Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ready To Return

Tuesday November 30th, 2010 - Grand Cayman, Island

   So far, everything I’ve heard told about cruise ship gigs and the life that goes along with them has rung true 100% - both good and bad. Eventually, everyone has to make a choice as to whether the steady pay is worth enduring the downside, and I still haven’t decided.

   Steady work is an upside, as is the fact that comedy is the hot commodity on ships right now. That could change at any moment, but for now there’s a demand and I can fill it. It’s one of the few places where comedy seems to be hot, but eventually that’ll burn out too.

   Timing is everything in life, but especially show business. I think I missed a chance at a lot of opportunities over the years because my timing has been horrific. Also, I’ve had an extra high number of obstacles to dodge along the way. Nobody cares, but that took a lot of energy and focus away in years I now know realize were my prime. That’s how it goes.

   No time for whining now. I have to make something happen, and there has to be a sense of urgency from me or I can get lost and drift away on the ships. That’s one of the downer points I’ve heard, and I see it’s completely true. The ships aren’t anywhere near whatever mainstream is, and it’s easy to get lost and forgotten very quickly. I’m almost there now.

   ‘Mainstream’ can have many meanings, but I’m talking about solid comedy club rooms. Zanies in Chicago would be one, and there are precious few others remaining. Towns that used to be hot comedy towns now have barely one strong club remaining. Boston, Seattle, Minneapolis and San Francisco are good examples, and I don’t work any of those towns.

   The Improvs and Funny Bones are probably the strongest comedy club chains that still remain, and I don’t work either one. I’m ‘in’ with the booker of the Funny Bones, but I’ve not contacted him in years because it’s nearly impossible to get him on the phone to book any dates. Everyone and their grandmother wants to work there, and I’m nothing special.

   That’s just a fact, even though it‘s very painful to have to say. After a lifetime of paying incredibly steep dues and working my ass off to learn my craft and sacrificing a whole lot more than I thought I’d have to, I’m still just a journeyman road dog after all that effort.

   Can that change overnight? That’s hard to say. Mass recognition would do it, but how? I thought getting on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson would open up doors. It did indirectly get me the cruise ship gigs, and I’m thankful for those no matter what happens.

   BUT - I’m not rich, famous or even close to being satisfied yet. Not by a long shot. I’ve still got no real solid ground to stand on in show business and haven’t proven myself in a situation where money is on the line. That’s what real success is, being able to draw cash.

   These are all things I need to be thinking about, even more so as I’m out at sea and gone from the mainstream circuit I guess I was never really on now that I think of it. I was only on the outskirts of it. Now I’m even farther away than that, but at least I’m getting paid.

   This is my last day out for a week, and I couldn’t be more delighted to be flying back to Chicago. I don’t care if it’s fifty below up there, I’ll deal with it. I’ve had a decent run this time, actually more than decent. I knocked out a huge chunk of off stage work and had as consistently a solid week of shows as I’ve ever had. I’m starting to get stronger on stage.

   Last night all three shows were outstanding, even the midnight show which really took me by surprise. They looked young and cocky but they were a delightful group. I actually stayed on a few minutes longer with the permission of the manager because I was having such a good time. We all were. They loved me, I loved them, and that‘s when it‘s a blast.

   I’ve really been putting major effort into expanding my material base. I’m adding jokes and bits and talking about new premises I’ve rarely if ever talked about before, only to be broadening my horizons for future work. I have no idea how long this run will last, and if I’m going to stay fresh as a performer I have to add fresh material. I’m doing it correctly.

   Thankfully, I’m getting some work offers on land for the new year. Keith Stubbs asked me to come back to Wiseguys in Salt Lake City, and that’s always one of my very favorite places onstage and off. Keith is great to work with and the staff and crowds are laid back. I figured out the whole Utah/Mormon thing years ago, and after that the shows are easy.

   I also made contact with The Comedy Cave in Calgary. I love working up there, and I’d love to go back in 2011. The owner Jack and comedian Terry Hollas run a great club, and I really enjoy Calgary as a city. It’s a oil boom town, and Canada’s version of the wild oil days of Houston in the 80s. Boom and growth are everywhere, and I can’t wait to return.

   Tom Sobel offered me a nice little three night run in February, and that will be a shot in the financial arm no matter what happens with the ships. I always know Zanies will throw some work my way, and I’ve got a week coming up for them in Vernon Hills in a couple of weeks. I’m there December 16-18. If you email me I’ll gladly get you in if you’d like.

   The work is not slowing down any time soon, if anything it’s speeding up. It feels great to have a few bucks as a financial cushion, but that could evaporate in about five seconds or less. I’m not going to start coasting and not put forth my due diligence. That’s not what life is about, and I wouldn’t want to live that way anyway. I want to keep things growing.

   I have shows this weekend in Quincy, IL on Friday and Tomah, WI on Saturday. That’s a lot of driving, and I am in the process of trying to find available rental cars from O’Hare Airport, but it’s difficult because of the Holidays apparently. Prices are astronomical and I hope to be able to work it out with the help of Jim McHugh. He’s great at stuff like this.

   Life really feels like it’s evolving on a lot of levels. All my worldly possessions are in a storage area in Antioch, IL. My former car is now wrecked and I’ll have to begin another search to scrounge up another one. I’ve always been able to do it before, I don’t see why I can’t do it again now. I’ll have a week to get as much straightened out in Chicago as I can and then it’s right back out to the ships for more work. At least nobody can say I’m lazy.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Monday, November 29, 2010

Leslie Neilsen

Monday November 29th, 2010 - Somewhere At Sea

   I read today that Leslie Neilsen died at age 84. I was a big fan of his both onscreen and off, and I regret I never got a chance to meet him. All the articles I read about him said he was extremely friendly and approachable, and he even had a connection to Milwaukee.

   I loved his work in “Airplane!”, and I remember seeing it when I was in high school. It was one of the rare times I was together with my family and I don’t recall any fighting or harsh words. As I remember, my siblings, cousins and aunt and uncle went to see it at the theatre on some holiday weekend. We all loved it, except my kook bag Aunt Charlene.

   She thought it was a serious movie, and kept trying to figure out the plot. Really. I kind of felt sorry for my uncle to have to be married to her wackiness, but he could have gotten out of it. He just chose not to, and she was a sore spot for us all. Thankfully, she’s dead.

   That movie sure had a big impact at the time though. It hit us at exactly the right time to crack us all up, and it totally did. It was fresh and different, and we all saw Leslie Nielsen in a whole new light. He found his stride in comedy and went on to a Hall of Fame career.

   What really impressed me was an article I read about him and his father, who worked as a Canadian Mountie. Apparently, his father was a raging alcoholic and beat Leslie and his brothers and mother often. Leslie had a one on one meeting with him and never got any of the apology he wanted, so he got up and left. For that reason alone, I wanted to meet him.

    People with a father tweak bond very quickly. I’ve had many near strangers come up to me and tell me their in depth stories of meetings they had with their fathers, and came out with results far less than they’d hoped for. That’s not a happy ending, but in a strange way there’s something comforting about being able to tell it to someone who truly grasps it.

    Unfortunately, I wish I didn’t. I wish Leslie Neilsen didn’t. I wish nobody did. A father is supposed to be a family leader and nurture and encourage everyone to have a better life. Too many never come close to that, and their trail of damage is left behind like a tornado.

   Leslie Neilsen was the ultimate example of a dented can who made good. I wonder if he was able to forgive his father, or just buried that part of his life away and went on to give the gift of laughter to so many millions who ended up loving his work. I sure hope he was at peace with the world, but by all accounts of everything I read, he died the perfect way.

   Supposedly, he just went to sleep and passed away. Good for him. Not a slow or painful process, just lie down and drift away. Steve Allen apparently died exactly the same way. I think that’s a sign of a peaceful soul, and I’d love to follow suit. But I know my history.

   I’ll probably get some unpronounceable tropical butt fungus from a toilet seat and have to spend years in a plastic bubble getting castor oil enemas six times a day from a 300 lb. Samoan nurse with the hots for me. Even if I do, I’ll still be a big fan of Leslie Nielsen.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cruise Ship Kudos

Sunday November 28th, 2010 - Miami, FL

   The efficiency of how everything on a cruise ship operates is absolutely incredible. I’ve been witness to it first hand on multiple ships now and I continue to be amazed each time I see it. These people know what they’re doing, and they get it done week after week with precise accuracy. If I had to run an operation like that, I’d have NO idea where to begin.

   The amount of food alone is staggering. Every breakfast has fresh fruit, and I wouldn’t be able to even make an educated guess as to how many cantaloupes for example to have on board at any given time. And how would they know when to buy them so as they’d be fresh and usable the entire cruise? That alone would wipe me out, but there’s a lot more.

   What about fuel? Where does the company buy it, store it, and have enough on hand for the 23 ships they have in their fleet? They’re in numerous ports, so that’s got to be part of the deal. What about crew members? Keeping track of everyone has to be a major source of aggravation, if only that there are so many people speaking many different languages.

   Couple all that with the fact that every week they have to deal with immigration laws of numerous countries, customs, and passports for passengers and work visas for workers. If I had to deal with half of that on one ship, I’d flip out in about two hours. These guys can make it happen week in and week out, and for that I give them their props. They earned it.

   Probably the most impressive process of all is how they switch passengers at the end of each week. It’s like a giant NASCAR pit stop. Passengers get off the ship in an organized fashion, and the crew is lightning fast and focused at cleaning all the rooms and getting it spiffed up for a group of new passengers a few hours later. They do that week after week.

   Thankfully, the fuss has died down about the ship that was dead in the water a couple of weeks ago, but even that is a very rare occurrence. Every ship I’ve ever been on is always running some kind of safety drill or making announcements as to how to avoid accidents.

