Wednesday, September 30, 2009

End Of The 3rd Quarter

Wednesday September 30th, 2009 - Lake Villa, IL

Today marks the end of the third quarter of 2009. It’s been quite a year for me as I have had not one but two national television appearances as a comedian and am planning for a third. I received word I’ll be on November 13th which is of course a Friday. Mr. Lucky is a great Friday the 13th fit and I’m trying to establish myself as the ideal guest to have on.

The show I’ll be on is called ‘The Morning Buzz’ and it’s taped in Orlando, FL. I know one of the co-hosts from Utah and he’s a great guy named Mitch English. It’s kind of like Good Morning America for people 18-34 but they do a very good show. I’ve seen it many times when I’ve been on the road. Mitch is really funny and is an excellent host as well.

I’m not sure how many markets they’re in but it is all over the country so while it’s not necessarily a network show like The Late Late Show it won’t hurt at all to be on. Mitch is going to make sure I get a good spot and it’s worth the trip. I was able to get a booking at a local club which doesn’t pay great but it should cover my airfare, rental car and hotel.

This gives me six weeks to prepare for the spot which is more than I had to prepare for both of the other ones combined. I’m not complaining about short notice but it’s better if I have time to prepare. I don’t think it’s going to be a standup spot but rather a chance to be interviewed about being a comic and teaching classes too. I want to have products ready.

I know I can crank out a quality version of my comedy course in six weeks time. I have all the lessons and I’ve taught them successfully for 15 years. Now it’s my job to put it all in an attractive and sellable package before I get there so I won‘t waste a TV appearance.

That age group is ideal for what I’m selling. I know I can help young comedians avoid a ton of stupid rookie mistakes if they’re willing to listen. Many times they aren’t but those who do will get way more than they paid for the course. I’ve been talking about doing this for way too long now, it’s time to shut my mouth and roll up my sleeves and go DO this.

I did get to a few things today I’ve been meaning to do for a while like get a haircut and have the oil changed in my car. It came with a wash too so now my little red Toyota looks a few years newer, or at least it did for ten minutes until the giant constipated pterodactyl that flew overhead dropped a wet sloppy flying bowel movement smack dab on my hood.

I guess I wouldn’t be Mr. Lucky if things like that didn’t keep on coming out of the blue to remind me my struggles still aren’t over on this planet. I don’t know what that bird was eating but if the remnants were that big it had to be something huge. It made me laugh out loud and there isn’t a whole lot of that going on these days. A lot of people are struggling.

I have no idea what the future holds for us all. This isn’t the America I grew up in and it changes faster than I can keep up. Panic is in the air and jobs are a rare commodity so I’m going to have to think like an entrepreneur to survive. This is what makes people rich and it’s time for action. The fourth quarter is when big games are won. The clock starts now.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Come On, Friday

Tuesday September 29th, 2009 - Lake Villa, IL/St. Charles, IL

The whole bounced check situation with Giggles is really starting to piss me off royally. Apparently there are a growing number of us who have or are still going through this and I can’t believe it’s allowed to continue. We’re starting to communicate with each other to see who’s getting paid and who isn’t. The more we have to wait, the more livid we all get.

There’s a guy named Tim Costello out of Detroit who has been in contact frequently to give me updates on his end. He filed some papers with the Waukesha County Sherriff and kept calling the club every day asking for his money. He was paid with a cashier’s check.

Apparently the owner’s wife wasn’t too thrilled about it and was upset we as comics are ‘taking it personally’. DAMN RIGHT we take it personally. This is our living and to have some halfwit who can’t seem to run a business bounce checks and make us chase our own money we’ve earned by helping him sell beer is about as disrespectful as I can imagine.

It’s delicate because a lot of things could blow up in my face but right now I feel exactly like Robert DeNiro’s character in Goodfellas when Morrie the toupee guy won’t pay him what he owes but has commercials for the toupee business running on TV. I can relate.

In the movie DeNiro’s character sees the commercial and flips out to the point of going up to Morrie and choking him with a telephone chord until he agrees to pay up. I’m at the exact same point myself and if he doesn’t pay up soon there may be an ugly final chapter.

How much more abuse can comedians take? I don’t know about the others but for me it is coming to a dangerous place. I’ve been screwed with my whole life by weasels who run comedy clubs and have always tried to be ‘polite’ and ‘patient’ and all the things that I am supposed to be and it never seems to work out. I’m at the very end of my patience rope.

That money was supposed to pay my September rent and now I’m probably not going to have it for October. I’m in the trick bag because I had some other things cancel and it’s no fault of mine for any of them. Part of it is the times and another part is I’m working with a bunch of small time gimokes who can’t run a business properly. It’s getting ugly out here.

Steve Sabo is a comedian from Toledo who books a few rooms on the side. I’ve worked for him many times and have NEVER had a problem getting paid promptly, even when it wasn’t convenient. He handles his business professionally and I like working for the guy.

Steve sent an email out saying he had a similar situation when he worked Giggles TWO YEARS AGO. I can’t believe it’s been going on that long and that the booker allows it to continue. I want to work for the booker again but I’ll never go back to Giggles after this.

The sad thing is there’s a line of other comics who will. I called the owner today and as politely as I could through clenched teeth asked to get my money, NOW. He said he ‘lost my address’ and asked for it again and promised I’d have it by Friday. Come on, Friday.

Full Frontal Dentistry

Monday September 28th, 2009 - Chicago, IL

My mouth has given me all kinds of trouble ever since I can remember. If it’s not major dental malfunction giving me fits it’s me saying something stupid that gets me in trouble. Today it was a dental problem, and I haven’t had to trot through that minefield in a while.

I had my top front six teeth capped about a dozen years ago now. I’d had braces for way too long and cavities grew behind them so since I’m in the entertainment business I made a decision to invest in my appearance. I didn’t want to get laughs for having goofy teeth.

It did cost me a chunk of cash but I wanted to get it handled so I wouldn’t be sorry later. My dentist does outstanding work and I’m glad I invested in myself but he told me at the time no matter how well he attached them at some point they may eventually come loose.

Today was that day, at least for one of them. Jerry Agar and I stopped at McDonald’s to grab a quick lunch on our way to Vicki Quade’s house to continue work on our play with the Kidders and I bit into a McChicken sandwich and heard a crunch. I knew it was bad.

Lucky for me I was able to salvage the cap but the remaining tooth underneath is still a live entity and the pain started immediately. The process requires shaving down the tooth to use as a place to attach the cap and when the cap comes off nothing is left to protect it.

I couldn’t finish my food and sat there as Jerry chowed down like it was Thanksgiving. I was really in a foul mood but what could I do? There’s never a good time for a downer like this to happen but especially not today because I had things lined up day and night.

Jerry finished his lunch and asked if I wanted to go to a dentist and I said yes. I thought I could make it and have it looked at tomorrow but I needed to get it looked after because it hurt too much, plus it was a front tooth. We drove to the dentist where I’d had it done.

Of course he wasn’t in today but someone else in the office took care of it and they were able to reattach the original cap…for now. They told me it should stay attached but if not they may have to replace it. The last thing I need right now is a rework of my front teeth.

Now I’m worried every time I take a bite of something teeth will come flying out like a Jerry Lewis skit. I can’t order soup the rest of my life so I’ll just have to be careful when I eat something, but I’ve already been doing it for years anyway. No peanut brittle for me.

Jerry and I finally showed up at Vicki’s house and we started kicking around ideas with a vengeance. We’ve come a long way since we started and everyone sees progress. We’ve all put a lot of work into this and I have to admit I was skeptical at first but not anymore.

After that Jerry dropped me off at Zanies and I taught a comedy class and then hosted a show for Steve Mazan and Dwayne Kennedy, two of my favorite people in comedy. That made the tooth trouble easier to deal with but I’ll still worry every time I bite into food.

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's Not In The Cards

Sunday September 27th, 2009 - Lake Villa, IL

Sundays are supposed to be the day of rest but my brain kept spinning like a tilt-a-whirl all day and I couldn’t get any. It was tilting one minute and whirling the next. This is that period of creativity that always follows a funk and I need to use it to launch myself ahead.

The Packer game wasn’t on TV where I live and that’s a good thing because I used that time to get some much needed work done, but I did get to listen to some of it on the radio. I’m hooked. Can a person take ‘a little’ heroin? Probably not, but that’s what I tried to do.

I worked on a lot of big picture stuff today. I still need to shape a workable plan that can allow me to squeeze all I want to do in my life into my limited time. It’s like trying to jam three weeks worth of underwear into an overnight bag and still have room for socks too.

That doesn’t include the shaving kit or anything else so something’s got to give. My life feels like it’s running on empty even though it’s packed full of always something going in every imaginable direction at all times. I have to remove all things that aren’t productive.

One of those things is my sports card albatross. I totally blew that decision and I need it to go away somehow. I bought a few small to medium collections which are now one big one that’s doing nothing but taking up space at the moment. It hasn’t worked as I planned.

I thought I would set up at card shows on the road occasionally and maybe get an Ebay store going but that hasn’t happened and doesn’t look like it’s going to any time soon. My time has been way too divided to have any for sorting, pricing, listing and all that hooey.

All I have to show for my investment is a table piled up high with 5000 count boxes of cards from all years in all conditions. I made a mistake by buying collections and not just picking certain cards or sets and when I did it I knew it but my needs were different then.

I had some extra cash and banks weren’t paying more than 2% interest so I thought that this would be a way to beat that. It was a long term thing and I still had money left so my basic needs were covered. That extra money went in a hurry and I could really use it now.

I’m going to try and sort it at least into sports and years and see if I can’t unload it for a fair price. It’s going to be a challenge to find someone with a lump sum to take it all so it will probably need to be pieced out into chunks and that will most likely take some time.

I intended this to be a project over several years but things are shaping up differently so I just want them out of my life. If I really want any of those cards again I can always find them easily on Ebay so I’m not worried about it. For now I want to clear them all away.

