Saturday, July 30, 2011

Paring Down And Catching Up

Friday July 29th, 2011 - Cary, IL/Fox Lake, IL

   More running around today, but I have to catch up with all the things I’ve fallen behind on in the last month. Even though I took time off, my bills didn’t. I’m going to have to be extra thrifty in the next little while to make it through, and anything I can unload for cash is a must do. I don’t have anything that isn’t replaceable, but right now I need to simplify.

   It deeply saddened me, but I sold my 1983 Cadillac. I just don’t have room for it at the present time. Storing it would cost money I’ll need to use for stupid frivolous things like food, clothing and shelter and I couldn’t justify keeping it. I found a guy who has a garage that fixes older cars near the Wisconsin border and he offered me $600 cash. I accepted.

   I paid $1500 for it and it was worth it. I didn’t have to stick a nickel into it and took it on several road trips all over America. It drinks gas in the city, but on the highway I was pleasantly surprised by the numbers. It was a great buy and I got my money’s worth and more out of it. I’d love to keep it, but right now I need the scratch so bye bye it goes.

   I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all to pare down and live lean. Possessions mean zilch to me as I get older, and everything is replaceable. If I really have a burning need to drive an old tub of a car, I think I’ll be able to find one. For now, I’ve got other priorities at hand.

   Two of those are filling my body with quality foods and my brain with quality thoughts. I’ve been pounding down so many salads and vegetables lately, I think I’m going to start peeing vinegar and oil any day now. Everyone I see lately who hasn’t seen me for a while immediately says how much better I look, and it feels fantastic. I know I’m succeeding.

   My blood sugar is right where it’s supposed to be, but I’m just getting started. I’ve been reading all kinds of books on diet, exercise, diabetes and good health in general and I see just how much of a commitment there is in keeping one’s health in top shape. I’m willing to make that commitment, but I’ve got a lot more studying and work to do. It’s a process.

   Another process is filling my head with quality thoughts. I have stacks of books that are doing nothing but gather dust, both in a storage unit and at home. I took an hour to begin actually reading them, and need to make that a regular part of my day. Reading is crucial, as is listening to audio programs both in my car and at home. I have enough for decades.

   I’d have to read non stop a solid eight hours a day, seven days a week until my prostate rots off to put even a teeny tiny dent in my stash of materials. If I don’t devote one hour a day at least to packing my skull with brain chow I might as well torch it all and get some heat out of it. Otherwise, it‘s a complete waste. An hour a day will be an attainable goal.

   Books are meant to be read, and audio is meant to be heard. I’ve got a backlog of hand picked stuff I’d love to delve into and have been meaning to for years. Now’s the perfect time to start building new and better habits, and that’s what I intend to do. It’s exciting to see all these steps come together. Before long, I might actually be able to build a nice life.                                                                                                                                                         

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Morning Blending

Thursday July 28th, 2011 - Milwaukee, WI

  Lots of running around today, but it was all productive. First it was up to Milwaukee for a return visit to ‘The Morning Blend’ on Today’s TMJ 4 with the sweetheart hosts Molly Fay and Tiffany Ogle. They’re both delightful to work with, as are everyone from camera operators to the assistants to the producer. It’s a total pleasure to be a part of that show.

   There are always laughs and fun going on in the studio, even when the camera isn‘t on. That’s a healthy sign a staff gets along, and in my opinion the way it should be but is not on many occasions. I’ve been in some situations where it felt like a morgue off the air.

   The Bob and Tom show was like that. I always felt a dysfunctional vibe in that studio a lot like the one I felt whenever my father was in a room. Everyone was on edge, awaiting the wrong thing to be said that would trigger the psychotic explosion. It was raw tension.

   I was on that show maybe six or seven times, and whenever they’d go to a commercial it would be very awkward because they’d all get up and leave without warning to go have a smoke or get a cup of coffee or something, and I’d sit all alone in a chilly radio studio.

   It was never fun or comfortable, and every time I left that building I never knew if I did well or not. I’ve heard other comedians say the same thing, and in my opinion that isn’t a way to get the most out of a guest. I believe it’s a good host’s job to keep everyone loose.

   Craig Ferguson was extremely friendly. I only got to meet him for a minute or two, but he made me feel at home immediately. He’s a friendly person and I happen to think he is also very funny. He didn’t talk down to me in the least. He treated me like I was a peer.

  Molly and Tiffany are like that, and I think this was my third or fourth time on the show. They make it very easy to shine, as did the other guys on the ‘man panel’ that we were on. They were all radio hosts from AM 620 WTMJ, so I felt flattered to be part of that group.

   I listen to the station regularly, and had met two of the three guys before. Greg Matzek is half of a new sports talk team along with Trenni Kusnierek, and I hadn’t met him until today. He has a world class deep baritone radio voice and does a fine job with Trenni who I do know. She’s also a sweetheart and I wish them both the best on their brand new gig.

   James T. Harris was also on the panel, and I’m a huge fan of his talk show. That guy’s a big time talent, and shakes things up. He tells it like it is, and the only complaint I have is I don’t get to hear him more. He’s entertaining, informative and knows what he‘s doing.

   Dan O’Donnell was the fourth guy, and we were on the last panel together. He sounded great and cracked off some one liners that made us all laugh, as did everyone. It was a fun segment, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. I’d go back there anytime, and I do hope they ask. I ran errands the rest of the day, and knocked out a lot of things I’d been intending to do for weeks. Starting the morning with such a positive vibe ended up lasting all day.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Preparing For Battle

Wednesday July 27th, 2011 - Cary, IL

   Time to take some comedy inventory. Yammering on about how the business isn’t what  it used to be won’t pry me out of the precarious predicament I‘m presently planted in. I’ve got to look at what all my options are, and make an intelligent decision to move forward.

   On the good side, I’ve got a lot of experience. I’d go as far as to say I’ve got as much or more hands on experience with standup comedy than 90% of headliners working in clubs today. No situation rattles me, and I’m able to adjust to virtually any scenario imaginable.

   Off stage, I’m not a drinker or drug user, and I’m extremely low maintenance. I’m not a diva and don’t whine on about things like the colors of my M&Ms or that there’s not any caviar on my deli tray. I show up and give my very best show, then I’m always willing to meet and greet any fans afterward who might want to meet me. I think that’s important.

   On the not so good side, I’ve been known to polarize people and there are some that are not now and highly doubtful in the future to ever be in my corner. A flaming example that haunts me often is the Bob and Tom radio show. Apparently I’ve pissed them off so badly I’ll never be on again, no matter how hard I try to apologize. That bridge has been nuked.

    I still don’t know what I did, but in their eyes I’m the devil. Whatever. I’ve tried to say I was sorry, and I meant it. They didn’t accept. I’m off the show, which is heard in a lot of markets across the country. They’re not big markets, but they have a lot of exposure that’s perfect for what I do. I would KILL on their tours, and would have made a lot of money.

   But alas, that’s not to be so I have to get over it. The other people I’ve pissed off are not nearly as high profile as Bob and Tom, but word gets around the block and I can tell I’m a bit of a pariah in some circles. Again, I can’t change what people are going to think, and I always try to make things right if I’ve hurt or offended someone. Sometimes they reject it.

   What I need to do now is see who’s in my corner and who isn’t, and who has something to offer and who doesn’t. Plus, I need to expand my scope of focus WAY past only doing comedy club work. My booker friend Marc Schultz has been telling me that for years, and I know he’s right. I need to market myself to people who can pay a decent wage for today.