   For whatever things I don’t like about life aboard ship, fear for my personal safety isn’t one of them. I feel as safe on a cruise ship as I do in any hotel in America. They stress the importance of cleanliness too, and are always telling everyone to wash their hands often.

      Whatever happens with my own future in the cruise ship genre, I’ve learned a lot in the few months I’ve been exposed to this world. It’s been going on fine for years without me and I know it will survive after I’m gone, whenever that will be. For now, I’m learning all I can about everything I can and the more I learn the more I’m blown away by each facet.

   Tonight started the process all over again. There’s a whole new load of passengers on a gorgeous ship that’s going to the exact same places it did last week. There was a different pair of comedians on board, and they had to do the ‘Welcome Aboard’ teaser show in the exact same way we did tonight. Next week there will be two new comedians entertaining an entire ship full of new people still. The process never ends, and I‘m in major awe of it.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Dream Weaving

Saturday November 27th, 2010 - Somewhere At Sea

   I had a very bizarre dream last night that I can’t stop thinking about. It was one of those extra vivid ones with razor sharp detail that seem like they’re really happening. This isn’t the first time I’ve had a dream like that, and when they happen they linger in my mind for years after. I can even remember a few I had as a kid with amazing detail and full clarity.

   I’ve started to pay way more attention to things like this ever since I started hosting the Mothership Connection paranormal radio show on WLIP, and my mind is open to a lot of new possibilities I never thought of before. I don’t want to fly out past Neptune and Pluto without first considering a logical or sensible answer, but I admit I don’t know the truth.

   In this latest dream, I’m relaxing after a show and hanging out with friends. There are a lot of my favorite people there, and I can feel myself really enjoying their company. Some new guy comes back stage and starts hanging out with us, but nobody knows who he is or how he got there. He starts to join the conversation, and it feels like we‘re hitting it off.

  The other people are all eventually gone for whatever reason, and I quickly glance down at my watch and know I have a plane to catch. The other guy puts on his dark glasses and leather biker jacket and I immediately realize it’s my father. He’s not at all the nasty mean spirited caustic bastard I remember so vividly. This was a completely different life form.

   I don’t know why I remember this particular dream so vividly, but I totally do. I’ve had others that I tried to write down as soon as I woke up, and could only piece together a few sketchy details that made absolutely no sense. I’d look at my notes to see “Sliding down a giant spoon, waiting for Fred Flintstone to give me a haircut.” Hmmm, not a life changer.

   This one really touched something inside. I had NO idea who this guy was, and I really did find myself liking him. Then when he put on the glasses and jacket and I realized who it was, it totally caught me off guard and I felt like I’d been had. He looked me in the eye as he was putting on his jacket, then he turned away as if he knew I’d want him to leave.

   I woke up right after that and laid in my bunk for a while trying to figure it all out. First I had to figure out where I was. That’s always been a common theme ever since I’ve been on the road. Even if I’m home, wherever home might be at that time, it always takes me a few seconds to recall where I am and get my bearings straight. I figured out I was at sea.

   Then the details of the dream played over and over in my head and I wondered if there’s any deeper meaning to it or if I need to stop eating close to bedtime. Actually, I’m getting a lot better at that and haven’t been eating much at all after about 7pm. That wasn’t it.

   According to a lot of things I’ve read in the past year or so, there’s a belief that the dead can and do communicate with the living in exactly that manner - through dreams. I’m not saying I think that’s what it was, or if I believe it at all. I’m just saying that’s what people have written. Could it be a possibility? Of course it could, and I keep an open mind to it.

     I’d really like to run this scenario past a dream interpretation expert and see what comes back. Why was this so vivid? Why did it happen now? I know I felt only recently that I’ve finally been able to forgive him, but that was weeks ago now. Shouldn’t it have happened then, or is my brain just late in sorting out details. Whatever the case, it got my attention.

   Years ago, I had a similar dream with my grandfather. Actually, the only thing that was similar at all was the vividness of it. The outcome was completely different. Gramps and I were very close, and he died a painfully slow death from cancer in December of 1981, the year I graduated high school. His last few months up to hospice care were hard on us all.

   When Gramps died, there was a huge hole in my life. I was 18, and if I ever needed him and his wisdom, that was it. He was the peacemaker, and all hell broke loose immediately after he passed. I desperately hoped for some kind of sign telling me he was looking down or up or over or whatever he had to do to maintain contact. Nothing. I only felt the void.

   Several years later, I had a very vivid dream out of nowhere just like this one. In it I saw Gramps, but he was very far from me and very much in pain. He looked old and shriveled and almost embarrassed to see me. I tried running to him in the dream, but he blew me off and turned away. I felt a coldness from him I’d never felt before and I could see his pain.

   That one took me by surprise, but I didn’t tell anyone about it because I didn’t have any idea who to tell. I figured it was just a bad dream and left it at that, but it was just so vivid and felt so real I couldn’t forget it and still can’t. I’ve seen Gramps a few more times in a dream situation like that, and he’s always looked horrible and it seems like he’s hurting.

   The more I reach out to him, the more he seems ashamed and doesn’t want to talk to me at all. I’ve also had a few dreams where my grandmother shows up, but I don’t get a sense of pain with her. She just shows up to basically say hello, and goes back to her business. I don’t feel any particular warmth or coldness from her at all, and it hasn’t happened often.

   This kind of stuff is just plain weird. I can’t explain it. Is it just a dream? Probably, but I have plenty of dreams and these are a whole lot different. They stand out because they are so realistic. I’ve had some other realistic ones about being on stage, but even those do not have the impact as the ones with the dead people coming back to me. Those are intense.

   Wherever the old man is, I just hope he finds his own peace at this point. The damage is done as far as his parenting skills went, and all his kids have to deal with the cruel way he dealt with us all. Me wishing him to rot in hell won’t do anyone any good. I have no idea if there even is a heaven or hell or God or anything like that. I’ve got my own problems.

   This whole thing does make me think though. I’ve heard some unflattering things about my grandfather, even though I thought he was a saint. In my eyes, my father was pure evil but maybe I only saw that side of him and there’s a lot more I’m missing. I don’t know, or know if I should even care at this point. He’s dead, and we never had a relationship or any reasonable facsimile. That’s why this dream stands out so much. Does it mean anything?

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Friday, November 26, 2010

Music Vs. Comedy

Friday November 26th, 2010 - Roatan, Honduras

   I am completely in awe of musical talent, mainly because I have absolutely zero myself. I respect those who work hard at developing their gifts, and try to support whenever I can. Last night a gentleman named Marcus Anthony came to see my show, and he’s a headline singer in the main lounge. He was very complimentary, and invited me to see him tonight.

   I always love watching talented entertainers work, and he didn’t disappoint. He not only has a spectacular voice, he’s a master showman as well. I don’t care what kind of music is involved, that’s a winning combination. Marcus does soul music, which I happen to really enjoy, and he knocked it out of the park. I saw his first show, and returned for the second.

   Just like us, he does two completely different shows. That allows audiences to stay and see him twice, which gives Carnival a chance to sell more drinks. That’s how the game is played, and we all know that. Still, the guy is loaded with talent and was a joy to watch.

   I don’t know if I’d want to be in the music business though. There are different ups and downs than comedy, but hauling equipment and dealing with bands doesn’t seem like any fun at all. The good thing about comedy is it’s easy to set up. A mike and lights, that’s it.

   I don’t think the average audience appreciates the degree of difficulty there is in comedy though. Nobody heckles a singer. Their talent is apparent. The minute Marcus walked out on stage, he had the audience captivated with his powerful voice. Comedy isn’t that way.

   Most comedians just talk, and the talent is a lot more subtle. It’s hidden in what they are saying, and if someone doesn’t listen, the illusion is broken and it becomes a war between performer and audience, or at least performer and heckler. Music is much more tangible.

   I didn’t think about any of that during the show, I just sat back and enjoyed the evening. I probably enjoyed it more than the rest of the audience, because I know how much effort went into what he was doing. He probably took singing lessons for years, toured with lots of bands, fought his was through the insanity of show business, but nobody really cares.

   They just want to hear some tunes and enjoy a show. The same is true with comedy. An average audience has no clue how difficult the business is, and doesn’t care where any of the material comes from. They want to be entertained, that’s it. The one advantage I have over a guy like Marcus is, I wrote most of my jokes. He sings songs others made famous.

   When someone laughs at a joke I came up with or a personal story about my life, it’s an amazing feeling of satisfaction. Not so much when they don’t, but that’s the risk of being a comedian. I’m over thinking it at this point. Marcus was great, and I enjoyed the show.

   We were off tonight, and will be back at it tomorrow. I already did my three show night, so tomorrow will be a walk in the park. I’ll go in and give it all I have, and then we’ll stay on board for the first part of next week and do it all again. It sure isn’t a glamorous life.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Bring On The Shrimp

Thursday November 25th, 2010 - Belize City, Belize

   FINALLY…after several months of a grueling travel schedule, big time feelings of self doubt, constant questioning as to whether I made the right decision or not…today felt like I’m starting to reap some benefits of being out at sea for so long. I’m finally glad I came.

   For one thing, the weather is now in my favor. When I started in the summer, it was hot everywhere. Today I watched the weather reports from the Denver television stations that are on our cable system and saw nothing but images of blizzard like snow conditions and overturned vehicles. Denver’s high temperature was going to be 10 degrees. Ours was 85.

   Another thing was the food. We had a spectacular spread for Thanksgiving including all choices from traditional to just delicious. The turkey was outstanding, and the dark meat I love was in ample supply and extra juicy. They also had sirloin steaks, sushi and shrimp.

   This was the first shrimp I’ve had since I’ve been on a ship. I love shrimp, and pictured a never ending supply as part of the deal in cruise ship life. I assumed they’d be available everywhere, the bigger the better. The smaller ones would be the size of yo-yos but on the holidays we’d get ones the size of a boxing glove. Wrong. Hadn’t seen a one until today.