I’ll use the money to pay off my credit card and also get my dormant CD project back to the front burner. That’s been on hold long enough and I need a product to sell. Then there needs to be another one, and another, and three more after that. It all starts with a vision.

That’s what I tried to pound into my head today like a bongo drum. What exactly do I want my life to be? I mean, to the most minute detail. What do I really, REALLY want to accomplish? Collecting sports cards is way down that list, especially the ones I have now.

I have ‘pretty decent’ stuff. It’s not in horrible condition but it’s not in the pristine, anal retentive, almost unattainably perfect shape most real collectors seem to want, and on top of that they want it at a blowout discount price. I don’t have that, and very few people do.

My cousin Jef Parker used to own Collector’s Edge Comics in Milwaukee. He knew the collectibles game as well as anyone and whether it’s cards or comics or coins or anything else, condition is always the key. That’s what negotiates the final price and it’s important.

Having stuff in either prime or poor condition is the way to go. Mid-grade stuff doesn’t thrill most buyers, and that’s mostly what I have unfortunately. It’s pleasing to the eye for most people and to the average person the stuff is great but to those who buy it’s garbage.

I understand how the game works too but there are different customers who don’t need to have stuff in prime shape. If an in demand older card in prime shape sells for say $100, there are people who will pay $10 for one that looks like the dog used it as a chew toy.

I have a lot of those, and even more cards that retail at anywhere from fifty cents to five or ten bucks. I’ve got literally tens if not hundreds of thousands of those and setting up at a card show would be the way to unload those. Collectors love to search through those.

That’s part of the fun of collecting. I know, I’ve done it most of my life. I love to attend a card show and forget my problems for a couple of hours and look through booklets and binders and bins full of old cards, hoping to score some bargains and I almost always do.

Finding a five dollar card in a dollar bin is a great feeling, corny as that sounds. I know a lot of other people like it too because I see them at shows all the time. What I didn’t see was the time and effort the dealers spent to set up so the collectors could dig through it.

I don’t mind working and I’ve set up at shows before but it’s a lot of work with never a guarantee of success. I could have the biggest inventory in the room and if the collectors aren’t buying for whatever reason, I’m screwed. Then I have expenses to pay on top of it.

There’s table cost and time to sort and gas for the car and lunch while at the show and it all adds up very quickly. Then it’s insulting when someone finds a nice card at a fair price but asks for a discount on top of that. There comes a point when it’s not worth the effort.

That’s where I am now, and I admit it. I made a mistake. I thought I’d have myself a fun little side business to make a few bucks but with everything else going on that’s just not a realistic goal right now. Theory vs. reality came into play and reality won as it usually has a tendency to do. I’m still a collector at heart but I’ve got so many other things that I need to get done that it’ll just have to wait, probably until my next lifetime. Time to move on.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Designated Kidder

Saturday September 26th, 2009 - Chicago, IL

If it’s Saturday it must mean another installment of Jerry’s Kidders on WGN radio, and a fun one it was. We were on an hour earlier than usual because of a football broadcast so getting there by 10am rather than 11 was a challenge. Ken Sevara was off this week as he was driving back from a gig in the U.P. of Michigan so Jim McHugh joined us in studio.

Jim is a really funny comic and a wonderful guy. I’ve known him almost as long as I’ve been around and that’s going on most of forever. We met in the mid ‘80s at a place called The Comedy Cottage, which was in Rosemont, IL. That was the first place I ever stepped on a stage in the Chicago area and I remember how big time I thought that was back then.

I think it was an old pizza joint and it was no big deal but the vibe in there was electric. It was the start of the comedy boom of the ‘80s and people lined up to see comedians that weren’t really all that good at the time. Many of us went on to enjoy very good things but at the time it was mainly a showcase club where newer comics would develop their acts.

I wish there were tapes of those shows because of all the talent that came through there that was starting at the same time. Arsenio Hall had just left for L.A. right when I started but there were dozens of others who went on to become strong acts including Jim and me.

Jim is a few years older than me and he was already doing it by the time I started to be a semi regular there. I always thought he was funny and he was nice to me off stage too. As time went on we crossed paths occasionally but were never really close until he asked me to be a part of the Chicago Style Standups a few years ago. We’ve really hit it off nicely.

For one thing he’s a Packer fan and that’s not easy to find in the Chicago area. I’m on a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy living down here and unless someone brings it up I try to not mention it. Most comedians know I’m a Packer fan and they razz me about it but I’d stop watching football altogether if I had to cheer for those putrid blue and orange uniforms.

After last week the Packers didn’t live up to the billing either so maybe I should stop it anyway but that’s another tangent I don’t want to touch right now. I picked Jim up at his house in Hoffman Estates and we drove to WGN to do the show. He was like a kid that’s going to see Santa and I could feel his excitement in the car. I knew he wanted to do this.

We really do have fun as a group, both on air and off. Some weeks might be better than others on air but off air it’s always a blast. Ken and Tim Slagle are very good guys and a guy like Jim fits right in. He was funny on the air as I knew he’d be and then we went out to breakfast and that’s always when the real funny starts. We should start recording that.

When I got home Jim sent me a really nice email telling me how much fun he had being on with us and I knew he meant it. I could see it in his face while we were doing it. That’s what life is all about. We talked on the way home about how much pure fun The Comedy Cottage days were and how that part can get lost when comedy is one’s living. Not today.

The Walk Of Life

Friday September 25th, 2009 - Lake Villa, IL

Two more laps in the mall today and I’m starting to feel like an athlete. Not the in shape part, the throbbing pain afterward. It’s worth it because I know this is the right thing to do and I will keep doing it as often as humanly possible for the rest of my life, however long that may be. I know if I don’t keep doing this regularly chances are it will be a lot shorter.

I remember taking walks as a kid with my grandfather as he was recovering from heart bypass surgery. Mall walking wasn’t popular then and the bypass surgeries were a whole lot more involved than they are today and he was in rough shape for a while. He started a whole physical fitness program in his 60s and really stuck to it but the damage was done.

Those walks were some of the most wonderful times in my entire life. We would go on different routes depending on his mood and once in a while he’d let me choose where we walked. I don’t remember if he walked every day and I didn’t join him every time but the times I did go were magical. He’d open up and tell me about the wonders of the world.

Gramps always talked to me as an adult and respected my ability to grasp adult things. I would have his ear during those walks and could and would ask him anything. He’d talk a blue streak about any subject I wanted and he’d bring up a few of his own too. He rotated a lot of subjects so he could educate me. It was on one of these walks we had the sex talk.

I was just starting to hit the puberty age and at first it was very awkward when the topic came up but then after a while it was part of the rotation along with sports, life goals and any problems I might have been experiencing at the time. Gramps knew how to work it.

Hopefully I’m not going to have to need bypass surgery but it’s time to start preventing that now. I’ve been eating horribly for decades and the road comic lifestyle is not exactly the recipe for physical fitness. Sitting like a lump in a car for hours to go stand on a stage and talk for 45 minutes doesn’t burn off very many calories, and a microphone is all I lift.

These walks are starting to feel really good but I also feel all the years of neglecting my body starting to catch up. It happens to millions of other people too but I want to be smart and not just let myself keep sliding down the path to a massive chest grabber. Keeping up the way I’ve been eating and not exercising at all will make it a reality sooner than later.

I’m also finding myself really getting lost in thought, which I love. I’m having all kinds of ideas and I need to start bringing something to write them down. Usually the shower is my main place for creative ideas but this is beginning to crank them out as well. I like the fact I’m multitasking and I can think in depth about anything I choose. It’s a mental gym.

I have a ton of ideas and limited time and energy to try them all. That has been and still is my worst problem. I guess there could be worse problems, like dealing with recovering from a heart attack from a lack of exercise. I wish I could start my life over and do things right but everyone has their own regrets. One thing I don’t regret is starting to smarten up.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Timbo's Birthday

Thursday September 24th, 2009 - Milwaukee, WI

I remember birthdays forever. I don’t know why, but I do. My grandpa died in 1981 but I still remember his birthday was November 18th and every November 18th it jumps out at me. Once a birthday gets in my head it stays there, whether that person is living or dead.

September 24th is the birthday of my childhood best friend Timbo, the guy who robbed the bank he used to work at, TWICE, and tried to blame one of them on me. I haven’t had any contact with him since I had to testify against him in court and he ended up doing six and a half years in prison. That was a horrible experience and I’m never going to forget it.

Those who know me well know the story and I’ve told it on radio stations all across the country and every station I tell it on is blown away by it. Bob and Tom are on in over 200 markets and I was on there for about two hours telling it, because it has so many unusual twists and turns. It’s a fascinating story, even though it was hell on Earth to live through.

Looking back on it now it all seems surreal and from another life but at the time it was a nightmare that took about seven years to play out. There was no happy ending for me, and a worse one for him. I have to believe he regrets it all now but I haven’t talked to him. It’s like he died that day and I never got a chance to say goodbye. The whole thing is a mess.

What stinks about it most is I lost a life long best friend. We were very close through all of our coming of age stuff and he was closer to me than my own blood brother. We share a lot of great memories from our years together and then he decided to flip out and rob the bank and it all started going sour from there. It was like he turned into a wrestling villain.

We both loved pro wrestling as kids and we went to the matches whenever we could. It was a thrill to watch our mutual home town hero The Crusher stomp the guts out of some ‘turkey neck bum’ as he used to call them. Those were fun times but the memories aren’t the same now. It feels like they’re tainted. Timbo crossed the line and it still hurts today.

I know he still remembers those wrestling matches and going to Packer games together and all the other fun stuff we did over the years. He knows my birthday is in March and it both irritates and saddens me that we had to part ways so permanently for such a horrible reason. In the end he tried to pin a bank robbery on me and he knew I didn’t do it. He did.

I guess things get desperate but there was no excuse for that. I still have nightmares of it even now. I’ll dream I’m back on that witness stand having to testify against my life long best friend and nothing will come out of my mouth. Or even worse, I’ll be on stage killing and after the show Timbo will come back stage and everything freezes. It paralyzes me.