   That’s nearly impossible to get in comedy clubs these days. I’ve said it before, but it’s a fact - I need to make myself a draw. That’s much easier said than done, but it’s still a long way from happening. I’m not a household name, even at my house. That’s a big problem.

   I also need to take inventory of my whole onstage presentation too. I’ve got hundreds of pages of ideas in a giant computer file and there’s stuff in there I know I could polish into some great bits. But, they’re like songs on a music album. Which ones will become hits?

   This is like the second half of a ball game. I’m making adjustments in the locker room, now it’s time to go out and execute that plan. The second half is where games are won.

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Career Concern

Tuesday July 26th, 2011 - Kenosha, WI

   I like to be positive whenever I can, but I have to say I’m not optimistic about the future of comedy as not only I see it, but my peers too. I’m in an extraordinarily difficult spot as far as career goes, and I‘m not alone. It’s a hard enough road being an entertainer, but the business as I’ve come to know it for over a quarter of a century is shriveling up. And fast.

   Like a lot of industries, it just isn’t what it was and the prospects of it coming back are getting slimmer by the minute. I feel like the guy (and I know there’s at least one around) who’s sitting on a warehouse full of leisure suits, or his partner who’s got another full of parachute pants. Both may hope those items make a comeback, but it’s highly doubtful.

   I got a call from Nick Gaza today. Nick is a funny comic from Indiana right around my age who recently moved back to the Midwest after slugging it out for many years in Los Angeles. He’s from my comedy generation, and we exchanged tales of how it‘s changed.

   It used to be a small percentage of people made livings as comedians. It was a whole lot less when we started, and our generation had a few years of a boom before it was infested with hacks, idiots and wannabes which caused it to come crashing down in the early ‘90s.

   Then it kind of built back up again, but not to that fever pitch it was in the golden years of the magical ‘80s. During that time, there was a mass exodus of comics who moved to L.A. in hopes of hitting the jackpot. Many did, as development deal money seemed to get handed out like Halloween candy. A good many road dogs got a taste of major moolah.

   They were making sitcoms then, and standup comics were the hot thing. I’m sure actual actors weren’t too thrilled about that, but that’s how it went. A lot of those people weren’t heard from again, even though they’d managed to haul in a nice chunk of coin for a while.

   Nick and I are from that generation, but never got close to that windfall. He was in L.A. trying to get seen, and I was farting around doing radio, road gigs and trying to stay out of prison while being accused of a bank robbery I didn’t do. I never got my shot at any deals.

   Now, all that is ancient history. Reality TV is what’s being cranked out like rabbit turds in a pet store, and comics aren’t the darlings we once were, either in Hollywood or on the road. Most towns are infested with an overabundance of delusional pinheads who actually think they’re professional comedians because they made ten bucks opening for karaoke.

   Journeyman performers who’ve earned their stripes have a much harder time squeezing a living out of the road because the local clubs quite often exchange quality for not having to pay for motel rooms for competent acts. I’m feeling that pinch big time, and so is Nick.

   So are a lot of others from my generation and even previous ones too. It was never easy to be a good act and survive the road life, but now it’s really getting rough. There are way too many bad acts and even more halfwits who hire them, and the good acts suffer for it.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Vicarious Victory

Monday July 25th, 2011 - Palatine, IL

   I’ve got all kinds of inconveniences with my car to deal with, but I’m not complaining a bit. A month ago I was laid up in a hospital bed, not knowing whether I’d come out a boy, girl or something in between. Knowing my manhood was saved puts me in tip top spirits.

   Now, it’s back to the real world. What I thought was a transmission problem turned out to be a bad wheel bearing. It cost me $250 instead of $2500, so that was a break I needed right about now. The battery was also on it’s last legs, so that set me back another $97. It could have been a lot worse, so I’m going to say thanks and move on to the next chapter.

   Between running around all day I was able to share a wonderful moment with my friend Jim McHugh. Jim has been an exceptional friend for years, especially during this patch of bumpy road I’ve been going through. He’s been nothing but supportive, and calls often to see if I’m ok. Many others have done that too, and it’s given me strength to keep going.

   Jim and I are both big sports fans, and his son Connor plays American Legion baseball. I’ve known Connor for years, and he’s a hard working super sharp kid. Jim invited me to see the championship game this afternoon in Palatine, IL. I knew it was a big deal to both Jim and Connor, so I went to show support for all the times they’ve both shown it to me.

   I like baseball, so it was no problem. Jim’s eyes lit up as he saw me walk up to the field, and I knew I made the right choice. He was glad to see me, as I was glad to see him all the times he showed up to get me from the airport when I returned from my cruise ship gigs.

   The game was well played, and very exciting. From a baseball standpoint alone I wasn’t sorry I went. Connor made a nice catch in the outfield and hit the ball sharply his first two times at bat, but right at someone. I could see Jim’s frustration, but I was just happy to get a chance to be there. My old man never came to see me play baseball, or do anything else.

   The game was tied 2-2 going into the bottom of the 9th inning. Fate had Connor coming up to bat with two outs and two men on base. It was the ideal situation to be the hero, and have that special bonding moment between father and son. I sure didn’t want to inflict my  horrendous luck anywhere near that moment, so I walked away from Jim as a courtesy.

   The situation got tense as the count went to full, and I was hoping with all my heart that Connor would get any kind of a hit and have a lasting memory. On the next pitch, the left handed batting Connor launched a rocket over the third baseman’s head and the fans went crazy. I was cheering wildly, and I could see Jim brushing a tear away. What a moment.

   I got a high five from him that felt like it broke my wrist, and then he put a bear hug on me that would have made Hulk Hogan proud. Tears were flowing and I didn’t blame him, but then he told me this would have been his father’s birthday and how special it was and I started crying myself. The roots of a family tree are thick, especially to those of us who never had a chance to experience it. I can’t be any happier for Connor, Jim and Jim’s dad.

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Another Dead Idiot

Sunday July 24th, 2011 - Cary, IL

   The only real surprise about hearing Amy Winehouse is dead is that it took this long for it to happen. She’s been a consistent favorite in dead pools for several years now, and I’m sure quite a few of those ghoulish bastards scored big points upon hearing of her passing.

   Wait a minute, I’m one of those ghoulish bastards myself. I’ve been playing in two dead pools for several years now, and every January 1st I make out my lists for the coming year. I mix them up and don’t submit the same lists to each pool. It’s not easy to pick winners.

   I had Amy Winehouse on one of my lists for a couple of years, then I gave up when she outlived everyone’s predictions. It’s harder to pick younger people, and in one pool I’m in there are extra bonus points given depending on how young a person is. It’s like a morbid game of fantasy football or baseball, but there isn’t nearly as much boring maintenance.

   All we do is compile our lists by the deadline (no pun intended) in January and then see how it plays out during the year. The one with the most points at the end wins a couple of bucks, no great shakes. I won a few bucks one year, but it all goes back into the game as I used it to pay my nominal entry fees each year. It’s more of a chance to mix with friends.

   More than a few tightly wound self righteous do gooder types get highly offended at the thought of anyone even thinking about a dead pool, but I guess I’ve grown a thick callous as a comedian and it doesn’t bother me in the least. Morbid? I guess so, but death is a part of the human experience and we’ve all got to face it - NO exceptions. I didn’t invoke that.