   I had a nice meal, but didn’t overdo it. Part of the reason was we had shows to do. This was my three show night, and I was surprised they’d make us work on the holiday. I don’t mind working anytime I get paid, but I assumed they’d give us tonight off. Wrong again.

   The crew and staff here are extra nice. I’m working Carnival Valor and from the cruise director Goose down to John and Jimmy who run the comedy club, I felt relaxed and right at home from the first minute I met everyone. For some reason, I’m starting to feel at ease on ship after ship. When I first started, I don’t think I matched up well with those crowds.

   Last week I worked Carnival Legend, and that was a good vibe also. The cruise director there is a charismatic Scottish guy named ‘Wee Jimmy’, and I think that guy has a chance to be a movie star if he wants. He’s a true personality, and it was a pleasure to meet him.

   Those crowds and I seemed to mesh well, as did the ones tonight. The first show wasn’t full, but those who did show up were fantastic. Jerry Agar’s son Cooper is in high school and he has a girlfriend who’s on this cruise with her family. He told them to come see me and they did. In the past I wouldn’t have recommended that, but tonight I’m glad I did.

   I also did three totally different shows, which impressed everyone. I wasn’t required to, but the challenge of doing it last week made me want to do it again. In a perfect world, it would be like that every week and it’s something to shoot for. Tonight, it all worked out.

   This doesn’t mean I won’t have any more rough shows, or that cruise life will get easier anytime soon. This is hard work, and I earn every penny I make. BUT, it’s finally starting to get fun, and that’s the whole reason for living. I’m very grateful. Bring on the shrimp!

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Time Bomb Wisdom

Wednesday November 24th, 2010 - Roatan, Honduras

   Another day off, and with nothing to do and no place to be it’s way too easy to drift into no man’s land. These are the idle days that can lead to big trouble. I’m glad I don’t have a glaring vice, as today would have been the perfect day to lose myself in it. Instead, I chose to lose myself in dreams and preparation of projects I really want to go after hard in 2011.

   It’s very difficult to have discipline on days like today. The other comedian Happy Cole is gone, so that takes away the main person to hang with. I don’t really know anyone else on the staff well enough to call and ask to hang out and the crew bar and mess area are all filled with people who don’t even speak English. It really can get lonely out here quickly.

   Today’s port was Roatan, Honduras. I’ve flown out of here before and it’s not the best for walking around and exploring like I would in say Cozumel, Mexico. There are a few trinket shops to scour, but I’ve got all the trinkets, baubles and clutter I need in storage at home that I haven’t even sorted through. The thought of buying any more of that is crazy.

   Maybe I should have gotten off the ship and walked around a little, but I didn’t. I did go to the observation deck on the ship but that got uncomfortable when too many passengers started to recognize me. I don’t mind if they come up after the show, but on my own time I just wanted to hang out and get some work done. I wasn’t rude, but I didn’t stay long.

   I didn’t feel like doing much of anything at all, but I knew that wasn’t the right answer. Having absolutely nothing to do sounds great in theory, but it’s pure danger. I still recall telling my grandpa I had nothing to do one day when I was about 8 years old. He loaded me up with all kinds of unpleasant chores for the entire day, and I never did that again.

     It wasn’t funny back then, but I laughed about it today. Gramps really had a wonderful way of imparting timed release doses of wisdom, and his time bombs have helped me get through some dark ugly days. They still do, and I need to write out in book form his many lessons that continue to keep me in line even today. Gramps was my greatest gift ever.

   He had plenty of his own human faults, and I don’t think he was happy for the majority of his life - but he sure pulled out the stops when it came to me. He didn’t pull punches or sugarcoat anything, he told it like it was. He pushed me to be the best I could be, and had no sympathy for laziness or lack of effort. If it wasn’t for Gramps, I’d really be lost at sea.

   That’s all I thought about today as I went over my pages of notes, ideas and projects I’m working on for 2011. It’s been a couple of weeks since I really delved into this stuff, but I made major progress last time and I was impressed with the amount of groundwork I laid.

   I did several hours more today. I took each project I want to develop and listed all of the steps in the order I think I need to do them to make them grow. I worked on comedy notes and career ideas, and also a book of what I learned from Gramps. It should be very easy to put on paper - he wrote it very clearly on my heart and soul, all throughout my childhood.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Five Times In One Night

Tuesday November 23rd, 2010 - Grand Cayman Island

   I scoured the deepest crevices of my memory all day, and I just can’t seem to remember in all my years even one other time when I’ve ever had to do five shows in one single day. I was able to pull it off, but it took every single year of experience I had to do it correctly.

   I read where Vaudeville performers used to have schedules like that all the time. I don’t know how they survived that grind without going totally crazy. I had enough trouble with it for one night. By the fourth show, I was ready to go back to my room and lock the door.

   This was a very tricky situation all the way around. First, this is Thanksgiving week and there are many more kids on board than usual. The first two shows are family friendly and rated PG. There were kids everywhere for both shows, and that makes everything harder.

   Standup comedy as a rule just isn’t meant for kids. It’s difficult to get them to listen for any length of time, and their window of life experience is painfully small. I had no choice in the matter, so none of that was important. I had to do two half hour shows nevertheless.

   They went very well, and I worked extra hard to make sure I gave my best. Quite a few parents came up to shake my hand after the show, and those who’d slap me on the arm or pat me on the back would be rather surprised to find out I was drenched with perspiration.

   I never want to gross anyone out, but it’s WORK up there in the hot lights for that long. I move around way more than the average comedian anyway, and yes when I’m done I’m usually soaked to the skin. The illusion created is that comedy is done without any effort.

   Many parents from the first two shows decided to come back and see my third show at 9:30. That’s a compliment to me and I appreciate it. The final three are billed as R-rated adult shows, but I really don’t work all that dirty ever. It’s just not my style. I try to keep it on the cleaner side, just because it’s easier to get higher paid bookings. Clean is green.

   I’ve found that most audiences on the ships really like it on the filthy side for the adult shows. This is the only place I’ve ever gotten a complaint for not being dirty enough, and I’ve gotten that more than once so far. It goes against my comedic instincts, and what I’ve had to learn in clubs over the last twenty five years. I’m still learning the ropes out here.

   Anyway, the third show went extremely well. I knocked it out of the park, and it was as solid a half hour set as I can imagine anyone doing. It was packed with laughs from top to bottom, but then the comedy club manager surprised me when he announced at the end of the show I’d be doing a completely different show for the 10:30. I hadn’t planned on that.

   I don’t blame the club managers, they’re all new to comedy. Our guy this week is a very good guy and does a splendid job hosting the shows. I wasn’t angry, but it did surprise me a little when he said I’d be doing a whole new fresh thirty minutes. I took it as a challenge and went over in my head what bits I hadn’t done yet. I lined them up and went to work
   There’s something remarkable about the human spirit when it’s backed into a corner in a pinch that I’ve never seen fail. The mind comes out swinging and gets the job done in a way I’ll never understand. I knew I had to do thirty new minutes they hadn’t seen, and my subconscious mind came through with flying colors. I even had some material left over.

   That’s three completely different thirty minute sets without repeating anything. That’s a tall order, I don’t care what anyone says. Most comedians never have to work that way, so this is a real workout. Personally, I like to have my whole repertoire in my head for every audience, and then I can pick and choose what I want to give them for any 45 minute set.

   That gives me a lot of freedom to really mix it up, and the results are some very unique shows that are not only fun for audiences, but for me too. Doing the same old stuff every time loses it’s luster after a very short time, even though it’s good to have a polished set.

   This was great practice tonight, and I actually wouldn’t mind doing it again if it should be needed. I’m glad I was able to help allow Happy Cole get home for Thanksgiving with his family. Everything else was secondary. Doing five shows wasn’t anything out of line.

   That fifth show was extra tricky though, as I didn’t know who had seen me when or if at all. It was a port day too, which always makes it tougher because many of them have been cocktailing in the sun since early afternoon. Each of the five shows had added challenges.

   I could have phoned it in, but I didn’t. If I’m going to be out here working, I want to get the most out of it from a comedy standpoint. I’m not above earning every penny they pay, and in fact I wouldn’t want it any other way. If someone comes out to see me perform, my goal is to always give them the absolute best I have. Phoning it in isn’t good for anyone.

   As I get older, I realize that every time I step on a stage could very well be my last. Had my latest car wreck last week smeared me like a bug on a windshield, my very last shows would have been on the Destiny last week. I gave my all there and was happy with them.

   It’s not pleasant when an audience doesn’t like me, but I can live with it if I know in my heart I’ve given my absolute best effort. I’m getting a lot better at that as I get older, and it feels great to turn a crowd around when at first they were stiff or indifferent. That effort is never wasted if in the end they come around and can be shaped into a productive entity.

   I learned a lot from tonight’s marathon. The reason I went on about it in such detail was to help aspiring performers who may read this in the future. Whether I’m living or dead is of no consequence, the lesson is the same - give it all you’ve got in every performance, no exceptions. When there are kids, drunks, repeats, whatever. Give it all up every time up.

 I’m still a student of the game, and I’m going through in my mind how I could have done even better shows. For example, it’s Thanksgiving week. Do I have any bits about it? NO. Does it come up every year? Yes. Would it behoove me to have at least a few jokes on the topic next year? Of course. Even after good shows, there’s still room for improvement.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Night Off

Monday November 22nd, 2010 - Somewhere At Sea

   An unexpected night off. The other comedian Happy Cole apparently had a glitch in his schedule, and has plans to be home for Thanksgiving with his family. Fine with me. I told both him and the cruise director I’m flexible and will do whatever it takes to work it out.