Those dreams are very vivid and I always wake up in a cold sweat with my heart racing. That’s not right. Part of me wants to find him all these years later and get right in his face and say “Are you happy now?” Another part of me never wants to see him again but there are so many shared memories between us it feels like I lost part of myself along with him.

As luck would have it I was booked in Milwaukee today to do a morning gig for a very nice group of people called Ways to Work. They help people get car loans so they can get a car to go to work. It was their national convention and they wanted a comedian because many times there is way too much serious stuff to digest. I think that’s a very good idea.

My friend Steve DeClark got me the gig as he’s worked for them in the past. They were very happy with what he did for them and since I have a nice sized chunk of material that deals with my nightmares with old cars it was a perfect fit. Steve was there too and it was a lot of fun actually, even though performing comedy at 9am feels a little strange to me.

The whole situation was strange. Here was a group of people from all parts of America in Milwaukee and I had to entertain them. Usually I’m the outsider in their town but today I was the outsider in my own home town. It felt odd but they were really nice people and I made them laugh anyway. Afterward people were lining up to tell me how funny I was.

I thanked them all and I meant it and then Steve and I met for a while because he thinks there can be more gigs like this and I’m all for it. I kept it squeaky clean and didn’t come anywhere near anything that could be considered offensive or non PC or insensitive. I am experienced enough to know how to read an audience and not every comedian does that.

There was a gender and racially mixed audience from all over the country and that’s not always an easy assignment. I knew my material about the cars would click with them and it absolutely did but I also know how to turn up the energy and make it fun. I can do this.

Steve has always thought out of the box when it comes to traditional comedy clubs and he’s very smart in doing that. These kind of gigs aren’t easy to do for most comics but we can pull them off because we’ve both had years of experience doing it. I really had fun for the effort and I only had to do about 20 minutes as they were behind on their time agenda.

I was originally scheduled to have another show up in northern Wisconsin tonight but it was ‘postponed’, so I decided to make the best of it. I spent the day with my lady friend in Milwaukee and we relaxed and recharged the batteries going to thrift stores. She has been under major stress after losing her job but she found another one and starts next Monday.

She’s got a kid to feed and she needed insurance and there’s a lot less pressure knowing she’s going to have that. I didn’t tell her much of what I’ve been going through because it didn’t fit with the day. We hadn’t seen each other in a while and I wanted to keep it light.

I didn’t walk today because my legs were so sore from yesterday it was to the point that I had a hard time getting in and out of my car. They really hurt, but not as much as it hurts inside knowing I had to lose a best friend for such a stupid reason. What a colossal waste.

The story itself however is phenomenal. There are funny parts to it but it’s not an all out comedy. There’s drama and suspense and some pretty solid characters too. I wish I didn’t have to live it but I did. The only happy ending I can think of would be getting paid for it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Positive Force

Wednesday September 23rd, 2009 - Lake Villa, IL

One thing I’ve always been willing to do is take action. Sometimes my actions have had disastrous results but at least I didn’t just sit there and do nothing. Today I decided to take action and not just wallow in my current situation. It’s time to get it in gear and move on.

I sure hope I learn whatever lesson I was supposed to glean from all this, if indeed there is one. This was deep and dark and intense and unpleasant and I don’t wish it on anybody, well almost. I guess I wouldn’t be heartbroken if a select few wankers that come to mind have to deal with it too but that’s not my call. I’ve got enough to keep me busy right now.

Today I got out and did a whole bunch of things I didn’t want to do. I mean, I REALLY didn’t want to do these things but I knew it was in my best interests so I did them anyway. I forced myself. It was extremely difficult but at the end of the day I can see I was right.

The first thing I did was haul myself over to the Gurnee Mills Mall and start back up on my walking again. That was about the last thing I wanted to do today but I knew I needed to get back to it and I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. I have been out of my groove for a while and the mall seemed like it grew. I had all I could handle to complete one lap.

When I first started I felt physically sick inside. I didn’t want to be there but I knew my blood needed to pump out all this bad energy so I clenched my jaw and started walking at a steady pace, focusing straight ahead only a few feet at a time. I didn’t want to get blown away by the big picture of how enormous it seemed. I only looked at what was just ahead.

My legs felt like cement poles and my feet felt like manhole covers as I kept them all in motion for the first leg of my walk. It was very uncomfortable but then I felt a rhythm get started and before long I was getting into it. I could feel myself working through the hurt.

As I finished my first lap I felt like falling over but I knew I needed to do another one so I could really start kicking myself into gear. Today of all days I needed this so I kept it up and sure enough I was able to complete a second lap. By that time I was ready for either a nap or triple bypass surgery but I was glad I stuck with it. It felt like I did the right thing.

My next stop was the Golden Corral. I piled my plate high with a salad made with only fresh vegetables and lots of them. Any and every vegetable they had I sampled and it was actually not all torture. Other days I have made excuses why pizza and Pepsi taste better.

They do, but today I skipped them and ate only things that were grown in soil. After my salad I went back to the buffet and loaded up only on hot vegetables. It was sort of hard to pass up the onion rings and lasagna and fried chicken, but that only lasted about a minute.

I knew for at least one day I needed to pack some purpose into my pipes so I did. I have eaten enough of that other stuff for the rest of my life so now it doesn’t hurt to put a little something good in there. Maybe it will start bringing different results. I would enjoy that.

It really felt good to take that long brisk walk and pack down all those vegetables, even though I had to force myself to do it. It’s easy to curl up and do nothing but the winners in life don’t settle for that. They forge ahead and do what’s right, even when it’s not easy.

That’s what I’m shooting for right now. I am NOT going to let depression defeat me but it sure has given me a run for my money lately. I feel like I’m surveying the damage to my property after a category 5 hurricane went through and deciding where to start rebuilding.

Everything in my life is in shambles right now. I don’t have any money put away for an emergency like I did just a couple of years ago. I was sitting pretty nicely so I made some decisions I wouldn’t necessarily make now. Then the economy tanked and here I sit with my education wishing I’d done things differently. Too late. I have to deal with what I did.

Comedy on a club level is also a mess right now. I just heard that Giggles in Brookfield, WI bounced checks to four other comedians too. Ugh. That’s not what I want to hear as it means he’ll probably go under and none of us will get paid. I need that money but I doubt if I’ll see it any time soon. That’s just fact. I’ll file my small claim in court and move on.

The one thing I can’t afford to do is get lost in the big picture. I won’t be able to fix my whole life in a day or a month or even a year. It will take steady progress and lots of days in a row like I had today. I rolled up my sleeves and went to work today and it was good.

I am not going to waste my energy on anger over things I can’t control. I’ll have plenty to deal with focusing on that which I can control and that’s where my energy will go. I’ve got some skills and some good connections and I can work harder and smarter doing what I’ve needed to do for a while now. I need to sit down and reassess everything in my life.

A day job is not going to be the answer for me. It just isn’t. Would I work as a clerk at a Target or manage a Wendy’s? I guess so, but I know that’s not where my real talent lies. I worked too hard for too long to just give it all up and sell mufflers or deliver pizzas. I am not opposed to doing any of those things but this far into the game it seems pretty stupid.

At lunch today I brought a legal pad and planned out what I want my comedy classes to become. I have a lifetime of expertise and I know I can help people on all levels develop a skill that is needed more now than ever before. That’s where I think I can be of most help to society, not mopping out the overflowing dumper of some Shell station on third shift.

I was proud of myself today. I know one day won’t bring me back to whatever the term ‘normal’ means, but it did a lot of inner cleaning and damage control and I feel better for doing it. It wasn’t easy but it was right. That’s how I think a winner should make choices.

I’ve still got a hell of a long way to go and there’s all kinds of other things to get to like the ever challenging pile of emails and all the other things I’ve let sit but I’m going to get it in gear and keep making the tough choices that will move it all ahead. Life is short and my death will come soon enough. I want to make the most of whatever life I do have left.

Been Here Before

Tuesday September 22nd, 2009 - St. Charles, IL

One of the few comforting qualities of being a dented can is that I’ve experienced most if not all ‘worst case scenario’ situations there can be in all facets of life. I’ve been as low as low can get and it didn’t kill me so there’s really nothing new about where I am now.

I’ve been here before, and unfortunately I’ll probably be here again. The trick is keeping a steady head in the middle of the raging storm and battening down my inner hatches. It’s very easy to think about ending it all when it gets like this and I’ve thought of that option a lot but deep down I know that’s not the solution. The best answer is to keep on fighting.

There are a few things I absolutely know to be true no matter what. They are:

-I’m not the only person to have ever struggled with depression. There have been millions in all walks of life and from all times in history. This is not a new thing by any means and I am not the first or the worst affected by it. Other people have dealt with this same pain.

-People who haven’t had to deal with this have no idea what it’s about. They make stupid comments because they have no clue what they’re talking about. They mean well but that doesn’t change the fact that they pour gas on the fire. I need to ignore everything they say.

-This has been something most creative types have had to deal with throughout history. It almost seems to go with the territory. It can be lessened with diet and exercise and I have not always been the best when it comes to being consistent with that. I can do way better.

-Whenever I’ve had a dark spell, it has always eventually passed. Not only that, there has always been a period of fantastic creativity right afterward. Maybe it’s manic depression or bipolar disorder or whatever anyone wants to call it, but the pattern has never varied.

These things may be 100% true, but remembering them when the storm is raging rarely happens. When it’s dark it’s REALLY dark and it doesn’t matter that anyone else has or is feeling the same sensation. All that matters is life seems worthless. It’s overwhelming.

I can’t say I’m ready to turn cartwheels in the mall but I am starting to feel a little more in sync with life today, even though bullets are still flying. I got word a gig I was booked for this Thursday in northern Wisconsin has been ‘postponed indefinitely’, which means cancelled. It’s very unprofessional to cancel two days out and I should have been paid.

This is what happens when dealing with small time bookers. A bigger agency wouldn’t allow that to happen. There would be a contract and a deposit and if there was a cancelled show two days out I’d have half the money. That’s what should have happened here too.