   I heard once where Keith Richards chose himself in a dead pool. True or not, that’s very funny. There have been all kinds of jokes about death through the years, probably because it’s a way to soften the fact that none of us alive really know for sure what’s over there, if anything at all. I’d like to think this life isn’t all there is, but I won‘t know until it‘s over.

   What I do know is that this one isn’t fair, and  Amy Winehouse is yet another flamingly obvious example. Apparently she had talent, even though I wasn’t a fan. But, I have zero sympathy for the fact she pissed not only whatever talent she had but her whole life away, and for what reason? She was too stupid to stay away from booze and drugs. How boring.

   That’s the same thing that killed Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin Kurt Cobain at 27, and a whole lot more of all different ages. Why can’t people stay away from what’s been proven to extinguish lives for many years? If someone is dumb enough to think they are above anyone else and it won’t affect them, tough toe tags. They’re just another stiff.

   I have to admit I’m a little irked by all this. Here I’ve spent as long as she was alive out on the road slugging it out night after night with nobody caring if I live or die. There are a lot of other entertainers of all kinds doing the exact same thing. But, some temperamental tattooed skinny booze hag pops up out of nowhere, and the world worships at her feet like she‘s a queen. Now she’ll become a ‘tragic legend’ and a ‘tortured artist’. My aching ass.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Stage Withdrawal

Saturday July 23rd, 2011 - Cary, IL

   Another Saturday night without a gig and I’m getting antsy. I was supposed to be out in Tucson at Laffs this week, but I didn’t know if I was up for it with my recent health issues so I cancelled. I never like to cancel work, but I wasn’t sure I could bring it with all I had.

   If someone pays to see me perform, I take it seriously. I want to be able to give my very best effort at any given time, and I also don’t want to cheat a booker either. I doubted my ability to be able to give my all right now, so I was up front with Gary Bynum who books the club. He’s a very astute businessman, and I respect that. I didn’t want to phone it in.

   He was very cool about it, and in this economy it wasn’t difficult to find a replacement in milliseconds so no damage was done. A lot of bookers hold a grudge whenever there’s a cancellation, but sometimes it happens for legitimate reasons. This was one of them and I highly doubt it will prevent me from a future rebooking. I’d love to go back to Tucson.

   In a perfect world, I’d book a few clubs in towns I enjoy and do it for the fun of it. I like Tucson a lot as a town, and I also like Salt Lake City which isn’t all that far away. A mini tour of those two cities with maybe a San Francisco, Sacramento or Seattle on the end of it would make a nifty little western junket. There are also a few casino gigs out that way.

   Three or four runs a year wouldn’t be bad to do on the road, but only at nicer joints like Laffs in Tucson or Wiseguys in Salt Lake City. I fit in very well in those places, and there is minimal drama because they’re well run. Money has gone down all over though, so it’s important to add on as many casino one nighters as possible to make it worth my while.

   It’s getting harder and harder to squeeze a buck out of the road , not to mention the fact it gets to be a brutal grind after a while. Gas at four bucks a pint doesn’t help either. It’s a rough go for the road comic these days, and I have no idea how openers and features hang in there. It’s tough enough for headliners, and I’m living proof. This is not an easy living.

   Still, I enjoy performing for quality audiences who are there to see a show. That doesn’t always happen, but after a month on the sidelines, I’m itching to get back out there and do some shows. I might not have been ready for a trip to Tucson this particular week, but I’m sure ready to start doing even some guest sets in clubs around here to get my chops back.

    Comedy is a craft, and any craftsperson needs to practice their craft to maintain a level of growth and proficiency that only comes by doing it. The old adage of “use it or lose it” is unfortunately all too true. It takes constant work, and even though I’ve had a nice little break to clear my head and rest up, if I don’t get back on stage again soon I will atrophy.

   Most audiences would never know that, but I would. I don’t want to go up there and be off my game and give a bumbling half ass mish mash that passes for a show. I want to be at the top of my game for as long as I can stay there, and that’s not forever unfortunately. It now becomes a race against the clock, and every time on stage becomes significant.

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Happy Funkin' Birthday

Friday July 22nd, 2011 - Cary, IL

   Today is George “Dr. Funkenstein” Clinton’s 70th birthday. Or maybe it’s 71. I’ve seen his birth year listed as either 1940 or 1941 for years, and I have no idea which is the right one. But with a super cool nickname like “Dr. Funkenstein”, does an exact year matter?

   Anyone who knows me well knows I’m a huge fan of his for many reasons. I really like the music, but it’s more than that. He’s not only a master showman himself, he’s also able to bring out the very best in the musicians he works with. On top of that, he’s able to melt all of their individual talents together and oversee the chaos on stage during live shows.

   He’s also the one who came up with most of the wild concepts that put them over in the ’70s, most notably the infamous space ship gimmick that landed in the arenas they played then. I never got to see one of those shows live, but always wanted to. I didn’t see George in person until the late 80s, right when he was starting to put together his comeback run.

   There were all kinds of lawsuits going on at that time, and the band names ‘Parliament’ and ‘Funkadelic’ were tied up in court so the show was billed as “George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars“. It was basically the same members of both groups, and the first time I saw them live I was hooked. It was a four hour show at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago.

   There were no spaceships landing, but the musicianship was from another planet. There were more people on stage than I could count, and they were all dressed in costumes from a sheik to a cowboy to a guy in a wedding dress. I’ve seen some shows in my day, but I’m always going to be biased toward the P-Funk. They grabbed my attention and still have it.

   While the band is full of supremely talented players, it’s George that keeps it going as a collective touring and recording entity, and I have no idea how he’s done it for as long as he has. I’m not even 50 and I’m growing weary of the road as a single act. He’s at least 70 and still out there hitting it hard with several dozen people on stage to have to manage.

   That gets my respect right there. I don’t know how he does it, but I’m glad he did it for as long as he has because it brought me and millions of others fantastic entertainment for decades. To me, that’s a life very well spent. I want to do the same with any talent I have.

   It’s time for me to get back out there and make something happen with what I’m doing. I want to be the comedy version of George Clinton in that I surround myself with talented performers and let them do what they do. I know I can fill a similar role as George and be the coordinator and overseer to shape a sellable product out of what seems like anarchy.

   I’ve got all these projects on hold like producing James Wesley Jackson’s DVD and the potential tour with my friends Don Reese, Dwight York and Dan Still. I also want to keep teaching comedy classes and also develop my King of Uranus gimmick. If George can do it and do it well for as long as he has, I think I need to give what I’m doing my full energy and not give up. Hopefully someone will write about my successes when I turn 70. Or 71.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Double Car Trouble

Thursday July 21st, 2011 - Cary, IL/Joliet, IL/Minooka, IL

   Three weeks of focusing on all positive vibes and upbeat thinking can get wiped out in less than a day. This is where the real trick is, not letting myself slide into a negative vibe after having started on such an excellent path. Right now I feel like jumping off a bridge.

   The 2004 Chevy Cavalier I bought recently from my childhood friend Tom Orlando has been having some transmission trouble. It won’t shift into the freeway gear and when I go over 50 miles an hour it sounds like a giant blender on full blast. I keep expecting to hear a giant pop and see a cloud of smoke billow out from under my hood. I’ve seen it before.

   There’s never an ideal time or place for transmission trouble, unless it happens in one’s own driveway right before that person leaves on a weekend getaway and there happens to be a discount auto repair shop right next door that’s having a one time only 99% off sale.

