Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mending Fences

Friday August 22nd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

   We interrupt this regularly scheduled sabbatical to bring you some positive news for a change! I have been taking a break from cataloging my daily thoughts in order that I might devote my full energy to my forthcoming book about having to testify against my childhood best friend because he decided to rob a bank he used to work at – twice – and then try to blame one of them on me.

   I had forgotten just how fascinating a story it is, as I have been far too close to it all these years and if anything have been trying to move past it and make it all go away. Well, hugely impactful events like that don’t ever just go away, but at least I’m now able to examine it in retrospect with complete objectivity. It was a very unpleasant experience, but time has healed much of that pain.

   Another unpleasant event happened five years ago this month. I’d worked a week at a comedy club in my hometown of Milwaukee, and had the ultimate sin happen – my check bounced. That is the granddaddy of all evils in the comedy business, and emotions tend to flare up in a hurry.

   That was an ugly situation all around, and I wish it never happened. I also wish the bank robber had never pulled his little stunt once much less twice, but life rarely unfolds how we’d like. We get what we get, and then have to deal with it the best we can. All too often, we make mistakes.

   All kinds of mistakes were made in this particular situation, and it ended up with all parties not speaking. I had worked for that club for several years and for the booker Funny Business Agency out of Grand Rapids, MI a lot longer than that. This one isolated incident ended up doing severe damage and erased decades of positive history. I don’t know why that check bounced, but it did.

   What I do know is that I was absolutely fuming at the time. I was hurt, insulted and felt totally disrespected by both the club and by Funny Business. I did them all a favor by taking the gig for low money in the summer, but a friend of mine at the time was in charge of her class reunion and requested that I be the headliner that week. It all blew up, and I eventually lost the friendship too.

  I will admit that on more than one occasion I have used this forum as a way to vent my feelings, but I attempt to do it in a way that hopefully helps an aspiring comedian coming up the ranks that may experience something similar to deal with that situation – hopefully better than I often do.

   I am very honest and upfront with my mistakes, and I have made too many to count. I’ve done some smart things too, but those often go unrecognized. What stick out are all the flubs, and they tend to make the rounds in a few circles. Why anything I would write or think would matter even the least little bit to anybody baffles me, but apparently my words have more clout than I realize.

   I let loose with a few tirades during that whole time, and I regret doing that. I mainly did it for me to get my frustrations out about a terrible situation, not realizing that a significant number of others in the business could and did see it, and that made everything worse. I’m sorry I did that.

   How it ended up playing out is that I eventually got my money several weeks later, but I had to eat bounced check fees for five checks that I wrote on the one that bounced. Again, I was fuming and that anger fueled some of my rants. I wasn’t thinking with my head, but with my emotions.

   That ended the relationship with Funny Business, and it was a big lose/lose. They have a bulk of their work in the Midwest, where I happen to be located. I am a very solid headliner, and have decades of experience working virtually every scenario from comedy clubs to corporate events to colleges to cruise ships. It would be smart for both of us to maintain a professional relationship.

   I admit that I took this all very personally, and I’m not proud of it. I write all the time about the relationship between booking agents and performers, and how our mindsets are about as opposite as can be. We’re different personality types entirely, and quite often sparks will fly because of it.

   What made it even worse was that a new person was entering the mix at that time. John Yoder is the owner of Funny Business, and I had been working with him for years. He has several sons, and has been incorporating them into the business in recent years. That’s common in businesses of all kinds, but unfortunately it can cause heat when old clients have to deal with the new son.

   John’s son Eric was coming onto the scene exactly at that time, and he is the one that ended up handling much of the situation in question. I felt disrespected that John would shuffle off such an important issue on his son, and that put more gas on the fire. I flipped out and said some things I wish I hadn’t, and it all spiraled down into a flaming heap of manure that splattered on everyone.

   Well, cut ahead five years. Funny Business Agency has survived without Dobie Maxwell, and vice versa. The world is still spinning, and life goes on for us all – screwed up as it may be. I had other problems creep up as they tend to do, and had basically moved on in my mind from it all.

   In pops Eric Feinendegen. We have been working together for about a year, and we both have strengths in different areas. Eric is very corporate, and I’m helping him with his speaking career. He’s helping me with the business aspect of what I do, and we have been great for each other. 