I knew I was feeling better because the booker’s phone call didn’t set me over the edge. I took it in stride and although it pissed me off a little I didn’t flip out on the guy. He likes me and tries to get me gigs when he can so rather than give him an earful I just let it go.

Then I got an email from another booker regarding a weekend gig I have booked out in Idaho in October. The pay was pretty good and it was only one show a night but evidently that place is starting to dribble checks as well. A comic mentioned it to the booker and he put the word out warning us of the situation and offering anyone the chance to back out.

I could really use that money but I hadn’t bought my plane ticket yet and after checking the prices I decided to back out of the gig. I’d have to make two plane changes each way and if I’m going to do that I don’t want to get a rubber check. It isn’t even a comedy club. It’s a piano bar that has comedians so we‘re not the priority. Plus, it‘s a long way to go.

The main reasons I took the gig were of course the money but I really do think Idaho is a nice place. Just like Salt Lake City, the people are very friendly and the scenery is about as beautiful as there is anywhere in North America. I was hoping to get a week of work to make a few bucks and get back to the Boise area again. I’d love to have a regular outlet.

Then, to make it a trifecta, I received word that a show I had booked on October 1st is a bust and that’s going to be cancelled as well. It was at the Waukegan Park District and the woman who I deal with there is a total sweetheart. She wanted to try a comedy night and I told her I’d be up for it but it just didn’t work out. Too bad, as it’s in a very nice facility.

She wanted to make it a single’s comedy night and it’s a continuing education program so registration is required rather than just a walkup cover charge. Apparently it wasn’t the right way to market it and that’s just how it went this time. She’s very sharp and I’m sure she’ll figure it out eventually but for now it’s dead. That’s three gigs shot for one month.

Those would have paid all my bills for October but now not only am I screwed by those going down the toilet, there still isn’t any word on the bounced check from Giggles up in Brookfield, WI. I called the booker of that one and he said he’s trying to get them to get it handled but so far they haven’t. I went to my mailbox today and again I was disappointed.

I’ve been through all of this before in one way or another so I just blew it off. This is an amazingly hard time for a lot of people right now and it feels like the American Dream is morphing into the American Nightmare. The land of opportunity is drying up for those of us who have been used to being able to squeak out an honest living. It‘s all turning sour.

It’s not how it used to be and I can’t say I like the way life in this country appears to be headed. The real people in charge don’t seem to want a middle class for whatever reason and it looks like they’re going to get their wish. It seems like America is crumbling before our eyes but nobody’s doing anything to fix it and those who do care are not being heard.

The whole human race seems to be evolving back into monkeys. Everything is in chaos and it’s getting worse for almost everyone who isn’t independently wealthy, and of course that happens to be almost everyone. Something’s really wrong somewhere and my stupid little problems are dwarfed by the big picture. I sure could use a lotto jackpot about now.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Personal Hurricane

Monday September 21st, 2009 - Chicago, IL

I must say this is one of the absolute worst spells of depression I’ve ever had, and that’s a major statement. I’ve fought through some low points in my life but this one just snuck up without notice and bit me in the shorts and it won’t let go. Today was yet another ugly struggle just to get out of bed but I dragged myself out and hauled myself into Chicago.

Jerry’s Kidders had a rehearsal at the Royal George Theatre of the play we’re doing and Vicki Quade brought in another director to look at it and make notes. We’re putting quite a bit of work into the project and everyone’s contributing something but I have my doubts as to how much money it will bring in. Vicki is very sharp though and we all trust her.

She is not a fly by night wannabe and her productions tend to not only make money but also last a long time so we’re banking on her expertise to help us find a following. I didn’t want to bring the rest of the cast or crew down so I shut my mouth and tried to act happy.

Jerry doesn’t get it and admits he doesn’t. When I get like this he leaves me alone and it eventually goes away. He used to try and give me the rah rah speech of how things aren’t so bad and all that Zig Ziglar hoo-hah but that adds gas to the fire. Thankfully Jerry isn’t a dented can and had a pretty good childhood. He can’t relate to my pain and that’s a plus.

Ken Sevara is a very nice guy but he tends to be a little on the Beaver Cleaver side. I’m glad he’s in the group but he started laying the whole “Aw shucks, it’ll get better” line of thinking on me and that just made me feel worse. When I politely asked him to stop doing it he launched into the “I’ve got problems too” angle and that‘s another one that irks me.

Dented cans know that when we get in these funks the last things we need to hear about are the problems of other people or “Hang in there - Jesus loves you. It’ll get better.” The people who say those things mean well but the results are usually completely opposite of what the person saying them intended. They don’t understand so they just say anything.

Jerry didn’t mean any harm and neither did Ken but they all started laughing and being giddy and I just wasn’t in that kind of mood today so I kept quiet and sat off to the side of the stage and kept to myself. I knew they felt uncomfortable and so did I but I can’t fake it when I’m not feeling it. I can do my part when the lights go on but after that I’m a mess.

Believe me, I hate writing about this as much or more than most people probably hate to read about it but this is how it is and I’m not going to hide it. Creative people get in these mental ruts and it becomes a part of life. There has to be a solution somewhere other than a bullet to the skull, although in the last week or so I’ve considered that more than once.

This experience is like being in a hurricane. When the storm rages nothing else is on the mind of the person in the middle of it. Sure, the sunshine may be close by but that doesn’t matter until the storm actually stops. Right now the storm is raging and I’m trying to hide in my basement until it’s over. I just hope when it is over my house isn’t ripped to pieces.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Struggles To The Max

Sunday September 20th, 2009 - Lake Villa, IL/Kenosha, WI

I can’t ever remember being in a funk this deep and it doesn’t seem to be lifting. I called my friend Max in Springfield, IL because he’s one of the few that can relate to what I feel right now. I’ve talked him off the ledge more than once when he was feeling like I am and today it was his turn to return the favor. If nothing else it’s nice to have a sounding board.

Max is a great guy and very smart and tries as hard as he can to be a good person just as I do. Sure, we both make mistakes and neither one of us are afraid to take the blame when we screw up but when we get like this it’s got nothing to do with screwing up or the kind of person either of us is. The dents in our can are painful and both of us struggle with it.

I’ve talked Max through some really intense times when all he feels like doing is getting in his car and ramming into an oncoming semi or train and ending it all so his kids will be taken care of with his life insurance policy. Max is a great dad and loves his kids and said they’re the only reason he stays alive when he gets in his dark space but still it’s difficult.

I know exactly what he means. I’m there now. The darkness totally envelops every part of the conscious mind and it’s overwhelming. Nothing seems worthwhile and everything seems useless, including getting out of bed. I have to fight with myself to get dressed and leave the house because I don’t feel like going anywhere or dealing with anyone. It’s hell.

The worst is when people say “Just cheer up and get over it.” Ha. If they only knew the depth of how stupid that actually is. Then there’s the religious nuts who say “Put it all in God’s hands.” Sorry, I’m having a really hard time with that one. I don’t feel a God at all. Supposedly if there is one He’s not supposed to send us more than we can handle. Please.

I’m exactly at that point right now. In the Popeye cartoons it’s when he opens a can of spinach and sucks it through his pipe. I’ve had all I can stands and I can’t stands no more. I’m sick of everything and nothing excites me. I want to reboot my life so the pain stops.

What would do that? Drugs? Maybe, but I’m not going that way. I’ve heard a whole lot of nightmare stories about Prozac and I’m screwed up enough already without adding that to the mix. Who knows what kind of side affects there might be? I’ve read up on it quite a bit and it doesn’t seem right for me. There has to be a better way, but what the hell is it?

Max and I had a long talk about it and we’ve had it many times before. One thing we’ve always experienced is that it eventually passes, at least for a while. This is one of the very worst spells I can ever remember but hopefully it will pass soon. It’s already been several days and it’s drained my energy on all levels. I don’t know how much more I can handle.

What’s really disturbing is that everything I like or at least I thought I liked isn’t making me happy like it used to. Jerry’s Kidders used to be fun. Now it’s a chore. The same thing goes for The Mothership Connection radio show on WLIP in Kenosha, WI. I really didn’t feel like showing up at all tonight and it’s never happened before. That bothers me a lot.

These were things I really used to enjoy doing, even though I didn’t make a dime doing them. I did them for fun and now that’s even gone. Tonight’s Mothership Connection was all over the place because I had a guest cancel at the last minute. Then Lara Shaffer did it a few minutes later. I felt like calling it all off but I made a commitment so I showed up.

We ended up piecing a show together but halfway through Dr. Destruction checked out and went home because he was tired from a busy weekend. Gary Pansch and Diane Ebert stepped up and we had some last minute guests like Vivian Harper who talked about a lot of interesting things from the Mayan calendar ending in 2012 to the Atlantis civilization.

Normally I love stuff like this but tonight all I could think of was how much I wanted it all to be over so I could go home and go back to bed and sleep away the pain. That’s not a fun feeling and it’s a giant red flag when things I used to love are now becoming boring.

What really took the cake earlier in the day was watching the Green Bay Packers lose in embarrassing fashion to the School Sisters of the Poor, a.k.a. the Cincinnati Bengals. That was about as painful as it gets and even though I know I shouldn’t care about the score of a stupid football game, it still bothers me that they could lose a game in such a bad way.

Their effort was terrible and they deserved to lose but what I can’t stop are the emotions attached to a lifetime of cheering for those worthless meatheads. The sheer humiliation of a lifetime of loyalty being kicked back in my face was enough to make me get in my own car and drive head on into a train myself. If I was in charge of the team they’d all be gone.

This is how I know all of this is completely stupid - I actually cared. Why does it get me so emotionally involved? None of those million dollar steroid apes care about me or what I think so why do I keep cheering for them? I don’t know, but I do. I wish I could stop but it’s been a lifetime addiction. I love the Packers and they continue to abuse me in return.

I’m way out of sync with everything right now. I honestly don’t care if I live or die and I would gladly lay down and let someone else have my remaining time if they wanted it but that’s not an option. I know I’m not the only one who’s been in this position and I have to believe there are people in the world right now who are right with me but what do we do?