   Other than that, it’s a major kick in the ball joints and a nasty hassle. Tom lives down as far south as I live north, and it’s an 80 mile one way trip to his house. I’m not angry about the situation, it wasn’t Tom’s fault. He originally bought the car for his sister and he’s not going to try to pull one over on her, or on me either. I’ve known the guy since 7th grade.

   It’s just an ill timed glitch, and mechanical malfunctions get fixed. I trust Tom, and the guy he has fixing his vehicles is a very competent mechanic. I’d rather drive it down there than pay some grease monkey I don’t know through the tailpipe up in my neighborhood.

   I arranged a lunch with Marc Schultz and Tim Walkoe at the Old Country Buffet on the way south, and it was a lot of fun as usual. I ate two big plates of vegetables, some broiled fish and had some delicious vegetable soup. I think it was by far the healthiest meal at one of our hang out lunches I’ve ever had, and we’ve been doing them for years. I was proud.

   I nursed the car down to Tom’s house, and we went to where his mechanic was in a tiny town called Minooka. I bought a Ford Contour at the Waukegan Auto Auction by mistake a while back, and Tom’s mechanic was going to sell it for me to help get my money back. I didn’t need it after I bought the Cavalier, but today it would come in handy as a loaner.

   Tom and I dropped the Cavalier off in Minooka and got into the Contour. We took that back to a grocery store near where Tom lives to pick up some fresh fish and vegetables to eat for dinner. Tom is a great cook and we always enjoy hanging out whenever we can.

   We got in the Contour in the parking lot of the grocery store and it started making funny noises, but not ha ha funny. These were grinding noises and neither of us were laughing at all. Try as we might, it would NOT start, and there we sat in the heat with our education.

   I ended up renting a car, and we had a delicious dinner and at Tom’s house but after this kind of stuff happening so many times in my life, it’s really getting old. What do I have to do to catch a break once in a while? Now I have two cars down, eighty miles from home.

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The Moon Ingredient

Wednesday July 20th, 2011 - Cary, IL

   Today marks the anniversary of the first (alleged) moon landing in 1969. We (allegedly) went back just a few more times, and that was it. There are all sorts of rumors flying in all directions, and I’ve always wondered what the truth really is. Something doesn’t add up. I don’t claim to have concrete answers, but there has to be a reason why it all just stopped.

   There are some pretty wild theories I’ve read about. One says we never went there at all and it was all a big hoax to fool the Russians that we had the technology and the means to execute it and they didn’t. Allegedly there is a photo of a Coke can that was left sitting on the sound stage where the whole thing was supposed to have been faked that leaked out.

   It supposedly made it into a few newspapers and then was discovered and fixed and the can was cropped out of the picture. Do I think it’s true? I don’t know, but I think it makes for a great conspiracy theory for wack jobs like me to read about on the internet at 3am.

   Another even wilder story I’ve heard is that we did actually go to the moon, but several groups of aliens that were already there told us not to come back. We only saw the edited version of the landing, and apparently that had happened a while before the public saw it. That was a different time, and it wasn’t as tricky to fool the masses who didn’t question.

   Both of those are pretty far fetched stories, but I have to admit they both got my full and undivided attention. I clearly remember the moon landings from when I was a kid and it’s always been a source of wonder and interest. I was a little young for the first one, but I do remember some of the later ones, and I never understood why they were just abandoned.

   I know Apollo 13 dodged a major bullet and that threw a scare into everyone, but we’ve come so far with technology since then I’d have thought for sure Six Flags would’ve built a theme park up there by now and McDonald’s would be selling green cheeseburgers. It’d be a great tourist destination, as they wouldn’t need to advertise. We’d all see it nightly.

   Even as a kid, I didn’t believe what I was told that no life could exist anywhere but here and the moon and all the other planets and their moons were dead and without any kind of life whatsoever. Up Uranus with that noise. There might not be people, but I still think we are not the only forms of life in the universe in general and our own solar system either.

   I have no tangible proof of any of this and I’m not saying I buy into the tall tale of aliens bullying us to leave their turf on the moon. However, doesn’t it seem just a little fishy that nobody has gone back to the moon in all these years? I’d think someone would want to do it, even if only to do something stupid like claim it for Allah or put advertising signs up.

   I’m not going to lie, I want to go to the moon and all the planets too. I can only hope I’ll get abducted some day, and even if I have to withstand a pickle sized green finger wedged in my black hole it would be worth it to take that tour. If I was able to make it through my recent surgery, there’s no reason I can’t handle a full medical examination from an alien.


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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

One Eventful Month

Tuesday July 19th, 2011 - Milwaukee, WI/Cary, IL

   What a difference a month has made. I’m a completely different person who has made a radical lifestyle change from that idiot with the mysteriously inflated testicle who checked into the hospital on June 19th. I hope to have no further issues with my genitalia no matter how funny the term ‘mysteriously inflated testicle’ might sound. I am a whole new man.

   I really could have had a major catastrophe on my hands. Instead, it turned out to be just a blip on the radar. Getting diabetes alone was unpleasant enough news, but it was driven home for good with having to have surgery on my plumbing to remove gangrenous tissue.

   Just one short month ago I had no idea any of this was about to happen, but here I am in a completely new set of circumstances with a completely new set of challenges. I like my chances of success, but it’s a shame it took that harsh of a wake up call to get me going.

   My friend David Lee Hendrickson sent me a fantastic quote from a guy named William Osler who was one of the founding doctors of Johns Hopkins University. He said the key to longevity was to get a serious illness because a person will take good care of him or her self from then on. In David Lee’s case it was recurring kidney stones. Mine was diabetes.

   I’ve known David Lee forever. He was the second live comedian I ever saw on my very first night doing comedy at Sardino’s on Farwell in Milwaukee in November of 1983. He was introduced by my future mentor C. Cardell Willis, the first real comedian I ever met.

   David Lee is a very successful architect in the Milwaukee area and a wonderful person, and I hadn’t seen him for years until just recently. I’m glad we reconnected, as he’s really into all things healthy and has been very supportive in this last month. He’s been eating a super healthy diet for years and exercises and does yoga and I can totally learn from him.

   This whole gigantic ordeal has been a learning experience. I drove to Milwaukee to be a guest on ‘The D List’ with Drew Olson and Dan Needles on ESPN 540. I had no idea that Dan was a diabetic, but he was diagnosed years ago. He was very helpful in telling me his experiences and what I should expect and it wasn’t that bad at all. I was very encouraged.

   He was eating an Arby’s roast beef sandwich when he was telling me all this and I have to say I was a little surprised to see it. He said after a while you get to know by instinct all you can and can’t have, and he said he didn’t have to miss out on all that many treats he’d normally enjoy anyway. He said he watches himself and uses his judgment, but he’s fine.

   Right now, I’m not looking to do this for anything else but the long haul. I don’t plan on being a good boy for six months and then start wolfing down Whoppers again. I envision another completely new me in six months, and I want to enter old age with a vengeance.

   The good news is, at least there’s a chance I can now make it to old age at all. The path I was on just one month ago was headed in the opposite direction. I’ve changed that now.

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

Monday, July 18, 2011

Harry Chapin

Sunday July 17th, 2011 - Kenosha, WI

   I read a blurb somewhere that this weekend marks the 30th anniversary of Harry Chapin losing his life in a car accident. He was only 38. I liked his music well enough, but what I really was and still am a fan of were his humanitarian efforts. That guy was a true giver.