   I never mind helping someone out, especially another comedian. I know how schedules can sometimes conflict and way too often there’s too big a deal made when someone tries to make a switch. I’ve been there more than my share of times myself, so this is a total no brainer. A guy needs to get home for the holidays. I get it. How can we make that work?

   What will happen is, Happy will do all five shows tonight, and I’ll do all five tomorrow. I don’t think I’ve ever done five shows in a day before, but it won’t kill me. I’ll do what it takes to make it work, and Happy will fly out tomorrow and be home for Thanksgiving.

   That left me a lot of time tonight to sit and think about my future in detail. What would make me happy, and what can I realistically do to achieve it? Those questions have had a variety of answers over time, but right now it’s money and freedom. That’s what I want.

   The good thing is, my money needs aren’t extravagant. I just want enough to live a nice life. A decent place to live, a slightly better car than I’ve been used to (that’s not difficult) and clothes on my back should do it. After taxes, $35,000 a year would do me very well.

   The key is, how can I get enough saved to pay me that much just for getting out of bed? I’ll have to hit on a few ideas to get the nest egg in place so I can live off the interest. I’ve got quite a few ideas, and if one should hit I will be well on my way. It’s not like I’m not trying, I just haven’t hit anything yet. When I do, I’ll be ready. I’ve waited for a lifetime.

   The freedom I want is creative freedom. I want to do what I want to do, when and how I want to do it. I’ve had more than enough imbeciles piss in my creative tank over the years and I’ve had my fill. I look at all the radio morons I had to listen to, and it makes me puke to think I listened at all. Then, when their ideas didn’t work, I was the one fired. No more.

   If I’m going to work for any clueless imbecile, that clueless imbecile will be ME. I want to build a business from nothing and see it succeed. I’ve always been fascinated with mail order and that’s why I like Uranus Factory Outlet so much. I want to sell funny things at a fair price, but create a brand along the way. Marketing and sales are skills I want to learn.

   I also want to develop the territory I call ‘The squared circle of Uranus’ which includes  Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, WI and Rockford, IL. There are millions of people in that geographical square, and it has all kinds of scenarios for marketing from big city to rural.

   I have solid contacts in all four places, and I can develop my ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show in Milwaukee while I keep marketing other things to the area. I really believe all the cash I need is located right there in that square. Now I have to prove myself right and go get it.

   Life is so temporary anyway, why not do what we really enjoy? That’s why I’ve stayed with comedy this long. I love doing it, and it’s been fun for a quarter of a century. Now, it makes sense to look into some new avenues that turn a better buck so I can be smart for a change and be ready when those dreaded golden years come. They’ll be better with gold.

   Very few of my comedian friends have any kind of retirement plan. We all thought our big break would eventually come and take care of all that in one fell swoop. Ha. Only the precious few ever get that break, and the rest of us are left wondering where our next gig is coming from. It’s getting ugly out there, and I sure don’t want that lost guy to be me.

   I don’t trust anyone in the comedy business as far as I can throw them. Bookers couldn’t care less about us, even though we’re the ones that make their living. That whole debacle with the Funny Business Agency and Giggles in Brookfield, WI last year drove that point home. I’d worked for each of them for many years, and they blew me off in half a second.

   There’s no respect there, and even though I was wronged, I’m the bad guy in their eyes. They don’t care, they’ve got a backlog of hack wannabes who’ll work for half the price or less than a seasoned professional will, I’m through letting idiots like that rule my career.

   Plus, it’s a lot more fun to be in control and in the driver’s seat. There are no limits as to what I can do, all I need is a direction and a plan. Nobody is going to go after the territory I chose, because they don’t see it like I do. The only one I’m competing against is myself.  

   I’ve read some amazing success stories of my mail order heroes like E. Joseph Cossman and Melvin Powers who each had multiple million dollar ideas that paid them off without ever leaving their bases of operation. I want that to be me, and I think that would bring an entirely new energy to my life which would make everyone around me more positive too.

   That’s what I’d much rather do than chase the Hollywood game. I’m not what they want anyway, and never was. I like being real, and hanging with others who are the same. I like the challenge of building something out of nothing, and all it would take would be a little spoon full of success to last me for the rest of my life, however long or short that may be.

   This is the perfect time to get everything going. I’m between places to live and have no real plans for the immediate future other than finish up my contract on the ships. After the first week in January, I’ll have an open schedule and be able to start working on whatever I feel like. I’m going to use the rest of the time at sea to prepare myself for my new era.

   I sure hope I can avoid some of the stupid mistakes I’ve made in the past. Some of those are still nibbling at my nuts years or even decades later. I’m trying to get better, and this is a good time to wipe the slate clean and start over again. I’ve got a chance at the big time.

   One nice run in life would be fantastic. After so many near misses and disappointments, the taste of success would be super sweet. I can’t remember a time when the future looks as hopeful as it does now. I’m afraid to be optimistic, but I will anyway. This could be it!

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Vanquishing The Viqueens

Sunday November 21st, 2010 - Tampa, FL

   One pleasant surprise of the cruise life is that I’ve been able to watch way more Green Bay Packer games than I ever thought possible. I thought for sure I’d have to forego that, at least for this season, but I’ve managed to catch most of the games by luck of the draw.

   The television system on the ships is kind of goofy, and the only American channels we get are out of Denver for some reason. I heard from people who’ve worked the ships for a while that it used to be New York channels and Miami before that. That I can understand, but Denver? It seems odd to see weather predictions for snowfall when in the Caribbean.

    The good part is that the Broncos are an AFC team and for whatever reason Fox shows Packer games as part of the NFC package. I’m sure Coloradans don’t care either way, but I do. I was delighted to turn on Fox 31 this afternoon and catch the beloved Pack stomp a capital G in the poopshoots of those putrid purple Viqueens. What a delightful diversion.

   It’s remarkable to see how Minnesota has imploded as a team. They had no fire in their bellies at all, and didn’t even put up a fight. They were picked to do well this year and the atmosphere in that locker room must be really unpleasant. Couldn’t happen to nicer folks.

   Maybe Brett Favre will finally just go away now. It’s over. He can take his razor stubble and his pampered crybaby attitude and his Wrangler jeans and especially those pictures of his misshapen weenie we all had to look at and go back to Mississippi and mow his lawn.

   He got his hundred million dollars, what more does he need or want? Most of the rest of us are struggling to pay bills every month, and he has to piss and moan that the Green Bay Packers wouldn’t play his little spoiled brat games. They called his bluff, good for them.

   As far as I’m concerned, as a Packer fan he’s dead to me. I don’t even plan on watching when they retire his number, and they will. The Packers are a class organization and I can see them giving Favre the red carpet treatment, even though I think he’s a complete wank.

   I guess this is why sports is so fun to watch. It’s a soap opera, and it always changes. I’ll admit, I’m hooked, and so are millions of others. It’s fun for me to watch workers here on the ship get worked up over soccer games I couldn‘t care less about. It’s intense. They all congregate by the TV and scream at it while the game is going on. Sports is an addiction.

   There are millions of addicts all over the world, and I’m one of them. I love the Packers and can’t help it. Brett Favre doesn’t know who I am, and couldn’t care less. The Packers don’t know who I am either. I’m some random nut rambling on about something that has no bearing at all on life or death. It’s totally a luxury nobody needs, but I’m still hooked.

   I have a plate piled high with my own problems, hopes and dreams. Have the Packers or anyone else helped me through any of it? No, not at all. Still, for one afternoon it was my distinct pleasure to watch my favorite team demolish their archrivals. Back to real life.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Finally Some Rest

Saturday November 20th, 2010 - Somewhere At Sea

   Not much going on today, and I like it. After this last week I wouldn’t mind sitting on a beach for a month to let my nerves settle down a little. Very few people realize how much effort it takes to be a comedian on so many levels, not to mention the difficult tasks of life that show up whenever they feel like it. It can all be so overwhelming, and this week was.

   On the positive side, my shows really rocked this week. It felt exactly like a regular club situation I’m used to, and they really responded well. I had people coming up afterward to tell me they thought I was the funniest comedian of the four they saw this week and that’s the first time that’s happened. I know I’ve not been at the top of my game out here so far.

   The question is, what put it over the top? I’m not really doing anything all that different except trying to choose material these people will like. I guess each ship has it’s own kind of audience mix, and this happens to be one where I fit in well. My closing bit about how the world is getting stupider destroyed these crowds, whereas other ships wouldn’t buy it.

   That really worried me when that happened because that bit rocks almost everywhere in a club or theater situation. It’s usually a guaranteed killer close, and it’s bailed me out of a lot of situations. When I felt it die the first few times on the ships, it took me by surprise.

   It doesn’t mean I now think I’ve got it all figured out, and I don’t claim that in the least. I’ve got a long way to go to make any kind of impact out here, but I don’t think that’s the name of the game. In clubs, the assumption is we’re trying to get discovered and find our way into a sitcom or movie deal. Club comics are trying to be cutting edge and different.

   I think that’s the assumption anyway. I don’t get that feeling with cruise ships at all. All the audiences want are to be entertained for a half an hour, and the majority of those who come to the shows aren’t regular comedy club customers and don’t really care a lick if an act is original or not. All they want to do is relax and have some laughs and drink or six.

   This whole experience is going to make me grow, because I’m going to let it. I’ve never had to work at anything comedy related as hard as I’ve had to attack this, and I’ve already learned a ton onstage and off in the few short months I’ve been out here. More to come.

   Still, this isn’t my dream gig and I can’t see myself out here very long. I hear stories of guys getting sucked into working for years, and I don’t want that to be me. I will save my money for as long as I can, and I’ve already used these gigs to stabilize myself financially.

   Nobody thinks about any of this starting out in the business. We all think it’ll just work itself out and the gravy train will never end. It’s taken me twenty-five years to finally get at least half a clue, and it all boils down to a four word mission - work hard, save money.