Anyone who’s been in this situation knows how lonely and dark it is. Anyone who isn’t familiar with it thinks I’m a whiny sniveler with nothing to whine about. That’s very easy to say if one hasn’t experienced it. I can say all I want how periods are no big deal but I’ll never have any credibility unless I actually have one myself. Thankfully, I think I‘m safe.

What’s positive about this, anything? A winner looks within and doesn’t blame. I don’t want to let this defeat me but it’s sure putting me into a state of paralyzed suspension and it’s taking away my creative drive. Not only that it’s even taking away my desire to live.

Dented cans deal with this constantly. Max totally gets it and we had a rational back and forth discussion about it today. Hopefully it’ll turn around soon. I can’t take much more.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Quiet On The Set

Saturday September 19th, 2009 - Menomonee Falls, WI

I’m still feeling lower than a piss ant’s pecker. The hardest part of this whole time is not letting it show in public. Usually when I get like this I try to stay away from everybody so I don’t bring them down too but sometimes I have no choice. Today I had to suck it up.

I made a commitment to be in a movie filmed by the son of a guy I went to high school with named Bob Richards. Bob is a super nice guy and has always been a huge supporter through the years. He and his wife Judy used to come out and see me in Milwaukee years ago before I moved to Chicago. He found me on Facebook recently and I’m glad he did.

Bob’s son Kyle is a film maker and is finishing up his first feature length film. That’s a very impressive accomplishment for a 20 year old kid, even if technology makes it a more achievable thing than ever before. Bob and I joked that we grew up in the dark ages and it would have been nearly impossible to crank out a movie then but now it’s not hard at all.

What’s hard is actually DOING it and that’s what I respect about Kyle and his crew. It’s a lot of work but according to Bob they’ve been diligent about getting it done and they are nearly done with the shooting part and hope to have their premiere showing January 1st.

I was very flattered that Kyle found a place for me in his movie and I showed up for my scene this morning at Menomonee Falls High School. I play a teacher who has a few lines and it was a fun scene to shoot. Bob said “You’re a natural in front of the camera.” Well, I’ve been performing for an entire time so I should be. It really wasn’t all that difficult.

The real acting job was not letting anyone know I was in a nasty depression funk. It was nobody’s fault and I didn’t want to bring anyone else down so I sucked it up and tried my best to be pleasant and upbeat and easy to work with. It was nice to sit and visit with Bob and Judy as I haven’t seen them in a long time so that helped make things work out well.

The scene ended exactly at 11am which is exactly the time I had to be on the phone for this week’s edition of Jerry’s Kidders on WGN. I sure didn’t feel funny but again I had to force myself to put my own feelings aside and try to be part of the team. That’s not easy.

I couldn’t really tell how it went but nobody swore so I guess it’s ok. After that I drove to Leon’s Frozen Custard on 27th and Oklahoma in Milwaukee to try to find anything that would cheer me up even a little. If Leon’s doesn’t do it I know I need professional help.

Not only was the custard delicious as usual, I got an extra perk when the counter lady asked if I was a comedian. I said I was and she said “I saw you on the Jay Leno show and you were SOOO funny! I also saw you on the news and I remembered I’d seen you here.”

That lady has an amazing eye. Even though it was Craig Ferguson and not Jay Leno it’s still impressive she picked me out in a crowd. I thanked her and gave her a card and said she gets in free any time I‘m in town. She had no idea how good it felt, especially today.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Wrong Direction

Friday September 18th, 2009 - Chicago, IL

Another day, another trip to the mailbox to find no check. This is beyond ridiculous and I’m about ready to snap. It’s completely unprofessional not to mention disrespectful and it pushes all my inner buttons. I’ve come way too far to have this kind of thing happen now.

This is a cumulative thing. Year after year after year of dealing with idiots and chiselers and scumbags and shysters add up to complete impatience. The sweetest and cutest puppy will eventually snap if it gets poked with a broom stick enough times. That’s where I am.

I’m not a violent person by nature but every day of this stupidity makes me want to take an ax handle to someone’s skull. Unfortunately, the number of skulls is growing rapidly. I just want it to be over with and move on but nobody seems to be able to understand that.

I did have some communication by email with the booker’s son who is now taking over most of the bookings. He’s been very professional about it and has a natural skill with his dealing of people that his father never had. He apologized profusely and said he’d get my money and said he’s been in contact with the club owner at Giggles and will stay on it.

What else can I do? I really don’t want to file a small claim in court and all that but if it comes to that I definitely will. I need that money and I earned it. That was the worst week of comedy I can remember in a long time and to not get paid for it adds insult to injury.

I’m really trying hard to stay upbeat right now but it’s not working. Everything seems to piss me off or make me sad and the more I try to suck it up the more pain I feel inside. On one hand this is the best time of my life but on the other I feel like I’m ready to check out.

I had lunch with my friend Marc Schultz today and that’s always a positive. He’s a great friend in addition to being a corporate booker and his mother had depression so he’s dealt with it before. I can always talk to him about it and he was very encouraging today when I needed it the most. He said he’s getting a lot of interest from my Late Late Show DVD.

His business takes a while to make the rounds and he sends out sample DVDs of acts he books so clients can see who’s available. He’s sent my stuff before but my club stuff isn’t what would sell a corporate buyer. Having a TV spot on a recent show adds credibility.

Marc said he’s got three hold dates for potential holiday parties in December because of the DVDs he sent to people who chose me from it. There’s no guarantee I’ll get a booking because it usually has to go through a committee but then again I could get all three. It’s a crapshoot but at least I’m starting to get into the shooter after all these years. It’s progress.

That made me feel a little better but it’s much deeper than that. The dents in my can are very deep and seem to be getting deeper no matter how hard I try to pound them out. I am doing all I can to overcome where I’ve come from and what I’ve been through but when I get in a funk like I’m in now nothing seems to help. This is the worst I’ve had it in ages.

I don’t even like writing about it but I think I have to. Hopefully other dented cans will be able to use my life with all it’s lumps and bumps to help make theirs better. Is there an underlying pattern with any of this? Is it a chemical thing? A full moon? I haven’t got any clues other than to know when it gets like this I have no desire to live anymore. Life rots.

If there is indeed a next world I have to believe it’s better than this one. Is there a reason for all the insanity in this one or is it completely random? It sure seems random to me and if there is a God He sure doesn’t seem to have time for me. I feel cheated and abandoned.

I came home from lunch and my roommate’s kids were just walking in the door. I rarely see my roommate or her kids because it’s a big house and none of us are home very often. Our hours are completely opposite and that works out great because we never get in each other’s way. I drop my rent off on the kitchen table in an envelope on the 1st and that’s it.

Today for whatever reason I saw the kids for a minute. They’re both girls and are both sweethearts and very well behaved. Now they’re both in high school and they’re gorgeous so boys are starting to come around like flies. They’re cheerleaders and seem to be having all the fun that high school is supposed to be. We said quick hellos and I went downstairs.

I could hear them playing the radio too loud because their mom wasn’t home from work yet and giggling with their friends and after a while more friends came over and they were doing all the things school kids should. I was happy for them but it made me feel terrible because it drove home the hard nasty fact even more that I never had that and never will.

High school was very painful. I never really wanted to go to the school I went to but my grandparents wanted me to go there so I wouldn’t end up a troublemaker like my father. I wouldn’t have ended up like that anyway because it’s not in me. He was who he was and I’m my own person but since he was such a screw up I had to pay for his wild stupidity.

My grandmother always thought I’d get hurt and never let me play any sports and that’s still a sore spot, especially after seeing how much fun the kids were having today. If I did get hurt physically I would have been long healed by now but the pain of not getting to be part of the teams and having those kind of relationships still lingers all these years later.

Usually I don’t think about this stuff very much but times like this when I’m deep in the black hole it’s so painful it’s all I can think about. There’s a pain of regret and frustration and everything good I may have done in my life doesn’t mean a damn thing. It feels like a total waste of time and that’s what I feel like right now. I wish I could go to sleep and die.

This isn’t how life is supposed to be but I’m being honest of how I feel. I remember as a kid hearing of Jonathan Winters having struggled with depression and I couldn’t believe a hilarious guy like him could have a down day. Now all these years later I’m there as well.

Have I accomplished anything worthwhile in my life? Damn, it sure doesn’t seem like it and getting stiffed from my pay at Giggles in my home town doesn’t make it any better.

Knight Of The Living Dead

Thursday September 17th, 2009 - Lake Villa, IL/St. Charles, IL

I’m in a deep dark nasty funk. I’ve been here before and even though it’s been a while, the seat is still warm. The older I get the more I dislike these times and I’d almost rather have a period every month. At least I could plan for it and know it would be gone soon.

I need to be careful what I wish for though. I know my luck. The last thing I need is to be the only man on Earth with a period. I’m sure there are women who get depressed too and they have both to deal with so I guess my life isn’t so bad. Still, right now it’s ugly.

I haven’t walked for a while and I’ve been eating poorly and been on the road for a few weeks and maybe that has something to do with it. It really is difficult to stay healthy on a road schedule and the fact is I’m just getting older. All that fast food is catching up to me.

Dwelling on how rotten I feel isn’t going to do much good so I’ll stop for now. I slept it off much of today but that didn’t even feel good. When I get like this I have vivid dreams that are very disturbing and it’s never a restful sleep. I can’t even remember what they are about most of the time but I do remember waking up not refreshed and still feeling tired.

That’s what happened today. I woke up in a sweat and didn’t feel rested at all. I took an extra long hot shower and tried to scrub up and get the blood flowing or something. It’s a chore just to get out of bed but I knew I had to get out of the house or I’d feel even worse.

My friend John Knight is working this week at Zanies in the Pheasant Run Resort out in St. Charles, IL. I was just there Tuesday teaching a class but I hadn’t seen John in a while so that was my destination. He’s a great guy and has been doing comedy as long as I have or maybe even a little longer. He’s originally from Pittsburgh and we met in the mid ‘80s.