   Eric is in the process of learning the comedy business, and stumbled upon the Funny Business Agency online and asked if I worked for them. I told him the story, and how I thought the bridge was burned for good. Eric took it upon himself to initiate a conversation with John Yoder, and it ended up with me sending an apology to both John and Eric Yoder – and meaning it. I truly did.

   I can’t control how anybody else acts, but I can control my own actions. No matter what went down that caused me to react the way I did, I’m ashamed of it and that’s not me. I’m bigger than that, and I couldn’t be more delighted that Eric Feinendegen reached out and started this process.

   John Yoder admitted that he didn’t handle the situation well from his end, and that went a long way on my end too. I did feel there was a wrong there, and to admit it really put out any possible lingering embers. It’s history and completely in the past, even though it did some nasty damage.

   As for what’s next, I’m not really sure but that’s ok. I didn’t do this just to try and get booked, and if Funny Business never uses me again I hold no grudges. This is about making things right and moving on. I removed all past posts pertaining to this issue, and I want it all to be over. 

   The Yoders don’t have to invite me over for Thanksgiving dinner, but at least if John or Eric and I are in the same room, we don’t have to avoid each other. I don’t want lingering unfinished business in my life. I reconnected with my siblings after decades apart, and now this. 2014 is a stellar year!

After a five year gap, it feels great to have mended fences with John and Eric Yoder of Funny Business Agency. Lingering issues do no good for anybody.

Special thanks to Eric Feinendegen for initiating contact. Without him this never would have happened. His brilliant diplomatic skills made this possible. Thanks Eric!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Another Sabbatical

Friday August 1st, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

   I need to take another sabbatical from writing this particular diary. I think if nothing else I have proven that I can crank out material consistently – even if it has a tendency to rattle the cages of some on occasion. I don’t set out to do that or anything else but let my innermost feelings flow.

   As I said before my last predetermined break - which ended up only lasting a month – I will be back when I feel I have something to say. I didn’t stay gone long, and I am still flattered by all of the tremendous emails of support I received from so many that I didn’t even realize were readers.

   This time my reason for leaving is different. I need to focus on and FINALLY finish a book of the horrific experiences I went through having had to testify in Federal Court against my former childhood best friend that robbed a bank he used to work at – twice. Anyone that has known me for a long time has either heard the story or bits and pieces, and it has without fail captivated all.

   The reason I can confidently boast of how great a story it is is because I did not write it. It just unfolded in front of me and all I have to do is report what happened. I guess I really was lucky to have been given such an amazing gift, but it sure was painful to live through as it all played out.

   I admit that for years I was avoiding it. I didn’t want to go back there in my head, as it was so torturous an experience. Having to testify against one’s very best friend is as ugly as I ever want to imagine. I still have the occasional nightmare even now, but the time has come to get it out of me once and for all. Putting it into book form will allow me to move on from that painful stretch.

   Years from now, all kinds of people will read it and be riveted. Most are. People I have told the full story to often become totally engrossed. When I told it on the Bob and Tom radio show I was deluged with emails from all over the country from strangers who were all absolutely fascinated.

   I feel in my deepest heart that this is the project I need to focus on and get it off my plate once and for all. I fully believe it will open a lot of doors for me that aren’t open now, and if nothing else it will give me a product NOBODY else has. It is exclusive unto me, and will set me apart.

   For however long it takes to finish this project, I will devote any and all spare time to getting it done. My original intention was to work on it for June, July and August – but here it is August 1 and I’ve frittered away yet another summer. I have made excuses long enough. It has to get done.

   My good friend Lynn Miner has offered to edit the manuscript, and he has lots of experience as he has had almost thirty books of his own published. He knows the process well, and it is kind of him to offer his help. I will take him up on it, and he has already made outstanding suggestions.

   All the parts of the story are there, as I wrote a skeleton outline about fifteen years ago not long after it all happened. I was not nearly the writer I am now, and all these years of making posts on a daily basis have strengthened my skill level exponentially. I already feel a major improvement.

   I spent about four hours today getting the old manuscript ready to revamp. I’ll make occasional posts here if something of note occurs, but that is my focus. If you want to sign up for my monthly comedy newsletter, please send me your email address at I'll let you know when the book is ready. If you enjoy this diary you will love the book. Thanks again for your loyal support! Good bye for now.