   I’ve been doing both, and I know I won’t get many more chances to build money for the future. I never acquired a taste for cat food, and I hope my retirement doesn’t include any.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Less Of A Mess

Friday November 19th, 2010 - Cozumel, Mexico

   I knew I was getting old and out of shape, but not quite this bad. I’m in major pain, and lots of it. My entire body feels like one big collective bruise, and all I want to do is rot in a tub of Ben Gay for a week until I feel better. At least it’s the good pain though, the kind that signifies the fact I did some actual work. I over did it actually, but at least it’s done.

   I really learned my lesson from this experience, and the car wreck with it. I am not even close to living at a level of preparation for any incoming opportunities. My life was mixed up in piles of randomly strewn junk, and the worst case scenario happened and I was in an unfavorable position. I had too much clutter in my life and none of it was in useful order.

   That has to stop immediately. I think most people can live with a lot less than they think they can when it comes to physical possessions, and I’m going to set out to prove it right starting now. I never want to be in that position of having to move on short notice and not knowing what was where or why it was there in the first place. I’m on a mission to shrink.

   My grandfather, grandmother and father died and each one of them left a gigantic mess for everyone else to clean up. All that did was piss everyone off who had to clean through it, and I don’t want that to be me. When I croak, I want people to say “What? That’s IT?”

   A few clothes, a precious few books, some personal trinkets and my computer files. I’m fine with that, and couldn’t be happier to not leave anyone a mess to clean up. We’re all a temporary guest here anyway, and nobody really owns anything. We just use it for a time.

   Life is temporary, at least at this level and that’s clearer to me now than ever. I have yet another period of bonus time given to me for whatever reason and I’m going to go for the gusto and make it the very best I possibly can. I should really be dead many times over at this point, but I’m not. Maybe there’s a reason, and maybe it’s just plain old dumb luck.

   Whatever the case I’m choosing to keep learning and growing and improving on things I know I need to. If we’re here to learn, this has been an amazing life for me because I’m learning new things on a daily basis. I’m making good decisions that aren’t necessarily an easy one, and that’s something I’m delighted to be able to say. I didn’t take the easy road.

   My shows tonight were through the roof once more. I’m on the Carnival Legend and for some reason, the people here really get what I do. I’ve worked here before, and it was fun then. I’m glad I’m back, and actually have quite a bit of work coming up in a few weeks.

   If the company wants to make me a regular on this ship, I’m totally fine with it. I feel as if I fit here better than the other ships I’ve worked, and I can feel the people laughing hard here. They get it like the best club crowds, and if ships were all like this I’d never want to leave. I’m getting better at figuring out the audiences as well, but it’s still no guarantee of having every show go well. Sometimes they don’t, but not this week. Everything was the best of all worlds, and I’m going to settle in and let the next chapter of life reveal itself.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

My Annual Death Dodge

Thursday November 18th, 2010 - Chicago, IL/Belize City, Belize

   If there’s a one person operation with a more hectic schedule than mine, I’d sure like to meet that person and compare notes. I’m stretched about as far as I can go, and I’d hire an assistant in a second if I knew who to ask. Right now, I don’t have time to think about it.

   I’m still amazed I didn’t die in that car wreck early this morning. How many times have I been in this situation before? Too many to count, but more than thrice. It’s always in the wee hours in an oddball location, but that’s where my life’s path quite often takes me.

  What I can’t figure out is why it keeps happening. Am I supposed to learn some crucial life lesson I keep missing? If so, I hope I get it soon so I can stop having to deal with this on such a regular basis. This is three in the last two years, and they’re not even my fault.

   Still, it’s borderline miraculous I’ve been able to walk away from each of them without a single scratch. Nothing. I had some sore ribs from the last one but that was an especially nasty direct hit to the rear end from the other car going about 60 miles an hour. No biggie to have some sore ribs. I’m lucky I had any ribs left at all. That one really dodged a bullet.

   This one did too though. I was driving down Highway 12 in Wauconda, IL and that’s an empty stretch of road. I know it well because it’s on the way to Jerry Agar’s house so I’ve driven that way quite often. There were very few cars out at 4am, and I was beat from my two day moving marathon. All I wanted to do was get to Jim McHugh’s house by 4:45.

   I was passing through one of the few traffic signals which was a solid green when I saw headlights coming pretty fast from my right side. It caught me by surprise but sure enough the vehicle came right through the red light and I swerved out of instinct to avoid a crash.

   My car fish tailed out of control and slid into the ditch and kept sliding into some brush and trees like a pinball machine. I was totally calm for some reason like I’ve always been during each one of these incidents over the years. It’s like I’m about to check out and I’ve made my peace with the universe. There was no panic, I was just observing all the action.

   The panic set in when I discovered I’d lived through it. I absolutely HAD to make sure I made it to the airport in time to catch my flight, even if I had to call a cab. I got out to see the damage and saw I took out the whole rear end. The trunk was full of one final moving load but much of that was strewn about in the woods. I wouldn’t have time to retrieve it.

   The car was still running and amazingly it was still functional. This should be a great ad for Toyota, and if they want to make me their designated spokes-wrecker, I’ll gladly do it. I’ve already walked away from wrecking three in two years, what more do I have to do?

   I was stuck in that ditch pretty good, but years of winter driving have taught me how to rock a car back and forth to get momentum going so that’s what I did. After a few stabs at it I was able to get it out of the gully and onto the side road and I was on my way again.

   My tail lights were torn off, and I can’t believe I didn’t get stopped by anyone until I got to Jim’s house. I thought for sure I’d have to get a tow and go through all that hassle, but I didn’t. It was empty the rest of the way and I pulled up to Jim’s house a few minutes early even. Needless to say, he was as shocked as I was when I told him about what happened.

   This ruined the whole reason why I brought the car over in the first place. Jim is a really great friend, but it’s also a win/win because sometimes he’s short a car and can use mine to run errands if he needs to. That won’t happen this time, and now it’s just a big hassle.

   I didn’t have time to worry about that as I had to get to my flight. I flew from O’Hare to Houston, and then on to Belize City, Belize. I had middle seats on both flights and it’s not as easy to sleep in those, so basically I stayed awake even though I was beyond exhausted.

   I’d never been to Belize City before but it makes Gary, IN look like Beverly Hills. It’s a long cab ride to the ship from the airport and as we got into the city I saw how lucky I am, even though I’m living like a bug in America. I’ll take my lifestyle over theirs every time.

   After the cab ride I had to take a ferry boat to the ship. That’s usually not a problem but on a day like this when everything was going in every direction, I just wanted to get there and get some sleep. I could feel my whole body ache from the move, and my stress level was rising the longer I went without sleep. Everyone has limits, and I reached mine today.

   We finally arrived and I checked in with the ship and discovered we had shows tonight. In the past, they’ve usually not made us work on a travel day. Not today. I was scheduled for two shows, and funny was the last thing on my mind after these last few hectic days.

   My show was at 8:30 but I went down for the 7:30 show to introduce myself and let the manager know I was there. Also, I didn’t trust myself to not fall asleep and miss my show entirely. I took a long hot shower to try and wake up a little and then showed up at work.

   The other comic this week is a guy named Happy Cole. What a great name. He’s one of the top acts in the company from what I’ve heard, and I can see why from seeing his show tonight. The guy is velvety smooth, and has crafted some well written material concerning life on the ship. He’s a veteran and a pro and I respect his position. He‘s totally earned it.

   Plus, he’s a big sports fan. That’s always a big green light with me. If someone can talk sports, we’ll usually get along fine. When I worked with Tim Allen years ago, that’s what kept us talking for most of the night back stage. It removes all barriers, and two true fans of sports can usually find something to talk about all night. Happy and I will get along.

     Unfortunately, tonight wasn’t the night I was looking to hang with anyone. I was out of gas and ready to sleep for a week, but I had to do my shows. Ugh. That’s how the luck of the draw came out this time, so I didn’t complain. I went up and had a very good show at 8:30, but the 10:30 was a red hot killer - probably the best set I’ve done on a ship to date. I had no idea why it went so well, and the people had no idea how truly exhausted I was.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Friday, November 19, 2010

Stressed With The Best

Wednesday November 17th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

Nothing adds stress and pressure to life quite like having a strict time deadline added to an already unpleasant task. I felt the gun to my head all day as I cleared all of my worldly belongings out of where I’ve lived the last two and a half years. The more boxes I moved, the more that seemed to appear. It felt like Jesus’s loaves and fishes miracle in reverse.

Nobody realizes just how much junk is accumulated until moving time. I knew I’d let a few things add up, but not like this. It seemed as though I was a one man Sanford and Son junk removal service as I packed every trinket, bauble and ‘collectible’ I had to my name.

Thankfully I was able to move the bulk of my sports cards out recently or this probably would have been my last day on Earth. I couldn’t have handled lifting all those big heavy boxes up the stairs, into the car, out of the car and into the storage shed like I did with all the others I did today. I never like to ask anyone to help me move because it’s unpleasant.

I don’t like to do it, so why should I expose my friends to that torture? I always figured it was my stuff, and I should be responsible for moving it. This time was worse, as I really wasn’t prepared or packed with any kind of order. I had a time limit drop out of nowhere and had to be out in two days. Even if people did show up, I wouldn’t have been ready.

This has been one of the most grueling tasks I can ever remember having to do. I got up at 5am yesterday and worked solid until 1:30am this morning. Then I was back up at 4:30 because I couldn’t sleep worrying I wouldn’t be out on time. I drove to the Country Inn in Gurnee, IL to check my email, as I needed to get my airline information for my next trip.

It was one stressful thing after the other as I ran around doing errands between filling up my storage unit, which could have been packed a lot more efficiently had I had some time to do it. It was very symbolic of life in a way, having to rush through with limited options and make due. If circumstances were different, results would be different. But they’re not.