Those were the boom years of the comedy business. Every old fart (now including John and myself) talks about how amazing it was then but I have to agree. It really was the best of times for comedians but unfortunately neither John nor I had an act then. We were still learning our craft but we had a whole big country full of clubs to go explore. And we did.

John and I laughed about how now we’re the crusty old bastards we used to make fun of back then and how fast the time went. If we had acts we both have now in 1989 instead of 2009 we’d both be millionaires, or at least doing a lot better than we’re doing. It’s like we have the winning lottery numbers twenty years too late and are still trying to cash them in.

It was great to see John. I watched his whole show and it made me laugh out loud. He’s a pro and like me he stuck with it all these years. He moved to L.A. for a long time and is now back in Pittsburgh squeaking out a living like I am here in the Midwest. We’re lifers.

John was telling me stories of how he’s scraping up work just like I am and it makes me sad because guys like us should be kicking ass right now. We’ve paid our dues and have a lot to offer but now it seems fewer and fewer want it. What’s next for road dogs like us?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Dent Gets Deeper

Wednesday September 16th, 2009 - Milwaukee, WI

I think I’m hitting the wall. I’ve been so busy doing so many things of late I am not able to sort everything out. Between all the traveling I’ve been doing lately and the shows I do once I get there and the comedy classes both at Zanies in Chicago and St. Charles, IL and everything else I’m just burned out right now. I needed to take a day off and relax a little.

I was supposed to have a date with my lady friend up in Milwaukee but she didn’t pick up her phone. We were supposed to hang out and have lunch and I thought it was a done deal but when I tried calling there was no answer. If there’s one dent that’s still in my can it’s abandonment issues with women. I think I may have an idea where that came from.

My mother left our family when I was five months old. My sister was 4 ½ then and my brother was 2 ½. I’m not a shrink but everything I’ve read about stuff like that isn’t much in favor of it as far as producing solid stable human beings in adulthood. I know I’ve been tweaked about this my whole life and days like this are when it really hurts. It bothers me.

I’m sure my mother had her own problems and by her own admission she was way into drugs and a whole lot of other things Good Housekeeping magazine didn’t endorse. Still, it can’t be good for kids to have their mother yanked away at a young age. I’ll bet both of my natural siblings are affected by it even though they were a little older. It still rots ass.

I’ve tried to deal with this my whole life. My mother image is nonexistent and the lady who raised me was my German grandmother who was about as warm as a six month old penguin terd. My sister and I never got along very well either and I can’t say we’ve ever had a close relationship like many brothers and sisters I see. I feel like I’m just drifting.

I’ve been blown off by women before as has every guy but there are certain times when it really hits extra hard. Rejection is never fun but after being blown off by my mother it’s even more sensitive for me. This is very personal and very painful at times and today was one of those times when it really hurt. I guess I just wanted some female company today.

I love women, I really do. If I were gay I’d say it but I’m far from it. The women I really like are usually the ones that blow me off and I know every guy can relate to that but with me it’s different. I’ve talked to a shrink about it and read books about it and many times a mother issue like I have causes a man to chase women he can’t have. It’s all a head game.

I don’t want to play head games at this time in my life. I want a life partner that I can be proud of that helps me and I help her. I want to be a husband and a dad and all the things I thought were supposed to be a birth right. I guess I could have had all that at one time but there’s no way I was ready for it then. I’d have been divorced by now and that’s not good.

Maybe all this is finally getting to me after having chased comedy as a substitute for the love I’ve felt I’ve missed all these years. I love getting laughs but it’s not the love I see so many others experience. Not sex - love. The kind between a mother and child and lovers.

I’ve had a lot going on lately and I’m just frazzled. I’m human, and humans get tired. It didn’t help that I went to my post office box this morning and didn’t find a check to make up for the bounced one I got recently. It’s been over a month now and I’m pissed beyond words. I thought my raw inner rage was fading away in my old age. I guess I was wrong.

There is NO excuse for this. None. I don’t care if the guy is having problems or not. Pay your headliner if you have a comedy club. Period. Normally in this diary I only mention a name if something is good and if it isn’t I’ll mention the situation and keep it under cover. Not today. The club that bounced the check is Giggles Comedy Pub in Brookfield, WI.

I hate to have to do it but I’m going to spread the word with comedians, which won’t be hard to do at all. It’s like a chick with herpes. Once word gets out it tends to stay out. I am not trying to be mean but I have to protect myself. The next step is filing a claim in court.

I have no desire to go to court, I just want my money and move on. Unfortunately I have previous experience with this from another slug club owner who still hasn’t paid me $400 for shows I did in ‘94. His name is J.D. and he runs the Sodomy Café, also in Milwaukee. Even though it’s my home town, the comedy scene there is horrible and always has been.

I was going to file a small claim on J.D. in 1994 because he laughed about not having to pay me. “Yeah? So SUE me,” He said. He tries to be a bad ass biker the same way my old man used to act. They even rode with the same gang of maggots. I never took my father’s bullying and I wasn’t going to take it from J.D. either. I did my shows and I want my pay.

The booker at the time was afraid of J.D. and she BEGGED me not to take him to court because she was afraid she’d lose her booking gig. My inner voice told me loud and clear to file the papers but I thought about it and tried to be nice. What an idiot. She SWORE it would get settled but 15 years later it’s still a pain in the ass, and nobody cares except me.

People wonder why entertainers are cold hearted bastards and I used to do it too. In my naïve youth I would look at stories of what some big star did and was appalled. Now I’m applauding. It’s this petty little grind that piles up year after year after year. I’m sick of it.

I make mistakes often and I admit them whenever I can. I don’t claim to be perfect but I do claim to make an attempt to make things right with people when there is a problem. If I can fix it, I do. If I can’t, at least I try to figure out what an alternative may be. This isn’t a similar situation because I haven’t heard anything from Giggles. Nobody really cares.

I don’t think he’s as mean spirited as J.D., but in either case I’m out pay I earned for the shows I did. They were very good shows, too. The pay scale in Milwaukee has never been good so even if I did get paid I’d still be getting ripped off but at least I‘d have my money.

What I really need right now is a night or two of very restful sleep, but the checks that I wrote that are bouncing won’t let me do it. My patience is as short as a Marine’s recruit’s bangs and I just want to get paid and move on. And a nice girlfriend wouldn’t hurt either.

Twin Task Tuesday

Tuesday September 15th, 2009 - Lombard, IL/St. Charles, IL

Another day running around from dawn to midnight, but it paid my bills so I needed to do it. The first stop was Lombard, IL which is 51 miles from where I live. I had a gig as a host of a showcase for performers who sell themselves to schools and libraries. My friend and ex radio partner Spike Manton hosted it for a few years but this year he couldn’t do it.

It was very nice of him to pass it along my way and I didn’t want to let him down by not showing up on time. Spike has a tendency to get places right when he needs to be and that can be maddening to an outsider. When we worked at the Loop in Chicago we started our show at 5am. Spike would walk in between 4:58:30 and 4:59:30 daily. We got used to it.

The guy in charge of this event wasn’t used to it and he asked me politely if I could be a little early and I told him I would. Wouldn’t you know there was a traffic accident about a mile from the place and it backed up traffic for miles. I ended up walking in at right about exactly when Spike used to make his daily entrances into the studio and I felt like an ass.

I did call the guy though so he knew it was happening but still, I can’t stand being late. I try to avoid it when I can but when I can’t it’s pure stress, and that’s what I felt like as we sat and waited for the accident to get cleaned up. I was trapped with no way out other than wait for it to clear. There’s nothing like raw tension to get the spirits going for a live gig.

This wasn’t an easy gig at all. There were about twenty performers of all different kinds from Mexican folk singers to puppet shows to a game show to a dog act. They each got a showcase of EXACTLY eight minutes and if they went even five seconds longer I had to go up on stage and keep the show moving. That only happened about two or three times.

Still, I had to watch the acts and get the intros right and get the audience focused on the stage and that’s no easy task. I’ve always been a good emcee and that’s because I chose to learn it as a craft. It’s a difficult job and takes years to master but today I’m glad I had it. I will be able to pay my rent next month from the money I earned today, but I worked for it.

Not many people can pay a month’s rent with one day’s worth of work so I’m grateful I have that opportunity. Plus, they bought us lunch which was simple but delicious. It came at the perfect time and I’m not complaining at all. They paid me immediately at the end of the day and everyone was professional and pleasant the whole day. This was a good gig.

After that I went to Zanies in St. Charles to teach a comedy class. I’ve got six signed up but one is helping me with legwork and promotion so only five are paid. Nobody is going to get rich but at least it’s a start and there are a lot of people in the area so now I’ll see if I can get anyone to come out on a regular basis. I have to carve out my territory of classes.

At least I’m working and earning a living. The money is going to be spent as fast as I’m able to get it but at least I’m able to keep some coming in. Another thing that’s important to note is that I’m still doing what I love and not working some hellish day job. Not yet.

Half A Birthday

Monday September 14th, 2009 - Chicago, IL

Half a BIRTH-day to meeeeee-eeeeee…half a birthday to me. Exactly six months from today is my next official birthday but I had a jam packed day of fun anyway. It didn’t start out that way. I left my cell phone in the back seat of the cab that drove me to get my car at the parking lot of my friend Todd Kasulke’s business. He let me park to save airport fees.

Todd crawls out of the rack super early and we agreed I wouldn’t call him after 11pm if my plane from Denver was delayed, which it was. We finally got in about 11:20 so I took a cab to live up to my end of the deal. I left my phone in the back seat as I got my luggage and didn’t discover it until the cab was gone. I raced directly to the airport to retrieve it.

Of course in Mr. Lucky tradition it was the cabbie’s last run of the night and he checked out and was going home. After running around and getting supervisors to call and see if it was turned in someone finally tracked the cabbie down and he ended up bringing it back.

That was a close call and I thanked him profusely but it sure was a lesson. That could be a total disaster as I have no ‘if found return to’ info on my phone. Who does? By the time I got back home it was 4:30am. I slept for a few hours and then had to be in Chicago for a run through with Jerry’s Kidders at the Royal George Theatre. I wished it wasn’t today.