I need to take another extended break so I can finish my first book - a most amazing true life story. Hope to be back here sooner than later. Thanks again for your support!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Quick Flip

Monday July 28th, 2014 – Waukegan, IL

   I’m still basking in the radiant glory of my killer business triumph yesterday, flipping the stash of toy cars I nabbed for $2 at a thrift store for a cool crisp twenty. Actually the bill was a kind of soggy and rumpled, but twenty bucks is twenty bucks. The point is I made a profit for little work.

   That’s the pure essence of what every fly by night huckster has been attempting to do since the beginning of time. It has never been easy, and never will be. I just happened to luck out and I am fully aware of that fact. The universe threw me a couple of bones, and I flipped them for twenty.

   I realize it’s only $20, but there are much larger implications involved. What if I had purchased an item for $200 and sold it for $2000? I would be a lot more excited than I am now – and I truly am now. It feels great to pull off a successful deal, but it also makes me wonder if I did it right.

   My two main wheeler dealer mentors have traditionally been quick flippers, and both of them were able to stay in business twenty years or more. They may have varied on rare occasion, but for the most part they’d get something in and flip it right back out. If they doubled their original investment, they’d do it day and night until they couldn’t do it anymore. Then they’d do it again.

   Greed is part of the human bag of tricks, and everyone thinks about how they can score a sweet financial deal that gives a ridiculous return. This is why casinos stay in business. People that won big can’t just walk away and appreciate that they won. They have to try and clean the casino out.

   I must admit I did think on the way home yesterday that I could have kept those cars for a little while and tried to move them on Ebay. I only went to one dealer, and he gave me my price. What I don’t know for sure is, was my price correct? Ten times my investment is great, but did I have a stellar load that could have sold for a lot more? That would have involved a lot of extra activity.

   I would have had to list what I had for sale on Ebay (which I have never done before), write up all the sales notes, take pictures and eventually mail them to each buyer. Maybe I could have put them all in one lot, or maybe I should have split them up into several. There were many options. 

   My initial investment was very small, so I could afford to sit on the whole bag as long as I felt like it. Knowing me that would be months or even years, and I don’t want to start stockpiling old clutter at this point in my life. I want to get rid of as much as I can, and only collect cash piles if I collect anything at all. I was able to turn my investment into a healthy return, so I’ll accept that.

   I also came across some old sports cards I forgot I saved. They weren’t anything great, but they were old and worth something so I took them to a sports card shop today and got $40. I can’t put an exact price on what I had in them, but I’d rough guess $20. I bought them several years ago so I’ll count that as total profit. They were just lying around, and I turned them into in pocket cash.

   Who hasn’t had the dream of starting with something tiny and turning it into a fortune? This is not the first time I’ve done deals like this, but I always end up needing the money and that ends the game before it starts. I’ve got a couple of other trinkets I can cash in, and I should be close to $100. That’s a nice round number to start, and I’ll keep watching for deals. They’re out there.

From now on, this is the only collectible I am interested in acquiring mass quantities of.

Trans Am Treasures

Sunday July 27th, 2014 – Wilmot, WI

   I was walking through a thrift store a couple of weeks ago and ran across a bag of toy cars that were on sale for $2. It was a generous sized bag for that price, and I noticed it was packed with a collection of Pontiac Trans Ams for whatever reason. When I was growing up that was a hot car.

   Somebody had obviously been collecting them, and they were donated. I have always liked toy cars, and anytime I can cop a sizeable load of them for a low price I’ll do it if for no other reason than I like to give them away to kids. The look in their eyes when they get a big bag is priceless.

   This seemed like an especially good find, so I gambled the two bucks knowing I wouldn’t lose. I opened them in the car, and was impressed with the quality of the load. There were Hot Wheels and Matchbox and Corgi which are all brand names. They were in top notch condition and there was a nice variety. There were also a couple of slot cars – both Trans Ams – and a Batmobile.

   When I got home I immediately emptied the bag for a count, and it was 27. Not shabby. That’s far less than a dime a car. I looked up some of them on Ebay, and saw they had asking prices of up to $15 a car. There was a Hot Wheels special edition that was a mail in offer exclusively, and there were four of those. The Batmobile had asking prices between $10-$15, so I knew I’d be ok.

   Even the no name Trans Ams had to be worth at least a buck each, and there were also a couple of higher end Matchbox models of older cars that were in excellent shape. There were also a few cheapo cars in the bag that would probably sell for a quarter or less, but as a whole it was a haul.

   Today I took my weekly run through the flea market in Wilmot, WI and decided to bring along the bag of cars to see if I could sell them as a whole. I would much rather turn a quick profit and let some vendor make out than set up and sweat my Sunday away trying to sell them all myself.