   I’ve read all kinds of stories through the years how he would donate a large part of what he made to various charities, mainly world hunger. I don’t know if that particular cause is  any better or worse than another, but it seems like a most noble and worthy one to me.

   How many other performers really get out there and make things happen like that? It’s a difficult enough life being an entertainer of any kind, as focus often has to be put in a self achieving mode to get ahead. It becomes a mind set after a while and some people are not good at turning it off. It’s me, me and more me - with a side order of me and a me dessert.

   Changing gears from that to giving humanitarian doesn’t happen very often. Some try to give it lip service, but I have to wonder if they’re really sincere. Bono from U2 is the first one that pops into my bean. I never met the guy, but he seems like a completely pompous ass with his greaseball haircut and his goofy looking way overpriced ultra hip sunglasses.

   Maybe I’m wrong, and I hope I am, but that fop makes me puke whenever I see him on TV going off on his bleeding heart whining to save the rare mosquitoes of the rain forest or stopping the inhumane treatment of hunchback eunuchs in Singapore. Enough already.

   The same with Angelina Jolie and Madonna going over and adopting multi colored kids from countries nobody can pronounce. Do I think those kids deserve to be adopted? Sure, but it seems like they’re trying to outdo each other with some sort of exotic pet. Why does the kid have to be an aborigine from Madagascar? Did they run out of orphans in Detroit?

   It’s none of my business what any of those people do. I’ve got my own problems to tend to at the moment. It just seemed to me that Harry Chapin was a real guy who had his heart in the right place and tried to make a real difference. Apparently he was always asking his peers to help out with benefit shows and donate their time, and some of them complained.

   I know people have to make a living and all, but at some point giving back is the way to really find out what life is about. At the end of the road when the chips are cashed in, is it going to matter how many gold teeth and Escalades a rapper or a pro athlete had? Nope.

   How about getting to the other side and being immediately greeted by hundreds or even thousands of people you’ve never even met graciously thanking you for the big difference your contributions made not only in their individual lives but for their families as well?

   Whether or not there’s any thanks or reward, it takes enormous stones to give from the heart like that, and in such generous proportions. I want to have money mainly to be able to do the same thing. Life really is all about giving, and I want to do it like Harry Chapin.

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

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mountain Don't

Saturday July 16th, 2011 - Cary, IL/Fox Lake, IL

   I’m starting to become my own full time job. Between educating myself about diabetes through books and websites, taking time to really watch my diet and forcing my fat fanny outside to exercise every day, I’ve got all I can handle. It’s going well, but it’s a big effort.

   Who the hell would need to read a food label? That’s what I thought forever. If it tasted good and I felt like eating it, that’s what I did. Fat? Sugar? Sodium? Carbohydrates? Who cared? Not me, and neither does most of the rest of America. I for one am changing that.

   I’m learning that I can have about 35 grams of carbohydrates total per each meal. That’s not very much, and I really have to be careful when I eat anything. I’ve been checking out labels of every single morsel I put in my pie hole, and it’s a big time learning experience.

   I checked out a 20 ounce bottle of Throwback Mountain Dew, something I used to scarf down frequently. That’s the one that’s made with pure cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup that’s used today - which is supposed to be hellish on our innards. I was blown away that the carbohydrate count for one bottle was 73. Wow! I never knew that before.

   I’d more than doubled my recommended limit for an entire meal with just the beverage. That didn’t include any kind of chips I might buy to go with it, and I often did. I loved all of them from Doritos, Cheetos, Fritos and just about anything else that ended in an ‘o’.

   That didn’t even include my self suicide ‘main course’ - sometimes one but more often two or once in a while even three sodium soaked hot dogs loaded with sugary condiments all on a white bread bun, which didn’t help the situation along. That was a typical ‘meal’ on long road trips because it was cheap, filling and unfortunately absolutely scrumptious.

   I can honestly say I would NEVER consume any of that now, and after only a few short weeks of my new health direction it repulses me to even think about putting any of those things in my body. I still have a long way to go, but I’ve sure come light years in a hurry.

   It’s amazing how one can dive into a subject that was previously untouched and learn so much in a very short time. Less than a month ago, I had less than a hint of a clue what my blood sugar level was or what my target numbers should be. Now, I check it twice a day.

   This morning it was 111, which is a whole lot better than the 250s I averaged during my stint in the hospital. When I got there, it was in the 500s. I really have come a long way in a very short time, but I know I’m just getting started. This has got to be a life long project, and I’m totally fine with that. If I do this correctly, my 50s can be my healthiest decade.

   I used to watch Jack LaLanne on TV (probably while eating a bratwurst) and he’d often say “It’s never too late to start.” Well, I’ve started. And what’s frightening is - I really like it. I feel myself improving daily. I met with my home nurse for a final visit to be released from care today, and she said I was the most motivated patient she’s ever seen. And I am.

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

Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter Patter

Friday July 15th, 2011 - Cary, IL

   Everyone and their uncle is buzzing about the new Harry Potter movie, and even though the movie itself could not interest me any less - I absolutely LOVE the way the brand was built over the last decade. I believe this is the eighth movie of the series, and according to my friend Jerry Agar’s son Cooper the brand is still strong. He’s seen every one of them.

   I saw the first one when it came out, but don’t remember a thing about it. I was living in Salt Lake City then and was in the Big Brother program. The twelve year old I was paired with begged me to take him, so I did. I remember thinking it was entertaining, and wasn’t a waste of time or money. The kid loved it, and talked about it for weeks. He was thrilled.

   I haven’t seen any of the others, and had no desire to. Still don’t. I wouldn’t have a clue how to distinguish a Hogwart from a hog’s ass from a vaginal wart. Those kind of movies just aren’t my thing. Never were. I barely made it through the first Star Wars as a kid and Star Trek interested me even less. I’m a geek, but not that kind. My geekdom is in sports.

   What I love about Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord Of The Rings, Shrek and all the rest is the marketing angle. I know how difficult it is to build a brand in entertainment as I’ve been feverishly trying my best without success to do it for a quarter century now.

   For whatever reason, I haven’t been able to resonate and connect with a significant base group of fans who will support what I do and follow my development. All the brands that I mentioned did exactly that. They’ve captured a fan base and kept them for many years.

   I have nothing but respect and admiration for anyone who’s been able to hit on anything that sticks in the public’s eye for years. It’s anything but easy, but I’m sure the payoff is a feeling of pure ecstasy - at least for a while. Harry Potter’s franchise is still going strong a decade after it started, and I’m sure it will be passed down to future generations as well.

   Kudos to J.K. Rowling. What a great story she has. It’s a fairy tale that came true and it still is. Most people have heard the stories of how she was broke and wrote the books in a diner when she didn’t have enough money to order breakfast, and no matter how much of that is true it doesn’t matter. She had the ideas and the public bought them. They still are.

   I’m a big fan of anything that strikes a major marketing cord, entertainment or not. The George Foreman Grill is a great example. I have no idea if George Foreman actually had a thing to do with inventing or perfecting it, but that product was a gigantic hit and still is.

   I so want to create a product line of my own that has a big time following. I don’t know if anyone can have another hit as big as Harry Potter, but I don’t need one that big. I want to come up with something that has a loyal fan base, and I want to please those people.