I could have used a full night’s sleep but I said I’d be there so I was. I barely made it by 2pm as I said I would but it was close enough where nobody complained. Vicki Quade is in charge of this particular facet of the Kidders and she’s doing an outstanding job. We’re starting to see the production take shape and everyone is excited about it. It’s a lot of fun.

Basically what the ‘play’ is about is Jerry Agar’s radio journey tweaked a little for stage effect and we do our comedy bits as ‘callers’. We start out with a live version of what we do on WGN each week and then it’s just a reframed version of all our standup material in strategically placed points during the show. Like communism, it all looks good on paper.

Now we’re starting to make it happen on stage. We know our comedy bits, we’ve been doing them for years. Now we’re presenting them in a theatrical setting. Rob Becker did a similar thing with his standup material and called it “Defending The Caveman” and he’s a multimillionaire because of it. He packaged and sold it extremely well and kudos to him.

I’m not sure if we can do the same but we ran through it today and it was a blast. We all invited people we knew who had a clue about entertainment and took their suggestions at the end of the run through. It was amazingly productive and everyone who came liked the concept. The big picture is getting clearer, now we just have to fill in the smaller details.

After that I went to Zanies in Chicago to teach a comedy class with Bill Gorgo at 6 and then host the showcase show at 8:30. Both those things were fun and went very well but I again almost fell asleep at the wheel driving home afterward. I’ve got a full plate for sure but I really enjoy all that’s on it. This was about as happy a half birthday as I can imagine.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Airport Aggravation

Sunday September 13th, 2009 - Salt Lake City/Denver, CO/Milwaukee, WI?

What goes up, must come down. What goes on the road, must come home. Travel is the one part of comedy that never changes. When I started it was 99% driving. Once in a blue moon I’d take a train or a bus but usually it was miles and miles behind the wheel of a car without fail week after week. It was several years before I ever was able to afford to fly.

These days it’s about half and half, driving vs. flying. There are enough gigs close to me in the Chicago area to which I can commute and that’s why I’ve continued to live there as long as I have. Flying to gigs used to be my big aspiration but now it‘s just a chore. I can‘t stand the hassles of having to take my shoes off and get cattle prodded before every flight.

Airport security is a complete waste of everyone’s time. 9/11 terrorist check my ass. Do I look like I belong to the Taliban? I don’t even have any facial hair. And even if I should arise suspicions in line, surely the 85 year old grandma with the knitted purse they’ve got pushed up against the wall clogging the toilet for everyone else can’t be very dangerous.

I guess I just resent the fact I have to pay for ONE individual nut case who decided he’s going to attempt to use his shoe to blow up an airplane. The only good use I can think of for that shoe is kicking him in his poop shoot 500 times for every person he’s made have to take off their shoes before getting on a flight since he did that. And add a steel toe to it.

It’s really too bad that the actions of a select few have to affect the vast majority. Flying has long lost the luster it used to have, at least for me. Yes, it saves time between the long distance gigs but I’d rather stay closer to home and drive because I can haul more things.

Now most of the airlines are charging for checked bags. Southwest doesn’t have to do it so why do all the others? Because people are stupid enough to pay it, and I’m one of those people. What choices do we have other than taking a train or bus or even a blimp? Drive.

I’ve made the drive between Chicago and Salt Lake City more times than I ever wanted to. It’s about 1400 miles and there’s NOTHING to see. When Omaha is the highlight, you know you’re on a boring trip. If I intend to keep working in Utah I’ll have to keep flying.

I have to remember that as I sit in the Denver airport waiting for my connecting flight to Milwaukee. The shuttle from the hotel left without me this morning and I barely made my flight from Salt Lake City here. The security people were extra rude and ran my computer through the machine twice for whatever reason. I had to use all my energy to stay silent.

Then on the plane I had TWO screaming babies across from me and a mother/daughter team sitting next to me that were about as annoying as two humans I‘ve ever seen. I had the middle seat but I let them sit together and by the end I wished I’d hitch hiked to Utah.

Now I hear my plane to Milwaukee has been delayed. I was scheduled to get in at 10:30 but now it’s a mystery. I’m going to miss the Packers/Bears game too. This is the part of comedy nobody talks about but it is a reality. I’m paying now for the fun I had this week.

A Worthwhile Weekend

Saturday September 12th, 2009 - Salt Lake City, UT

Another fun week in Utah comes to a close. I like it here for a lot of reasons but mostly because there are just a lot of good people that keep crossing my path. I clicked with this place from the start and people I hooked up with when I lived here in ’01 are still friends now. Then, each time I come back I seem to add more friends to that list. I love the vibe.

Mick Martin and Allen Handy are perfect examples. They have an afternoon radio show on KBER ‘K-Bear’ and it’s very entertaining. They did mornings when I worked here and were on an hour longer than us so sometimes I’d go hang out with them on the air the last hour of their show and we’d really let it rip. We pretended to be rivals but it was all fun.

How many radio guys would have the security to let that happen? Not many, trust me. It was always fun hanging with those guys and they’re both genuinely talented. Even though we both worked for the same company then and were just down the hall there’s no reason they had to be nice to me but they always were. They put me on their show yesterday too.

Not only did they put me on the show, they bumped a few other people to do it. I was in the neighborhood when they were doing a remote and they saw me and waved me over to go immediately on the air. They kept me on and let me do bits with them and sit in for the whole show. It feels great to get the star treatment but those guys deserve it. They rock.

Today I had lunch with Debbi Olson. When I lived here she was a newspaper reporter at a paper that covered a story about our radio station helping to rebuild a house that burned down in town. It was a big promotion and she not only wrote a great article about that but also wrote another one about me too. She’s originally from Chicago and loves comedy.

She always supported me when I lived here and showed up for shows constantly. She’s a fan of entertainment in general and really understands it. She’s friends with the musical group Air Supply and sees them regularly too so it’s very flattering that I’m on her list.

People can joke about music acts like Air Supply or Barry Manilow or ABBA but it’s a reality that all those acts make big money and are stunning successes. People should think I’m half as successful as any of them. Show business is difficult and it’s easy to make fun of someone because they ‘sold out’. Well, we’re all for sale no matter what anybody says.

Debbi came out once again and brought her two daughters and a boyfriend of one of the daughters. They all told me how they loved the show and also stayed up late to watch me on TV when I was on the Late Late Show in July. They were all gushing about it and how can that not feel good? They were all extremely complimentary and that’s how it is here.

All four shows in West Valley City at Wiseguys were excellent this weekend. I wish the crowds were bigger but so does everyone else. The guy who manages the club is very nice and he paid me IN CASH immediately after the show so there will be no bounced checks. I wish every place would treat me as nicely as they do in Utah. I hope to come back soon.

That shouldn’t be any problem. Keith Stubbs is the owner of all the clubs here and he’s one of my biggest supporters. He’s a hilarious comedian and also does a morning show at 101.5 ‘The Eagle‘. He’s been on for a few years now and he’s been able to parlay it like I always wanted to but never could. He’s got four clubs in the area and can work them all.

Or, he can stay home and be with his family if he wants. He’s got a wonderful wife and a beautiful house full of beautiful kids and to me that’s about as successful as one can get. Keith has a lot of skills on stage but he’s also a seasoned entrepreneur. He’s opened clubs many times and back when I lived here he was opening his first one in Salt Lake City.

I went to do an audition for him and really had a killer set. He ended up having a fallout soon after so I filled in on short notice. I had my radio job so I was doing ok financially at the time and Keith was going through the process of introducing comedy to a market that is about as tight as it gets. Crowds were very light all week and I knew he was struggling.

I told Keith I really didn’t need to get paid for the week because I was living very nicely on the money I was making at the radio station…BUT, there would probably be a time at some point where I wouldn’t be working at the radio station and would need work. That’s the time he could pay me back and we shook hands on it. It was the best deal I ever made.

That week of shows has been paying me back for going on nine years now. Keith loves to perform and he’s great at it but he has an amazing knack for business and that’s what I have never had. He knows what it takes to keep rooms open and he’s been doing it for as long as I’ve known the guy. The money isn’t huge but it’s always there and I appreciate it.

Actually the money isn’t bad at all but I’ve got a lot of expenses coming out here. It’s a hassle getting here because it’s so isolated and driving is not an option. Air fare and rental cars eat up most of my pay when I come here but at least it’s deductible on my taxes and I do always have a good time here so I look at it as a mini working vacation. I really like it.

That’s what life should be about in my opinion - fun. What’s so wrong with being a star in Salt Lake City, or at least being treated like one? Keith lets me pretty much choose my schedule and all his club managers are super sweet people from Jack in West Valley City to Gail up in Ogden and the young comics here all fight to get a chance to work with me.

That’s very flattering too. I see guys in their 20s like Blake Bard and Aaron Burrell and Spencer King and Colin Williams and others showing up every night to get stage time so they can improve and it reminds me of me when I was their age. I always try to hang with them and compliment them because I mean it. I enjoy watching them advance themselves.

Another highlight of the Utah experience is staying at the Baymont Inn in West Valley. It’s about two blocks from the club and it’s one of my favorite hotels anywhere. I always like Baymont Inns as a rule but this particular one is above and beyond. The staff is very friendly and they treat comedians great because Keith always puts us up here. All in all I have to say this has been once again an overwhelmingly positive and worthwhile trip.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

9/11 Is A Joke

Friday September 11th, 2009 - Salt Lake City, UT

There’s never going to be anything funny about thousands of people losing their lives in a single day, but I have to reluctantly say I think 9/11 is a total joke. Some call it an inside job while others call it a conspiracy. Isn’t that the same thing? That depends on who’s the one being asked. Whatever it was it still stinks eight years later. Something‘s fishy here.

Am I getting cynical in my old age? No, not at all. I was plenty cynical in my youth too. I’m just trying to figure out what life is all about. The more I dig into it the more it seems most of us are just dung beetles pushing our big wet balls of poo across the desert daily.