I could feel my energy and whatever exuberance I had at the start drain out of me as my legs and back began to throb with soreness every time I lifted a halfway heavy box. It was the ultimate workout that lasted TWO FULL DAYS. Let’s see Richard Simmons or Billy Blanks match that one. I should come out with a new video “Sweatin’ To The Deadline”.

Finally, after full day and a half of busting my ass physically like I can’t remember ever doing, my friend Shelly came over with a pickup truck I never knew her and her husband had. I never like to bother people, but Shelly is the greatest. Like me, she’s a helper and it shows. Sometimes that’s a bad thing because people take advantage, but that’s how it is.

I never want to take advantage of anyone, but especially people like Shelly. She showed up with the truck and we packed the little bit of furniture I do have, which consists of one table and a small cabinet with drawers to keep important papers, and moved it to the shed. We piled as much other stuff as we could around it and that’s where it will sit for a while.

Shelly also handles my website and co-hosts The Mothership Connection radio show on WLIP. Now that I’m gone for a few months, she and the rest of the panel have kept going and I couldn’t be happier about it. That show is fun and deserves to be on the air, but I’m not able to turn down the money from the ships so Shelly helps keep that going as well.

I’m totally grateful for all she’s done and all anyone else has done too, but something in my deep down psyche still has trouble trusting anyone. I don’t think Shelly is going to do anything to screw me over, but it’s happened so often in the past I can’t help but worry.

Today there was no time for worry or anything else but getting everything out of where I was staying. The other people were already out and this was my last chance. To make it even more of a challenge, I had a class to teach at Harper College by 7pm. That was THE last thing I wanted to do, but I made the commitment and wasn’t going to back out of it.

I also found a new situation to live which was a lot like my old one. The sister in law of the woman I originally made the deal with to rent from also has a house with a furnished basement not far away. She offered the same deal with the same rent, and I had to take it.

Do I want to live in basements the rest of my life? Of course not, but like where I was it isn’t horrible at all and there are a lot of upsides. I won’t have a lease, just like I didn’t all the time I stayed where I was. Yes, it ended a little inconveniently but nobody is angry at each other. We’re still friends and we helped each other out along the way. That’s good.

This situation should be very similar, and if it isn’t I can move out at any time. My rent will help her out and it’s a win/win. My future is so uncertain that it wouldn’t have been a smart thing to sign a lease anywhere, and I’m glad I didn’t have to. This is fine for now.

I can guarantee one thing though, the next time I move it will NOT be the stressful two day marathon of torture this one was. I will begin purging myself of any and all physical possessions as soon as I get the chance. My mind set has changed dramatically, and I am not interested in acquiring physical possessions. This planet isn’t my true home anyway.

I don’t know where that is, but I know I don’t need to be hauling most of the junk that’s in the storage area there. I’m going to weed out as much as I can, and travel light the rest of my life. If I really want a book or movie or CD, chances are I can find it pretty easily.

The class went very well at Harper College, but after that I still had work to do. I had a couple more loads to haul to the new place, and I was on a strict time schedule now. My flight was leaving at 5:30am and I couldn’t miss it for anything. Well I could, but I didn’t want to. If I missed the flight due to my error I’d likely be fired. I don’t want to find out.

On my way to the airport, some goofus ran a red light way out in the suburbs and I did not see it coming until it was too late. I swerved to miss him and slid into the ditch next to the highway and tore up the entire back end of my car which was filled with one final load of my stuff. I managed to get myself out, but now I’m going to need a car. Again.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Two Days Or Else

Tuesday November 16th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

   Just once it would be refreshing to finally get something in reality the exact way I had it first pictured in my mind’s eye. There always seems to be a glitch or a catch, and I’m sick of it. However, those are the situations that can make the funniest of brutally cruel jokes.

   It’s like the guy who wants to lose 20 pounds, then gets his left leg cut off in a combine. Pounds gone, but not how he pictured. Another one is the guy with the shriveled arm who goes to Jesus and says “Lord, make my arm like the other.” And the other one shrivels up.

   There is a cruelty aspect to this world that can be funny as hell…but only if it isn’t you who stands in that path of destruction. I remember how my father used to dish out verbal abuse that could be absolutely hilarious when it was aimed at someone else, but when the wheel of insults came full circle (and it always did) it wasn’t nearly as funny anymore.

   I’ve been saying for months how I intend to “purge my life of a good portion of worldly possessions and live more efficiently” and I really meant it. I’ve done it before and it feels really good to both clean out clutter and donate merchandise to a charity who can use it to help those who really need it. What I didn’t intend, was to have to get it done in two days.

   That’s where I am though, like it or not. I had zero choice in the matter. I need to be out of my living quarters by tomorrow evening as I’m leaving for Belize and two solid weeks working on cruise ships. The people I rented from are already out, only my stuff remains.

   I dragged myself out of bed at 5am on the dot to hopefully squeeze every single second  out of every single minute I could, as I was on the tightest time schedule I’ve been on in a long time. I absolutely HAVE to be out by tomorrow, no excuses. This is the part of being an adult kids can never understand. Everyone has to shut up and do stuff, at least at times.

   Today was my time. I found a storage unit in Antioch, IL, 6.1 miles away on a map, but a whole lot farther in time because Highway 83 is under major construction. I got stuck at least four times in a one lane only nightmare, but what else could I do but wait it all out?

   I packed the storage spot with as much as I could humanly fit in it, but none of it was in any kind of real order. I had boxes and boxes of books, and more boxes and boxes of a lot of other junk that will eventually be out of my life forever. Some was valuable, at least to me, but a lot was just pure old fashioned junk that needs to be taken away and destroyed.

   No time for sorting though. Not today. I needed to get it all out of the house and into the storage bin and I’ll worry about it later. Actually, I won’t worry at all. If it burns or rots or even gets stolen, my life won’t end. Still, this is my stuff and I want to sort it when I can.

   Even if I give away most of the books, I want to make sure the right people get them. It wouldn’t feel right to just toss it all out and start over, even though looking at the piles of unorganized junk laying everywhere that sounds like a really good idea. That or a big fire.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Airport Agony

Monday November 15th, 2010 - Miami, FL/Chicago, IL

   Welcome to the downside of traveling for a living. I couldn’t catch a break today with a magnet or a fishing hook, and today was a day I could have really used one. For whatever reason, nothing went the way it was supposed to and I had to waste a whole day waiting.

   Flights from Miami to Chicago must have been at a premium today, because I couldn’t  get on an earlier one than the one I had a ticket for at 7:25pm. I don’t usually get one that late when I’m already in Miami, and they let us off the ship by 11am. That’s a long wait.

   All I did today was wait, and anyone who knows me knows all too well that patience is just not one of the outstanding virtues in my repertoire. Quite the opposite. It’s a big time torture that someday may cause a massive stroke and I’ll die in a self made puddle of goo.

   Halfway through today, I wished for my own death, but it didn’t come. There must be a few more sins from past lives I still need to burn off the karma for, so all I could do was a whole lot of nothing. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I had to do it in the Miami airport, a place I’m not fond of at all. English is a second language there, and the layout is horrible.

   It was difficult enough to even get there in the first place. Usually there’s a crew shuttle that takes us there for a low price. Not today, and I have no idea why. I ended up taking a cab driven by some militant Haitian who wanted to start a revolution in America himself.

   When I got to the airport, I was too early to check in for my flight so I had to wait in the check in area for three full hours with nothing to do, and nobody to talk to. Ugh. I tried to get some sleep but those chairs are hard enough to sit in for three hours much less sleep.

   Finally, I was able to check in and I had to go through my favorite hobby - security. The crew was especially amped up today and were digging through luggage like kids looking for Easter eggs on the White House lawn. I shut my mouth and took my turn in the game.

   Putting my luggage and clothing back together killed a few minutes, so that was a good thing, but now I had five hours to kill before my flight. I went to the gate and tried to get a spot on an earlier flight but was greeted with an icy cold rude rejection in broken English, which I thought was funny coming from someone who works for AMERICAN Airlines.

   I tried reading, working, doing a crossword puzzle, sleeping, but nothing made the time go any faster. I had to wait, and that was it. Then, to cap the whole day off with a big dose of stress, they changed the gate number for the flight and I had to rush at top speed all the way across the airport to barely make my flight. This may be funny soon, but not today.

   Then, we ended up sitting on the runway for over an hour and nobody told us why. That put everyone in a bad mood, not just me. People were missing connecting flights and they weren’t thrilled about it, and the flight attendants had that stress to deal with. This all puts me in a wonderful mood as I now have to move everything I own over the next two days.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Shaking About Moving

Sunday November 14th, 2010 - Somewhere At Sea

   The second to last thing I wanted to have to do this week after receiving rectal surgery without anesthesia from a blind witch doctor with boney knuckles and a bad hangnail is having to move. I’ve learned to loathe moving, only because I’ve had to do it so much.

   I lost count of how many times I’ve moved about six times ago, even though I’m really not interested in knowing the exact number. Suffice to say it’s been a crap load, and that’s way too much. Stability as I get older would be great, but I have no way to predict if that will ever happen. Life keeps dealing cards and I keep playing them the best way I can.

   The mistake I keep making is allowing myself to keep acquiring physical clutter, which is always becomes a hassle when it comes time to move again. Most of it is books, which are very heavy when they’re put into boxes. One or two at a time are fine, but then I get a back log and it’s a major deal to move everything. That’s where I am now, and I dread it.

   Even if I end up getting rid of most of them, I’m still going to have to haul them away a box at a time. Do I put them into storage and fool myself into believing I’ll read them all, or do I take them to the used book store where I’ll get pennies on the dollar for a return?