   Maybe the King of Uranus is that character. Can I squeeze seven books and eight films out of it? I’d be happy to squeeze enough money out of it to pay my rent and buy a pizza.

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

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Scatterbrain Syndrome

Thursday July 14th, 2011 - Fox Lake, IL/Cary, IL

   I’m still running around between houses and getting more scattered than ever. It made it worse with the power going out, but that was beyond anyone’s control. I’d been hoping to be home by now, starting to dig out of the massive wreckage that has been dumped on me by the universe. It is what it is, but I need to start digging out and rebuilding a new life.

   Having Jerry Agar’s house at my disposal for the last couple of weeks has been a major blessing. It’s been quiet and low pressure, and although there’s nothing wrong with where I’m staying, this is exactly what I needed. I’ve known his kids since birth and we’ve had a lot of time to hang out and have fun together. These are the ‘relatives’ I always wanted.

   Plus, the nature preserve area just a few blocks away has been the ideal place to take my daily walks. The terrain is gorgeous and it’s got enough hills to make it a real challenge to make it worth my time. I’ve worked my way up to two full laps, which is way more than I did when I started. At first, I had all I could stand with half a lap. I feel the improvement.

   Still, it’s time to go home. I had work to do before, now I’m swamped. I still need to get my taxes finished for 2010. I filed an extension like I usually do, and I’m sure I’ll squeeze it in at the last minute like I usually do, but I need to knock it off and get it done on time.

   In a weird way, maybe this will get my head out of my ass. I’ve got all kinds of problem situations I need to deal with, none of them pleasant. I met with the social worker today in hopes of getting financial help for my hospital bill. I applied for hardship status, but I’m a newbie when it comes to all that. I’m at the mercy of the situation and it’s uncomfortable.

   I wish I had health insurance, and now I have no idea how or if I’ll ever get it after all of this mess. The last thing I want to be doing is comparison shopping insurance benefits for a policy I have no idea how I’m going to afford. My money situation has taken a complete 180 and headed toward zero at an alarming rate. Not only that, I have zero shows booked.

   I don’t remember exactly the last time I had absolutely zero shows booked, but it’s been literally decades. I always managed to keep myself booked, even when I was doing all my morning radio gigs in towns like Lansing, Reno and Salt Lake City. I found comedy in all those towns, and never stopped working at it. This is THE longest break I’ve ever taken.

   That’s another issue I’m dealing with. The road just doesn’t appeal to me anymore, and that scares me. It used to be all I wanted to do, now it’s the last thing I want to do. I enjoy the performing part, but the idea of going to a flea bag motel near a Denny’s repulses me.

   So, here I sit with all my life’s experiences staring me in the face like one of those goof mirrors in the fun house at the carnival. The image I see is grotesque and exaggerated and I don’t know what’s real anymore. What the hell am I going to do with the rest of my life and more importantly, how am I going to drum up some income? The clue jet has left the airport, and I wasn‘t on it. Time to take a breath, assess the full situation and move ahead.

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

A Visit From Beyond?

Wednesday July 13th, 2011 - Cary, IL

   I had another one of my infamous ultra vivid dreams last night, and it’s been in my head the entire day. I’m a very sound sleeper and always have been, but it’s been even more so with all the medication I’ve been on in the last few weeks. For whatever reason, I can feel my dreams getting even more detailed than usual and I’m remembering them every night.

   The one last night involved Rick Uchwat, the recently passed owner of Zanies Comedy Clubs in the Chicago area and Nashville, TN. Rick was a huge mentor in my life, and was one of my favorite people, but I can honestly say I never had a dream about him before. It seemed odd to see him, and he had a look on his face like I interrupted his afternoon nap.

   He looked young and healthy in my dream, and he was in a group of people but walked over to where I stood and leaned in to speak quietly in my ear. He came super close, but I didn’t feel him touch me. I distinctly remember him asking “Hey kid, what’s with all this trouble going on? Are ya feeling ok?” It was exactly how I remember Rick’s demeanor.

   In my dream I told Rick about all that’s been going on with my diabetes and my stint in the hospital and how painful my surgery experience was, and when I did that all the other people turned around to listen along with Rick. I’ve never had a dream anywhere close to that, and it felt totally real as it was happening. It feels totally real now as I remember it.

   Rick gave me a look when I was done like “You got me here for THAT?” Then I heard him say “What the hell are you worried about? You’ve been through WAY worse trouble than this. There’s nothing to worry about, you’ll get through this.” Then he walked away.

   Maybe this is all a result of the meds I’ve been taking or my brain is turning into yogurt in my old age, but that sure felt like the Rick Uchwat I knew for many years, even though it wasn’t like we’d speak on a weekly or even monthly basis. I’d see him in person maybe only a couple or three times a year on average, but that was about normal for most of us.

   Most of the people in the Zanies family didn’t see Rick more than that, but we all loved and respected him immensely. That’s why it felt so odd to see him in my dream. It wasn’t like I saw him every day in life, and even though I was saddened by his passing, I’ve been busy with my own problems lately and hadn’t had much time to think about him at all.

   I’m not going to jump to conclusions and say I had an experience from the dead, but my research on the topic from hosting The Mothership Connection radio show suggests that a departed spirit can and does contact the living at times, and it usually happens in a dream.

   I don’t have any answers as to what this was or why it happened. Maybe it was my own mind telling me to suck it up and keep going, but what Rick said was 100% right. I really HAVE been through a lot worse than this in my life. If I made it through all the obstacles of my childhood, survived multiple car accidents, stayed out of prison and managed to get this far, I don’t think having to stick a few needles in my arm and eat salads will kill me.

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

Health Nuts

Tuesday July 12th, 2011 - Cary, IL

   Time to get healthy for the long haul, or however long my haul might be. I’m starting to realize just how much I’ve ignored my health for decades, and I’m embarrassed. I used to play multiple sports and exercise and go out of my way to try to eat right, and many made fun of me for it. My father was one. He never understood why I would worry about that.

   Our relationship was always strained, but it got really bad just as I turned 18. I could see very clearly by then I didn’t want to be like him, and what little communication there may have been prior to that ended up shutting off altogether when my grandfather passed away in December of 1981, the year I graduated high school. We were never on the same page.

   I remember the whole family being at a restaurant after Gramps’ funeral, and whatever I ordered had come with French fries that I didn’t expect. My father noticed I wasn’t eating them and asked me why not. I told him they weren’t healthy and of course he couldn’t let that go without belittling me in front of everyone and ended up taking them for himself.

   What happened to that kid who knew exactly what to eat and looked forward to regular exercise? 18 became 28, and I was already a veteran of the road by that time. Gradually, I got sucked in to the evil vortex of greasy food and out of the habit of regular exercise, all at the same time. It was gradual, but steady. Before I knew it, I was an out of shape slug.

   I know I’m not the only one who has done this, and thankfully I never got into drinking or drugs. I’ve seen how that really rips lives apart, but what I did was bad enough. It’s too easy to skip a workout here or have a greasy meal there and it ends up taking a huge toll.

   Youth can cover it up for a while, but way too soon 28 becomes 48 and diabetes decides to show up and crash the party. Twenty solid years of extra cheese, special sauce and high fructose corn syrup have done a nasty number on my innards and it’s time to knock it off.

   I’m sure there’s a lot of damage that’s already done, but some of it can be turned around and made right. It’s like years of driving a car without changing fluids. That’s asking for a lot of trouble, and an oil change alone might not be enough to get things back to normal.