   My cousin Jef Parker used to own Collector’s Edge Comics in Milwaukee, and I would watch him wheel and deal comic book collections. He said there were always two strategies, and buyers had to decide if they wanted to flip it for a quick profit or piece it out in detail and squeeze every cent out. The latter would entail much more time, effort and expense so he preferred the former.

   I also watched master sports card dealer Ray Gunderson of Gunderson’s Sports Cards in West Allis, WI pull off deal after deal and that was his strategy too. He was always about a quick flip – even if he lost out in the long run. He didn’t care if the buyer got an extra good deal, and in fact he wanted that so they’d come back and buy from him again. “This ain’t no museum,” he’d say. 

   Whatever he paid for anything, he’d move it out the door for 2-3 times what he paid for it. He kept his doors open for 20 years doing that, and everyone thought he was crazy for having such low prices. But his success was being able to buy low, and he did it regularly. He was a master.

   That’s exactly what I did with this bag of cars. I stumbled upon it by chance, and it was able to be had for the right price. I suppose I could have farted around on Ebay and maybe made $100 or more, but I settled for a quick $20 from a dealer who was sweating in the sun. Maybe I could’ve tried for $40 or $60, but I kept it fair. I made a nice profit for doing nothing. I’ll take it and run.

I copped a great load of toy cars at a thrift store for $2.

This isn't even all of them. I feel like a miniature used car dealer.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Buffet Of Danger

Saturday July 26th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

   Does life ever get even a little easier for any of us at any time? I’m beginning to think it never does, and that scares me. Well maybe not scares, but absolutely disappoints. I’d hate to think we plow through the treacherous jungle this planet can be, only to leave with no payoff. That stinks.

   The human experience as I have observed it is a constant evolution of change, and each change brings with it a spanking new set of ominous obstacles to have to figure out a way to get over. It would certainly be nice to have at least a little time to enjoy the scenery, but the intense struggle always seems to require more than just casual attention – at least for me anyway. It never rests.

   My problems have always been different than most everyone else’s in my immediate circle, but I always assumed I would receive a higher payoff. When I was a kid I knew other kids that came from various levels of dysfunction, but nobody was close to my situation and it was a distraction. 

   I really struggled through childhood when I should have been just enjoying being a kid. I never had that chance, but I assumed adulthood would be easier. Then I chose to get into THE craziest business around, filled with instability at every turn. Adulthood has been a buffet of danger also.

   Again, I assumed I’d meet a great woman and build a good life anyway. Well, I met a bunch of women that may or may not have been great but I knew inside that I wasn’t ready to put together the life I always dreamed of. That’s why I got into radio, assuming it would bring along stability. 

   Boy, do I have to quit assuming. Nothing could have been more unstable, and life has been one crisis after another for as long as I can remember. I know everyone has problems, but not quite as unique or complex as mine. I don’t know anyone else that has had to testify in court against their best friend from childhood for robbing the same bank twice. Those kinds of events leave scars.

   I wouldn’t wish anyone that mental torture, and I still have nightmares about it. Another rotten feeling is moving across the country for a job, then having that job taken away with zero backup. I know that has happened to others, but I’ve had it happen five times. I’m still hurting from that too, and I never had anyone to go to for help or support. I’ve made it this far without a safety net.

   Now I’m reconnecting with the siblings I never got to grow up with as a kid, and it has opened up a tremendous window of hope. It feels SO good to begin this process – even this late into the game. It is what I have always wanted, and I feel it only getting better. Meeting a woman I could spend quality time with is still on the bucket list, but that’s extremely difficult in my current situation.

   I thought for sure I would be financially secure by now and on my way but I’m a shopping cart and cardboard sign away from vagrancy, and I’m living week to week despite the fact I’m trying harder than I ever have. Life is constantly changing, and now that I finally figured out my craft it seems like nobody wants it anymore. I am a master blacksmith but nobody is buying horseshoes.

   On top of that, I’m still dealing with depression and diabetes issues. Both of those require a lot of attention and effort, but how can I do that when I’ve got to focus on survival? There aren’t any trust funds with my name on it, and I’m screwed. No wonder old people are salty. Life is HARD.

Life seems to get harder as it goes on. No wonder old people can be so crabby.

She doesn't look crabby. I wonder if she wants to have lunch?