   Most of them I got cheap enough or even given to me, but that’s not the point. I like to be able to have a choice of what to read, and on a given day I may want to look through a book I haven’t seen in a while. Too bad I guess, I’ll have to pick the ones I really want to keep and let the rest go. I haven’t even sorted through them all yet, but now it’s that time.

   The cosmos isn’t aligning to help me very much either. I get in very late tomorrow, and that blows any chance of getting a head start on anything. I won’t get home until midnight by the time I get my car back from Marc Schultz’s house and I’ll be beat when I do get in.

   Tuesday I’ll go through everything I have and decide what I’m going to keep. I’ll get rid of the rest, however I’m going to do it. I’ll donate some to Goodwill, throw some out, any friends that want to come over will be able to pick through what they might want and then I’ll find a storage place. I’ll pile all of what I’m keeping in the garage, and move it on out.

   Wednesday I’ll rent a small truck or van, and decide where it all goes. Hopefully I’ll get it all done without throwing my back out or popping a hamstring, and then I have the final comedy class session to teach at Harper College. I really enjoyed the class, but it’s hard to squeeze into my schedule with the ships. I don’t want to give anyone less than my best.

   Once again, everything in life is up in the air even farther than usual. Whatever kind of order or system my life may have had living where I was is now over. I need to settle into another place and do it all over again. I wish I had more time to work it out, but I don’t.

   Maybe this time I’ll learn my lesson and finally not keep saving so much junk. At least I got rid of my sports cards earlier this year. That would have made this a bigger nightmare.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

A Shrinking Universe

Saturday November 13th, 2010 - Cozumel, Mexico

   My world is shrinking, and I like it. I’m finally starting to enjoy the benefits of life on a cruise ship, and it’s about time. I’ve taken my lumps for months, but for some reason this was the day I finally started to feel comfortable with the lifestyle. I’m no longer a rookie.

   Seeing friendly faces and being back to familiar places helps a lot. This week I’m on the Carnival Destiny, and I was just here two weeks ago and it went well. I happen to like the staff here a whole lot, even though I don’t dislike any of the others. I just feel like this one and I hit it off particularly well. The comedy club manager James and I have met before.

   We worked a few months ago on the Carnival Legend, another ship I really like, and I’ll be back there again very soon too. James is a distinguished Brit who does a splendiferous job hosting the shows and just sets a positive tone all around. I love working with the guy, and we were both pleasantly surprised to cross paths again out here on a brand new ship.

   That was two weeks ago. Now it’s like we’re old time sea vets. I’m also working with a really super comedian named Will Marfori. We’ve also worked together before and had a very good week hanging out. He also has a Late Late Show with Craig Fergsuon credit to his name and is very smart and funny on stage and off. I was glad to see him again also.

   We had a night off from performing and our port today was Cozumel, Mexico. I’ve now been to Cozumel at least a half dozen times, and am getting to know my way around quite well. Before this year, I couldn’t have found it on a map. I’d heard of it, but just barely.

   Now I feel like it’s just another town. I even find myself saying “Gracias senor” without thinking twice. For a cheese head from Milwaukee, that’s a big step. I suppose I could try to get by with “Ya hey dere,” but it would probably take a lot longer to get what I want.

   Will and I had a blast hanging out today. We took a cab downtown and ate a spectacular authentic Mexican lunch at a place he knew of. The name escapes me, but I will definitely be back again. We had Azteca soup which I’d never had before, and I had a lobster kabob which I would have committed at least a misdemeanor to sample. It was world class grub.

   Then, we walked our meals off and eventually stopped at a cantina with multiple TVs to watch some college football. We took our seats at the bar and I couldn’t help noticing the green and gold decoration motif behind it. It was a Packer bar! I knew we’d chosen well.

   The whole day’s experience was really fun. The weather was perfect, with a little bit of cloud cover to keep the sun from being too hot. It wasn’t crowded either, and we felt like we had the town to ourselves. In a way we did, and we both enjoyed our day off of work.

   There’s an upside and downside to everything, and I’m not saying I won’t experience a lot more negatives, but for at least a day it felt like I knew what I was doing, where I was going, and who I was going there with. We had great food and perfect weather as well.

   I’m glad I was able to last at least this long out here so I’d have a few positive stories to tell. The negative ones are probably funnier to those who hear them, but for me I can now have a couple of positive memories to balance this whole experience out in my psyche.

   Losing my luggage for a week was a real pisser. That whole experience made me think very seriously about quitting, but today’s experience made me glad I didn’t. At least at the end of everything, I’ll be able to look back and say I stayed with comedy and gave my all.

   If you’d have told me even a year ago I’d be hanging out in Cozumel, Mexico for a day and feeling comfortable about it, I’d have thought you were crazy. It sounds like an exotic far away place I’d never have a reason to go to, but now I look forward to returning soon.

   My world has always been shrinking, all the way back to childhood. I remember hearing my grandparents tell me I wasn’t supposed to ride my bike any farther than our side of the block. That was all I needed to hear. I couldn’t wait to ride around the block just to see all the adventurous things that were out there. It was only houses, but I had to see for myself.

   Then, I was only allowed to stay on our block. Sorry. Couldn’t do that either. It kept on growing through my whole life. I took a city bus to school in sixth grade, and I remember being told to “Only take the route you know.” Were they kidding? I couldn’t do that, even if I wanted to. There’s just something in me that has always needed to go out and explore.

   When I started doing comedy in Milwaukee, it wasn’t long before I had to check out the scene in Chicago. It was only 90 miles away, but to me seemed like a new world. I didn’t have a reliable car (what’s new) so I remember hitch hiking at times, taking a bus several others, and however else I could get myself down there. I had to get out and experience it.

   Then, I started going on the road as a comedian and I always made it a point to take gigs as far away from Milwaukee as I could get. I wanted to see the country, and that I did. It’s been a lifetime obsession, but in recent years I’ve found myself losing that burning desire to have to always be gone. Traveling also takes a toll. It’s WORK, and requires energy.

   I made it a point to see as much of North America as humanly possible, but it took a full quarter century to do it. There are scant few places in the lower 48 United States that I’ve not seen with my own eyes, and it’s been both an adventure and an education. I know that most people never get the chance to do what I did, mainly because they didn’t choose to.

   I’d love to visit every nation on Earth if I could, just to see it all with my own eyes. I’ve still got the spark of that little kid on the bike that wasn’t supposed to leave my block. If I get the chance to see the world, I know I’ll take it. Today was Cozumel. So far, so good.

   Eventually, I want cities and states to become nations and continents. After that, planets and galaxies would be fantastic. If there is life after death, I hope this is my last stop here on Earth. I’ll see as much of it as I can on this trip, but I want to get out there and soak up the real hotspots. Alpha Centauri? Zeta Reticuli? I hope the mother ship has a seat for me.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pop Goes The Culture

Friday November 12th, 2010 - Somewhere At Sea

   Last week I chose to invest time and effort into reorganizing my offstage comedy work. It was something I’d been meaning to get to for years, but hadn’t. This week I’m going in a completely different direction. I’m catching up on pop culture and focusing on health.

   Those are turning into two major weakness areas whereas in the past they were big time strengths. Any good entertainer needs to have a fluent working knowledge of current pop culture, and I’ve fallen painfully behind in the last twenty years. All I can do now is patch up the major holes and try to fake my way through all the things I’ve ignored for so long.

   I’ve been working during prime time TV for all of my adult life. I suppose I could have kept up with shows I missed by taping them, but it was never that important to me. I don’t really care that I’ve never seen most network shows, but I’d be smart to go back and get a crash course in some of the more important ones. That’s available now more then ever.

   For example, I’m probably the only living American adult to have never seen even one episode of ‘The Sopranos’, but it’s true. I’m sure it’s a fantastic show, and I’m sure I will enjoy it. I just never had time to watch it when it was on the air. I didn’t want to just catch random episodes, so I avoided it altogether - until now. It’s time for me to finally enjoy it.

   I’ll have a lot of free time around the holidays and I’ll be stuck on a ship so that will be the perfect time to get caught up. I found a DVD of season 1 at a thrift store dirt cheap so that’s a start. I’m sure I can borrow the rest from someone, or I’ll buy them if I have to.

   The other focus this week is getting healthier. When I started in comedy, I was in great shape. I’ve never smoked or drank, and I rarely ate fast food . I was always a sports freak and played in all kinds of baseball and basketball leagues throughout my 20s. I loved it.

   Then, a week after my 30th birthday I had my infamous car accident and that’s when the pendulum swung. I basically had to learn how to walk all over again, and nothing was the same after that. I transitioned from exercising regularly like I had been to the world of all things lazy. Sugar, salt and lard became staples of my diet and it’s been down hill since.

   I’m not going to be able to change years of neglect and abuse overnight. All I’m looking to do is get a few weeks of positive steps going before I even measure myself. I know I’ve not done well in this department in years, so why start with measurements? I don’t care.

   I know I have to improve so that’s where I’m starting. I’m writing down everything I eat and drink, just so I can record my progress. I’ve failed countless times in the past because I never kept records when I wandered. I know it’s time to stop fooling myself and DO it.

   So far so good for this week, but a habit takes a lot longer than that. I have to flush out a lot of gook, gunk and sludge from my system and I hope I can before the big Fred Sanford chest grabber. I want to enjoy those Sopranos episodes I missed. I’m finally catching up.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Causes And Cruises

Thursday November 11th, 2010 - Miami, FL

   Far too many overly serious topics are coming to the forefront at once lately, at least for my tastes, but they are. I want to focus on fun and funny and doing as much good with as much time as I have left on this cockeyed little space pebble for as many people as I can.

   Too many other heavy issues are getting in the way lately. Veterans Day is one. I never make jokes about that, and I’m eternally grateful for my American heritage and all that is included with it…BUT, the whole idea of war itself repulses me. I know blood was shed in many generations so that I could enjoy life on a scale that’s the best it’s been in history.