   A big key is that I want to do it. It’s in my head, but it always was. I let my health lapse, but I knew it wasn’t smart but I did it anyway. I didn’t think about it after a while and just ate whatever I wanted with no thoughts of consequence. Now I’m getting the bill for it.

   That’s ok, I deserve it. Nobody forced me to eat those French fries, even my father. He was never healthy physically, mentally or spiritually and a lot of that was his choice. I’ve got a chance to turn things around, and I’m going to do it. Day by day, I’m making it so.

   I’m actually enjoying the process, at least for now. I’m eating vegetables and baked fish and drinking water and exercising every single day - just like I used to do in my twenties and should never have stopped. But I did. I won’t make that same stupid mistake again.

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

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lights Out

Monday July 11th, 2011 - Kenosha, WI

   And then…the lights went out. There’s something I didn’t expect - and I bet none of the other 800,000 households that lost power in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin did either. But they did. It only took a few minutes to go from business as usual to stone age.

   I was intending to return home from my friend Jerry Agar‘s house yesterday, but his son Cooper needed a ride to a youth camp he was working at and the least I could do was take him. Their whole family opened their home to me, and I felt I needed to partially pay back the favor. Jerry’s wife Ann was working and there was no other way for him to get there.

   He woke me up about 7:15 and we got in my car and noticed some of the most ominous black clouds I’ve ever seen. Then the rain started and in an instant we were in a storm that seemed to come out of nowhere. My car was blowing all over the road, and it was a scary ride all the way up Highway 14 from Cary, IL to Crystal Lake. Nobody expected any of it.

   It took way longer than it should have to get back, as there were traffic lights blown out all over the place. That’s always frustrating, and to make it worse there were also downed trees and branches everywhere which turned a small summer storm into complete chaos.

   I could see power was out at all the gas stations, and also in the businesses on Highway 14. Traffic was jammed and it was like a war zone with everyone fending for themselves to navigate their way through intersections, nobody knowing exactly who to let go first.

   When I got back to Jerry’s house, the large tree in his front yard had been ripped out by the roots and was blocking the front door. The power was out, and the automatic garage door opener wasn’t working so getting into the house was an issue. Who expected this?

   We eventually got in the house but it got hotter the longer the air conditioning was off and after a while it was like a toaster oven. The food in the freezer was thawing out and it made me a little concerned because I have to refrigerate my insulin after it gets opened.

   I packed up some of my stuff and drove back to my place in Fox Lake, but there wasn’t any power there either and it looked like more of a war Zone than where Jerry lives. I saw a lot more damage and there was a downed tree a block from where I live that blocked the entire street. I had to go all the way around the back way to get home, but it was no use.

   Driving around, it really got my attention just how spoiled we are as a nation. We’re so used to everything going right, that a little problem sends us into major panic. How much insanity would there be if the power went out for a week? I’m afraid to even imagine it.

   I drove up to Kenosha and got a hotel room on Highway 50. I got the very last room and was glad to get it. I didn’t necessarily need the expense, but sleeping in an air conditioned room and having a shower seemed more important so I invested in myself. With all that’s happened in the last few weeks, this just adds to the fun. Am I getting ‘punked’ by life?

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

Return To Radio

Sunday July 10th, 2011 - Kenosha, WI

   I almost forgot what sheer fun it can be to be on the radio. After a few weeks off, it was a total pleasure to be back in Kenosha hosting ‘The Mothership Connection’ on AM 1050 WLIP. I’ve always enjoyed it, but with all that’s transpired lately tonight was a huge treat.

   Being on the air, even on a small station, produces a buzz similar to being on stage. It’s especially sweet when people participate and call in to comment. It validates what’s going on, and it’s a group effort between the people in studio and listeners calling in. It’s a rush.

   This particular show has been the most fun I’ve ever had on the air because it deals with such fascinating topics. Who doesn’t enjoy talking about flying saucers and ghosts and all kinds of other mysterious and intriguing subjects? It’s right in my wheelhouse, and what’s even better is I have a first class on air team who enjoy it as much or more than even I do.

   There’s an energy between us that comes through on the air, and when we get rolling on a topic with an interesting guest it’s nothing short of magic. Most of our guests have been surprisingly good, and more often than not we’ve been able to make the phones light up.

   There is no shortage of authors of all kinds who want to be on the air to talk about their various subjects of expertise, and it’s our job as hosts to get the most out of them. I’m the leader, but the others all know they can chime in if they have something to add, and that’s the only real formula we use and it totally works. All I do is try to keep it all interesting.

   I would really love to be able to do the show full time, but I don’t know how that could happen. Coast To Coast AM is the big show, and I’m not sure there’s room for another on a national scale. Our show is different because we’re more of a morning show vibe with a paranormal theme. It can be hilarious, and even our guests comment on how funny it is.

   We do have an audience, but I’m not delusional to think it’s huge. We’re on in Kenosha on Sunday nights, how huge can it be? Even if we were on every night it still wouldn’t be enough to put any real money in anyone’s pocket. Syndication is the way to get that done.

   Too bad Coast To Coast AM has already done it. Sometimes there’s only room for one of anything, and we may be chasing the wind. Or, maybe we could be in the right place to cash in on the success of the big show. Rush Limbaugh is the big dog of what he does but guys like Shawn Hannity and quite a few others have their own shows and do very well.

   I need something right about now. Being a road comic is losing it’s appeal faster than a pulled pork sandwich at a bar mitzvah. I’ve had my fill and then some of travel, but I still need to make a living doing something that doesn’t involve a leaf blower or a name tag.

   Whatever happens, it was still a blast to be on the air tonight. I was grateful to be out of the hospital and back doing something I forgot how much I enjoyed. I hope we can find a way to turn a buck somehow. We’re a solid team, and the show deserves to be on the air.    

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

Sunday, July 10, 2011

From Dork To Dinosaur

Saturday July 9th, 2011 - Cary, IL

   Tonight was my high school reunion from Messmer High in Milwaukee, Class of 1981. Thirty years sure slid by quickly. Geez. Where did it go? If prison time blew by that fast, there’d be a lot more crime than there already is. 1981 sounds like such a long time ago.

   It was sometime after the Paleozoic era, but one year before the start of MTV. My class is THE official last generation of old farts, as we were the end of an era. After that, it’s all video games and technology and a whole new world exploded. Internet? Who knew of it? It truly was a different planet then, and somewhere I transformed from dork to dinosaur.

   What an unforgiving entity time is, and it truly waits for nobody. I have no idea where it went, but it’s gone for good. I was planning to attend, even though my whole high school experience wasn’t what I’d call stellar, but I wasn’t feeling physically up to it right now.

   Those years were frankly quite miserable, but it wasn’t a fault of my classmates. I didn’t blame them then and I don’t now. I was too busy trying to survive back then to enjoy any of the fun those years are supposed to be. For whatever reason, my life didn’t go like that.

   I know I’m not the only one who was a zero in high school, but it sure would have been fun to be in the mix of the action. I’d have loved to play sports and be in clubs and try my hand at performing in a play or something, but it just wasn’t in the cards. I was out on my own by junior year, and had to work crappy jobs at night to pay rent to keep myself afloat.

   Many times I thought about dropping out, but my grandfather made me promise I would finish and get my diploma. My father never did, and that really bothered him. He was sick by then, and I couldn’t let him down. I finished my classes a semester early, but graduated with the class in June. He’d already had cancer for a few years and died December 22nd.