We really don’t seem to mean much in the big picture and those who run things aren’t about to relinquish power any time soon. The older I get the more I think the world was a cesspool long before I ever got here and will be long after I leave. I’m not part of the tribe who runs things on the grand scale, no matter who ‘they’ are. And I do think ‘they’ exist.

Maybe I’m crazy but I’m not stupid. Something’s going on in a place higher than us that produces results that trickle down to the masses. I’m not sure who’s behind it but it would be nice if they had us dung beetles in mind once in a while but apparently that’s not going to happen any time soon. We get the brunt of their actions and have to live with it daily.

When I was a kid in the ‘70s there were gasoline ‘shortages’ and people believed it. The energy ‘crisis’ was going to be the end of us all and we’d have to all ride bicycles to work instead of drive our cars. By the end of the century we were supposed to be totally tapped.

What happened? Where did all this new oil magically come from? They also told us we would freeze to death from ‘global cooling’. Ha! Another lie from ‘them’. Al Gore took it to the opposite level with global warming but he’s a babbling idiot too. It’s all a big scam.

Who’s doing it and for what reasons I can’t say but I think 9/11 is in the same category. It must have served some higher purpose none of us out here in the trenches will ever see and I for one am very disgusted by it all. Thousands of innocent people lost their lives and I think it’s wrong. So does everyone else with a conscience but we don’t seem to matter.

Then we’re at ‘war’ against ‘terrorists‘. Why do we have to have wars all the time? Is it about money? I have to say yes. Are there really terrorists that were behind 9/11? Maybe I don’t get it but it sure doesn’t seem that way from where I see it. I don’t think they’d stop.

Wouldn’t someone who is trying to destroy us keep trying? If they scored a major hit on us, why stop there? I wouldn’t, but I’m not a terrorist. But if I were, I wouldn’t have let it end with that one opening campaign. The whole thing seemed staged and I’m suspicious.

Was there a real ‘threat’ of communism in Vietnam? Look at all the soldiers that had to lose their lives over that big mess. Again, who makes that call to keep starting things like that, knowing thousands will die? I guess I don’t grasp how the big picture works in life.

My cynicism deepens as I get older but I think the dark side of human nature gravitates toward positions of power. Greed and lust for power get out of hand and it seems like we all are susceptible to the temptation of it. Who knows what any of us would do if we had total power? None of us can say unless we get that chance but most dung beetles won’t.

I don’t know what to think about any of this but I do think about it. I can’t help it. Who in the world over about 12 years old doesn’t remember 9/11/01? It’s THE biggest event in our current lifetime and I happen to think it wasn’t an accident. I know I’m in the kook of the month club, but I was there before. If I’m wrong I’ll admit it but I sure don’t think so.

I won’t go as far as to call it a government conspiracy just because I don’t think they are that organized. On the other hand, I don’t think a bunch of rag tag Muslim extremist types could pull it off either. Who did it? Who knows? All I know is it’s very sad and I wish the families of the victims peace and comfort and I also wish the same for our brave soldiers.

The soldiers who died in Vietnam and Iraq were brave and fought for the America most of us are brought up to believe exists. I love that America and if I had to die for it I totally would. It isn’t the fault of those who protect us, it’s the fault of whomever starts this stuff.

Everyone remembers where they were on 9/11/01. Coincidentally I was living right here in Salt Lake City then and had just lost my radio job. I was in a funk and that made it a lot funkier. Everything shut down and I felt like I was cut off from civilization way out here.

Everyone was depressed and wondering what was happening and then after several days of that everyone needed a laugh. I got a gig in Elko, NV because nobody could fly and the person booked couldn’t get there so I filled in. There were two shows that night and I had a very hard time getting laughs in the first one. Nobody really knew how to react to it yet.

Then, the late show was like nothing I’d ever experienced. Laughter exploded in every direction and it was one of the purest experiences I’ve ever had onstage or off. People in the audience came up to me crying after the show and hugged me and thanked me for the laughs. We were all Americans and we all loved our country and this was a way to heal.

Now, are we really still that patriotic? I have to say unfortunately no. I don’t see nearly as many flags as I did then and 9/11 seems to have just glossed over and we move on. It’s getting farther and farther in the past and it’s hard to believe it’s been eight years already.

Whatever the real story of 9/11 is or who’s really in charge of the world is something I can’t control. I have a hard enough time controlling myself and my own little dung beetle existence onstage and off. That’s what I focused on tonight and we had two fun shows at Wiseguys in West Valley City. The crowds weren’t huge but they sure did come to laugh.

My little opinion doesn’t mean much in the big scheme of things. The damage has been done. I send out a special vibe to the victims and families of 9/11 and also those who put it all on the line in our Armed Forces. They deserve it. The ones who did it can go to hell.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Utopian Utah

Thursday September 10th, 2009 - Salt Lake City, UT

There aren’t many Americans in the history of this great country that have seen as much of the lower forty-eight states up close as I have, and that would include Lewis and Clark. And Jerry Lewis. And Roy Clark. And Jerry Springer. And Roy Rogers. And Mr. Rogers. And Mr. T. And Mrs. Olsen. And Miss Daisy. And Boy George. And everybody else too.

If there’s one thing I’ve done it’s travel across North America, from the big cities to the wide open spaces. If there’s a chance to see something I’ve never seen before I always try to squeeze it in my schedule. I’ve made a habit of that since I started and I still do it now.

That being said, Salt Lake City is one of my very favorite places of them all. The beauty of the mountains is absolutely stunning by itself but coupled with the Great Salt Lake and the Bonneville Salt Flats it’s like no other place anywhere. I remember when I had my job interview out here I thought it looked like another planet, and in many ways I was right.

This is it’s own world out here. Salt Lake City is the place people come to from all over the area for hundreds of miles in every direction. There’s not a whole lot of population for the amount of land that’s out here. If there’s ever crowding in any big city there’s a whole lot of empty space out here for them to be sent. There’s a long way to go before it’s full.

Las Vegas is about 380 miles southwest on I-15 and that’s the closest big city. Denver is about eight hours but that drive through the mountains can be brutal, especially during winter. I know, I’ve done it. More than once. In an old car. With bald tires. And a spongy brake pedal. Believe me, sliding over snowy mountains in a car can be out and out terror.

Still, I was ready to make this place my home. I feel comfortable here even though I’m an outsider on almost all fronts. I’m not a Mormon and I’m not really an outdoors person, at least when it comes to hunting and fishing and all that. I just think this town is a place I could have settled down and enjoyed a good life. Then I lost my radio job and it was over.

It wasn’t all that long ago (2001) when I did live here but it seems like a whole different lifetime now. I still have friends here and Jim Mickelson is one of them. He worked at the station I did and got fired a month after I did. His birthday is March 12 and mine is March 14. Other than being a Minnesota Vikings fan he’s a great guy and we’ve stayed in touch.

Jim is working part time at one of the other country stations in town and just squeaking by. His wife Kathy has an advertising agency and business is down in that industry just as it is in most others. They’ve hung in there and slugged it out but it’s a struggle to survive. Jim and I had breakfast today and talked about what we’re both going to do next in life.

Jim and Kathy have always been great supporters of mine and are just fantastic people. I spent Thanksgiving at their house one year and it was one of the best times I ever had. It’s people like them that made me want to live here. I bought a house and everything and that was the single stupidest thing I’ve ever done. Live and learn I guess and boy, did I ever.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Sinking Sync

Wednesday September 9th, 2009 - Milwaukee, WI/Salt Lake City, UT

One step forward, next day shot. That’s how it goes more often than not. I didn’t return from WGN until about 5am because The Kidders and I hung out and had a meeting to get on the same page as to where we want to take our theatre show. We needed to do it and it was a lot of fun but by the time I got home I was spent. I almost fell asleep at the wheel.

I was supposed to meet up with the woman I like up in Milwaukee for lunch but I slept right through her call. She’s having her own situation as she just lost her job and needs to find another one for insurance for her and her son. We haven’t seen each other in a while because both of us have other things to attend to and we missed each other today as well.

I did call her back when I woke up and she had a job interview to go to so we said we’d try to hook up next week. Nobody was angry because it’s nobody’s fault. Life just gets in the way sometimes and no matter how well planned things might be it still can go wrong.

Today was one of those days when I didn’t feel in sync no matter what I tried. I packed my things for the trip to Salt Lake City and drove up to Milwaukee to catch my plane that left from Mitchell Field at 4:30pm. On the way I stopped at my post office box looking to see if my bounced check situation had been addressed. What do you think? Take a guess.

Of course it wasn’t taken care of and I could feel black smoke pour out of my ears as it occurred to me that I’m probably never going to see that money. Just like those two other bums who I thought were my friends that still owe me money, I’m getting stiffed here too.

Those situations were a little different but not much. I showed what I thought was faith but turned out to be stupidity. I tried to be nice and ask for my money politely but nobody responded. Now it’s a festering sore spot with each of those two bags of monkey nuts and if I ever see either one of them again they’re going to get a steamy face full of Mr. Lucky.

I now see why the mob whacks people. At least if they get stiffed they have the courtesy to take the stiffers out of the game so nobody else gets left holding the bag like I’ve had to time and time again. Part of it is my naivety that people are basically good and part of it is I like to give people a chance. Neither is prudent and this is all making my heart shrink.

On top of that I got an email offering me a super paying gig next year on the ONE day I already had booked and can’t get out of it. Amazing. I laughed when I saw it because it’s just that kind of day. I could feel the vibe when I got out of bed late and it stayed with me the whole day. After such a good day yesterday I tried to laugh it off but it wasn’t easy.

My plane trip wasn’t much better. I had a three hour wait in Chicago and it didn’t make any sense to fly out of Milwaukee other than I saved $80 and I really need the money. The flight was packed with crying babies and unfriendly flight attendants and I could feel this was not going to be my day so I buried myself in a book and plowed through until we got to Salt Lake City. Then I called the hotel and their shuttle was down. Welcome to reality.