   That’s my complaint, I think it still rots in many ways. In my opinion, too many people don’t appreciate what we do have, and are taking down the rest of the country with them. In no way does that reflect on the brave soldiers who gave their lives - the ultimate price. They will have my never ending undying support. But why is war even necessary at all?

   I have a number of people I’m not fond of, even a few I really can’t stand. I know there are also people that think I’m a pure bred grade A polecat’s pecker. So be it. We disagree as humans on some things, that just goes with the territory. But really, is murdering each other over any of it really necessary? I for one don’t think so. I try to bypass all the idiots.

   Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to have caught on in the mass population. Human kind seems to be rotten to the core, and eventually it comes down to a big ugly fight that takes it to a level it never needs to get to, and then bodies start piling up. It’s a bigger version of hearing “someone’s going to lose an eye” from childhood, but it’s not adult. It’s asinine.

   I’m not a daisy picking wackadoo and not realistic to think we don’t need to protect our families, but in the world I’d like to call home, we wouldn’t need a Veterans Day because all those people who bravely defended us with their lives would still be here to live theirs.

   I never forgot my grandmother talking about her family over in Germany who were hurt in World Wars I and II, and how it affected their lives after. They couldn’t farm properly and it made it very difficult to feed their families and they all suffered from it. She knew veterans on both sides of the ocean, just regular people trying to survive the snares of life.

   I personally don’t have one thing against anyone in Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere else. Unfortunately, all the wank poles I know live right here in America. I don’t like them, but I don’t plan on killing them either. I want to just live my life in peace and stay away from those who I choose to avoid. I think if we all really wanted that to happen, it would work.

   I know war makes money and infuses the economies of nations and blah blah blah, but I still don’t have to like it. And I don’t. I can’t say what I would have done if I’d been born in the Vietnam generation, which I almost was. Do I respect those who went? Absolutely. But what about those who didn’t? I can’t honestly say that I have an answer for that now, and I don’t know when I will. This is way deep and my head aches just thinking about it.

   I really think it all boils down to sincere respect and the good old reliable Golden Rule. I don’t care what anyone’s religious beliefs are, the Golden Rule is pure uncut 100% truth from not just the Earth, but the depths of the universe. It’s the most important rule of all.

   If we really respected each other, we’d find a way to avoid wiping each other out and be focused on how we can find solutions to these touchy areas. We’re all stuck on this planet for as long as we’re here. ALL of us. All colors, religions, sexual preferences, educational levels, whatever. Let’s find a way to at least let those who think similarly get to enjoy it.

   I don’t mind if someone chooses to be a Muslim, but don’t be telling me I can’t enjoy a nice greasy order of bacon in the morning if I feel like it. You don’t like it? Tough. But it shouldn’t get us to start burning each other’s flags over it, should it? I’m not that into it.

   This all makes perfect sense to me, but what do I know? I’ve got my own problems on a much smaller scale, but to me they’re every bit as large. Our own personal problems seem bigger than life because we’re so close to them. I have all I can handle with my own life.

   One other thing that’s a big deal is the whole Carnival cruise ship incident. I must have gotten 200 emails, texts and calls asking if it was me aboard that ship and wondering if I was going to survive. I’m totally flattered that many people care about me, but I have to say the public is completely misinformed on just how safe the whole cruise experience is. 

   I was guilty too, and I admit it. Until this summer, I’d never even seen a real live cruise ship up close and in person. WOW, what an impressive sight. I highly recommend that all the people who are so quick to point fingers and make fun see how well run and efficient these ships are, your tune will change immediately. I feel 1000% safe on a Carnival ship.

   I’m not just saying that because I work for them, but they’re the leaders of the industry and they have 23 ships in their fleet which sail completely safe and incident free each and every week of the year without issue. Yes, there was a glitch on ONE ship. Inconvenience maybe, but no lost lives. And, the company gave them all a fantastic compensation deal.

   Believe me, the Carnival people are focused on their passengers. If I screw up on stage, I’m out of a job. That’s a good thing, because it will keep me in line and force me to give my best product to the passengers who have come to know Carnival as a quality vacation.

   I think it’s totally unfair every news story starts with “Carnival cruise ship…” just as if someone choked on food and the news said “Wendy’s hamburger…” Things go wrong in the real world, and accidents happen. Even the space shuttle blew up. Twice. I wouldn’t ride on that, but I feel very safe on any Carnival ship. I’ve seen how well several are run.

     Flying is the same way. I’ve never been afraid to fly, ESPECIALLY after a crash. It’s a very sad fact of life, but in the jungle animals get eaten too. It’s a cruel world. If anything, now would be the perfect time to take a Carnival cruise. I’m sure it will be super safe way more than ever. Enough with this heavy stuff already. Time to lighten up and have fun.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Father Forgiveness

Wednesday November 10th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

Today would have been my father’s 73rd birthday. The longer he’s dead, the less I think about him quite frankly. That situation was just plain ugly, and it’s been a source of major pain for a lifetime. That relationship alone has probably put more dents in my can than all others combined, but I know it isn‘t just me. Father relationships are a major part of life.

My grandpa used to tell me that on both sides of every stripper pole there was a bad job of fathering - the girl dancing and the guy watching. Gramps was THE major influence in my life, the reason I’m not dead or in prison. His mentorship continues to help me today.

The few times I can remember speaking with my father, he always had a disdain for his father and said how they never got along. I guess that isn’t always the case, and those that get a second chance with grand kids often make up for their initial mistakes as parents.

Whatever went wrong in my father’s life, it sure was major. Like Anakin Skywalker, he not only went to the dark side - he became their poster child. The more I tried to carve out any kind of relationship with my father, the less it worked. We could never see eye to eye, and we spent a lot more years not talking to each other than in contact. It was a mismatch.

The one thing that’s been most difficult for me to deal with when it comes to my father is forgiveness. Try as I might to let go, I always clung to the mean spirited hurtful things he said and did and it’s been a major source of all things negative. I looked him in the eye when we had our face to face meeting and told him I forgave him, but I really hadn’t yet.

That was 16 years ago now, and it seems like an eternity. I saw him only one more time after that, and that was when my grandmother was going into a nursing home and all of us gathered at her house to clean out her belongings. He was being a pompous knob that day as he always did, and after a few short minutes I’d had my fill and got in my car and left.

When I heard he died, I didn’t have any emotion at all. In the years since, his memory is fading into the past and I think of him less and less. I can honestly say I tried my very best to salvage some kind of relationship with him, even though we never did. I did all I could from my side, but in the end it was a flaming flop. I was never able to truly forgive him.

I wasn’t even thinking about him or his birthday this morning when I went into my bank to deposit a check from the gig I did in Decatur last week. I saw it was November 10th and it hit me. It only took a split second to recall his image, but there was no anger attached.

The next thing that hit harder was that I was finally able to genuinely forgive him and let all that ugly past go. Just like that. I knew it was gone. It was a big relief. It was like a kid trying to lose a baby tooth that just wouldn’t come out. Eventually, it falls out all by itself and is never a problem again. That’s kind of how it felt today. I saw all the pain he put us all through, but it didn’t sting anymore. I was able to look at it for what it was, put it way in the past and know that he or his tyrant attitude would never be able to hurt me again.

I sat in the car for a few minutes trying to figure it all out, but then I decided it wasn’t important. That whole mess is over, and the damage has long been done. I still have the scars, but there are no open wounds anymore. He’s dead, and his power to hurt is gone.

If there was one person meaner than my old man it was his wife - my step mother. We never got along either, and as a kid I remember praying for her slow and painful death. It shamed me when I eventually got it, but I did. She had diabetes pretty bad and from what I heard it was quite nasty. Our relationship aside, I’m very sorry I wished that on anybody.

My grandmother was the one who told me about it, and she had Alzheimer’s disease at the time. She must have told me a dozen times in five minutes, and as soon as I heard she died I was able to immediately forgive her for whatever she may have done at any time in the past. She knew what she did, and now she would have to answer for it. I forgave her.

I knew when I had that feeling it would be permanent, and I wouldn’t change my mind later and get pissed off all over again. I don’t know how I knew that, but I did. And I was right - it’s never come back. I still think she was mean and nasty and we never got along, but I carry no grudge with her and let it go. It’s for me, not for her. I have my own faults.

When I had the feeling today about my father I knew that would be permanent as well. I don’t have to like him or rewrite history and say how great he was or anything other than just LET IT ALL GO and don’t claim it anymore. The damage is done, he’s dead, and he has to answer to the same source his wife did. If there’s justice anywhere, it’ll work out.

I’m not claiming perfection in anything and never have. I have plenty of my own black ink to erase from my life, but the old man sure didn’t make life easier for any of his kids. I know I’m not the only one who’s had to deal with this ugliness so my mission in life is to reach out to as many other dented cans as I’m able to find and give them my support.

Sometimes that can come from humor, but other times it’s just being real enough to be there and let them express their feelings. Dented cans are sensitive for the most part and it feels good to have others who can relate to their pain. I’ve had countless people come up and tell me how they can relate to the whole dented can theme, but I wish they couldn’t.

I wish I couldn’t. I wish I had a loving wife and family supporting me in whatever I did and me being the source of it all as the head of the household. Maybe I wouldn’t have the need to be a comedian, but that’s ok. I’m sure I would have found something else I liked.

So many good friends like Jerry Agar and Bert Haas have had wonderful families with amazing kids. They both have three of the most wonderful kids I’ve ever known, and for me to see them all grow up from babies is a privilege. That’s how life is supposed to be.

I never got that, and I’m not alone. I can’t change it, so all I can do is reach out for the rest of my life and encourage other dented cans like me to keep plugging. I’m not all the way there yet. Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday, and that one still has some raw nerves.


Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary