obvious reasons.

After the show, those silly Spanish pricks sent a new guy over to tell me they’d opened a $200 bottle of wine to celebrate my termination. I mean, that’s pretty funny. 

Oh, and some fine chick I didn’t know said, “How about you pack me in your suitcase and take me with you to Costa Rica?” I told her I was only taking a backpack. Yeah, comedy didn’t get me laid much because I said shit like that instead of doing sex.

Two years later, I was on my way to Hollywood, California, because the entertainment industry took notice and demanded I be next in line for all the bells and whistles of fame and fortune. 

What just happened? I blacked out while I was typing. One second to double back…

Ah, that fame and fortune shit is false. I had a little heat in Florida, but it was coming from my ass, where my head was.

I had quit doing heavy drugs two months before that first show, and started performing all over central Florida after my vacation. Also got lucky with a dope job at a cigar and jazz lounge.

I had an ’88 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, was mostly clean, often somewhat sober, so I figured it was time to drive out west. 

Quick question: Did you know L.A. has meth? Looks like coke when crushed. Isn’t coke. Coke burns your nose a bit. Meth burns your house down, even if you’re not cooking it. 

I’d been in California a week shy of two months. One night on meth and I almost moved back to Florida. Thing is, Florida is the meth of states, so…

Here’s what happened. It’s obviously insane finding a place to rent in Los Angeles, but I found an ad that seemed perfect for me, almost too good to be true. You probably wouldn’t like it, but it was speaking my language. It was just like New Girl, except I’m a boy.

I ended up touring the apartment with this guy’s girlfriend while he talked on the phone for half an hour. The place was a mess but I told her I’d take it. 

She goes, “Really? Why? You haven’t even talked to him.” 

I said, “He has a VHS and DVD copy of Tommy Boy! That’s all I need to know.” 

She said, “Oh, god, not another one.” Yeah, babe, another one. 

He was the drummer in a rock band signed to Serj Tankian’s label at Sony, which is how I found out System of A Down was an Armenian band. Before that, I only knew of two Armenians: Cher, and a sports journalist named Armen Keteyian. (Yeah, I had to look him up.) 

We’ll call my new roommate Vic, because his name starts with a ‘V’ and that’s just what they do.

We decided to hang out the weekend before I moved in, but he had me drop him off at some overnight work thing, and told me to just hang at his place with a random dude I’d never met. We’ll call him Garen because that was his name. 

At 7am, he goes, “Bro, I’ve never done this much meth before.” Huh? What’s that? You just say dumb shit? 

See, we started with a line, not a sensible key bump like a good little junkie. That line felt like a sustained and solid jolt I’m used to getting from things like mescaline, molly, ‘shrooms and such. Every 45 minutes to an hour, I’m like, “Let’s run it back, please.” Fucker chooses hours of that before revealing this pattern is not the norm. 

Vic’s bandmates all arrived throughout the day, and I was in quite a state being introduced to everyone. They openly commented about the crazy white boy from Miami (Armenians think all of Florida is Miami), and how much meth he did. 

I think I would’ve been fine, except the band was playing the Viper Room that night, so they had to leave at 5pm for sound check. I was in no condition to be around people by then, so we decided I’d chill, get my bearings and meet them later.

We also decided to give me two Ambien to smooth me out around the edges.

In all my time doing drugs, weed is the only thing I came down with. Not into pills, not into downers, let’s keep it natural. But I’m doing their drugs, so I trust their judgement. That’s the law. 

Last words on the worst drug experience of my life: it was painful, gross, and scary, but I survived, and, to this day, I have never touched that shit again.

Never again took Ambien. Did a bit more meth, though. Then one time I was writing on it and thought, “If I just did a little of this every day…” And that was it. Lightbulb.

With street drugs, I’m looking to experience, not function better. That’s not a real thing. 

Once again, comedy saved my ass. I was immersed in the Armenian community, but a guy named Peter the Persian took me to a bowling alley to perform at an open mic. We were with a guy in his 70’s, whose name I’m pretty sure was Old Man Henry.

That entire paragraph is comedy, and so was walking down into a pit to perform at people’s asses while they faced the opposite direction watching TVs behind the bar.  

For a couple years, I hit every available stage north, south, east, and west of L.A. I performed in clubs with famous people going up before and after me, sitting in the audience, and in dive bars with gang members who would drop guns on the floor in the middle of a punchline they liked. At least they were laughing, because my act is heavy on the 6′ 4″, blue-eyed Mexican material I sometimes thought might get me killed. 

I didn’t get shot, but I didn’t get discovered either. 

The real magic happened when I teamed up with a buddy to make films. That also didn’t pan out financially, and we didn’t make any movies, but we’re still friends, and movies still exist. 

End of ’07, I packed up a different car, a new cat, and headed back to Florida so I could lick my wounds and recharge my battery. In 2008, I decided to see what life was like without a relentless pursuit of the creative life.  

I got a job in a crazy Greek place and started making really good money. With more money and time, I got more drunk and dangerous. The worst part, I got my real estate license. That lead to much more drinking.

Then I sold a house. Just the one. Six months, one house. It was real estate in ’08. As Norm MacDonald would say, “I don’t know if you guys are history buffs…”

Used almost a grand of that commission to get a tattoo I’d wanted for a while. It’s an old mic, film strip, paint brush, and ink pen. It looks just how you’re picturing it, but, you know, cool. These items represent standup comedy, filmmaking, painting, and writing.

The image in the film strip is the beautiful ass-end of a 1959 Series 62 Cadillac. It represents how much I like boats. 

Since then, I’ve bounced from restaurants to comedy, books to bars, back and forth, forth and back. I’ve learned to fix restaurants like Gordon Ramsay, but without a crew, and way fewer kitchen skills. Although, somehow I also became a pretty dope cook. 

So the grind continued, as did the rollercoaster. Still performing, managing, writing — generally going for it. 

Then, at the end of 2019, life started fuckin’ me in the ear, right before humanity got fucked up its whole ass too. 

That’ll Do, Donkey

For a long time, I lived my own nightmare Groundhog Day, or Groundhog 6-18 Months.

First, I’d quit my job and throw myself into the newest creative venture, then eventually go broke. So I’d go back to running a restaurant, consulting, bartending, washing dishes — whatever wouldn’t make me wanna leap into traffic. Then back to the stage, a screenplay, novel, painting, go broke again, aaaand —

Every time, I thought I was working on the thing that would finally launch my career, I’d get hella paid, go on holidays in the French Riviera with models named Ciera (that’s how she spells it), sunbathing on a yacht whilst I write the next big — plot? Yeah. Plot.

But, no, hasn’t happened. Good thing, too, because I’m grown now and that dream isn’t realistic. (If you’re in charge of making unrealistic dreams happen, I’m full of shit. I want Ciera, the boat, drugs, money. I’m not grown!)

Point is, I’ve had a little therapy and I’ve grown a lot. Yep, very grown now. I’m so grown, I can’t even believe how grown I am. 

Did I say ‘a little’ therapy? I meant ‘copious amounts’. The very first session required peeling me off the ground before we could work on anything.

Once I got going, this lovely woman stopped me short and said, “Um, you seem to be laughing and smiling while talking about really traumatic experiences.”

I thanked her because, yeah, that’s kinda my thing. Pretty good at it.

Turns out, it wasn’t a compliment. I’d been a broken little boy who needed so much help and probably meds, for which I substituted alcohol and drugs, but I’m not a doctor, so it didn’t go good.

I know it’s tedious hearing about people’s personal growth, but I can’t legitimately summarize the person you’re reading about without mentioning the vast difference between me in 2019, me now, and me hopefully forever going forward.

I didn’t improve by flipping a switch, and she refused to admit she was a witch, or that she had special powers, or that I did.

She said, “I’m giving you the tools, you’re using them. But thank you for saying that stuff.” Forgive me, I’m paragliding her phraseology.

The first therapist helped me improve as a person. Then I found one that helped me figure out how to navigate this world as a creative lunatic who wants to do all the things at once. What things? All the things.

First one created a monster, second one set it free.

For over 20 years, I thought you had to focus on one thing at a time, get your ten-thousand hours to become an expert. That’s mostly horse shit. I’m not saying the shit that comes out of horses is bad. It’s just not great when you step in it, or fall in it face first, eat some, choke, throw up.

Now, no matter what I’m doing for a primary source of income, my creative life will never be on hold. Whether I’m running my own joint, consulting, coaching, or writing books about the culinary world, I’ll always have art supplies out to draw and paint, production gear ready for podcasts and video, and now I’m even learning how to produce music – poorly, but happily.

Turns out therapy wasn’t just talking about your feelings, childhood, relationships — that’s just what you wade through to figure out why you’re repeatedly sabotaging yourself. I wasn’t born to shoot myself in the foot, I learned to. I created defense mechanisms due to trauma, and they helped me during, but hurt me after.

Yeah, humans are dumb.

No! We don’t talk to ourselves like that.

We are kinda dumb, though. (Sorry, ladies, it’s the truth. But I’ll be nice to myself in 3, 2, …)

So, dear reader, I hope you enjoy all the 100% perfect things my wonderful ass can do!

Sincerely yours (I mean, not really yours, but kinda sincerely),


PS — Not sure why I signed that. You know it’s me. 



Mat Freeman is an author, artist, performer and producer (and a recovering restaurant consultant). He's developed podcasts, a YouTube game show, and performed standup comedy for over 20 years.

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