   After that, life really fell apart. I was on my own, and my main mentor was gone. That’s a volatile time for a young man to not have a grounded foundation, and I can see why it’s so easy to make a major mistake and wind up in prison. I’m very lucky to have stayed out.

   Through the years, I’ve had many people from my class come to see me perform when I have been in town and to a person they’ve all been very complimentary and supportive of everything I’ve done from comedy to radio to appearing on TV. I appreciate it very much.

   I never thought they were bad people, I just didn’t end up getting to know the majority of them very well. As time has gone by, I’ve had positive interaction with a number of my classmates and that’s why I wanted to go tonight and just say hello and thank them again.

   What idiots we are during those years anyway. As a small child, high school kids seem SO sophisticated and grown up. Boy, is that a myth. Now we’ve all had life’s storms beat on us for thirty years and I’m sure we’re all a lot more grounded and real. Time does what it does, and this process happens over and over. I’m sorry I missed the chance to mingle.

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

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thumbs Up, Doc

Friday July 8th, 2011 - Waukegan, IL

  Much better mindset today, at least health wise. The only person’s opinion that counts at this point would be my doctor, and that’s who I saw. I was instructed to make a follow up appointment 5-7 days after I got out of the hospital, but of course there was the 4th of July holiday to completely screw that up and I had to wait several days longer. Just my luck.

   The doctor said I’m doing very well so far, but two weeks does not a lifetime make. I’m going to have to make a total commitment to getting healthy, or else. There were all kinds of diagrams on his examining room walls about the damage diabetes can do, and I’m not taking any of this lightly. The best way to lose a quick 20 lbs is NOT to amputate a leg.

   It really is a horrific disease, and the whole body is affected from eyesight to blood flow to sexual dysfunction. I already seem to have that - apparently it’s my personality. This is nothing to play around with, and I’m not. I’m going to get off my ass and get in a groove.

   I followed the doc’s orders by cataloging my daily blood sugar readings, and he looked at them and said most people don’t follow through so I was already a step ahead. I want to stay that way, and I told him I wanted to be a model patient by which others are inspired.

   I really do want that. If there’s anything good that can come from it, maybe I can help to raise awareness that we’re a nation of balloon asses who are only getting fatter and sicker. It used to be just my home state of Wisconsin, but now there are hippo hips coast to coast with no end in sight. Crap food is cheap and readily available, and it tastes so damn good.

   I’ll admit, I got hooked for a lot of years. Part of it was my hectic road lifestyle, but part of it was also me not giving it a second thought. I got sucked in to the convenience and to exercise wasn’t fun. Before I knew it, bang - the double whammy. It’s time to turn it back the other way and get healthy, and I totally intend to do that. This is the fight of my life.

   The doctor said he would like to see me off insulin completely in six months if possible and that will take hard work. He told me to walk a lot, which I am, and start doing things like pushups and sit-ups. What? I can’t remember in which decade I did my last pushup.

   That’s going to be a tough one, but I’m going to give it a shot, even though I’m sure my first few will be flaming examples of just how out of shape I really am. I hope I don’t tear anything in my chest or break my front teeth out falling flat on my face, but if he says it’ll help me beat this I believe him. My goal is to be in the very best shape of my life at 50.

   My friend Mark Napoleon called to say hi. He’s a radio traffic guy in Chicago and used to be my partner when we did a morning show on a country station in Kenosha, WI many years ago. Mark is also a diabetic and gave me some great tips and said I’d be able to get through this, especially with all the other stuff I’ve overcome in my life. Between the doc and Mark, I’m very encouraged and am ready for this most serious challenge. The stakes are high, but if I win it means a better quality of life. Then, my luck I’ll get hit by a truck.

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Too Much From Too Many

Thursday July 7th, 2011 - Cary, IL

   I have to admit, my morale is a little shaky these days. I’m trying really hard to maintain an upbeat outlook and positive attitude, but it isn’t always easy. I’m getting overwhelmed with all kinds of people telling me what to do, how to do it, but most of them don’t know their bung hole from bubble gum quite frankly. Most of them mean well, but ENOUGH.

   Why do people take it upon themselves to play doctor when someone else has an illness they know nothing about? I’m getting all kinds of people sending me applications for new diabetes blood test equipment and miracle drugs and sending me to all sorts of conflicting websites that have cockamamie cures from voodoo chicken foot rituals to pixie dust balls.

   I’m only exaggerating a little, and while I appreciate people’s well intentioned concerns I have to say I just can’t handle it anymore. I’m to the point of overwhelm and beyond but everyone who has an uncle, friend or beagle with diabetes is chiming in with a diagnosis.

   Not only that, it seems to be a challenge to tell me elaborate stories of people who’ve all had much worse experiences than I have, and how I need to just shut my mouth and Jesus will handle things and everything will all be better in heaven. That’s getting a bit tiresome too, and it sure doesn’t lift my spirits to hear of someone’s cousin born without a tongue.

   I know my problems aren’t the worst of anyone’s. Not by a long shot. There are a bunch of suffering souls doing way worse than me, and my heart goes out to all of them. I’m just trying to mind my own business and do what I need to do to get myself up to speed again.

   Then there comes the matter of hate mail. Apparently there are still a scattered few that remain pissed off about some things I did years ago and just will not let it go, namely the infamous ‘Crisco pack’ I sent to a local club owner in Milwaukee who’d screwed me out of $400 for some shows I did. That was twenty years ago now, but a few won’t let it die.

   Am I sorry I did that? Yes, it was unprofessional and it cost me work. Do I still think of the guy in the same way? Absolutely. He was a total scumbag, and exploited comics with no remorse whatsoever. I needed that money then, and I earned it. I still haven’t gotten it. I don’t say how I handled it was correct, but at least I did have the guts to sign my name.

   The hate mail I get always comes from some anonymous email address with no way to answer even if I wanted to, and I don’t really want to. It’s nobody’s business but the club owner’s and mine, but again some seem to feel a need to butt in where they don’t belong. In the end, that guy’s out of the business and I’m out that money. Who won? Nobody.

   I’m learning to let a lot of stuff go too. It’s hard when it’s so personal, but that’s how I chose to take it. I don’t think it was, he screwed a lot more people than me. I was just one of a long line. I learned a lot of lessons from that incident, and I want it to be over with. If I could change it, I would. If this is my payback, maybe I deserved it. But I don’t think so. I think it was a wake up call and if I stay strong I can inspire others. But it’s a daily fight.

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Passion Prevails

Wednesday July 6th, 2011 - Cary, IL

   I’m starting to feel significantly better, but there are a lot of contradictions to deal with on a daily basis. One of my doctors told me not to eat anything after 7pm, but at midnight I have an antibiotic to take that requires food. What do I do? I have to use my judgment.

   If I had judgment I wouldn’t be in the predicament I’m in, now would I? There are a lot of conflicting reports I’m reading as I delve into the world of diabetes and all the fun that goes with it, and I’m not sure who or what to believe. For now, I’m taking it day to day.

   The one thing that is consistent is everyone talks about ‘diet and exercise’. There’s a lot of gray area in both of those subjects, and I’m trying to sort it all out. When do I exercise? What’s best? Anything I should stay away from? All of that. I’ve stayed away from it way too long, so the last thing I want is to overdo it and hurt myself. I don’t need more pain.

   Well, I don’t need any bad pain. There’s a good pain of getting in just the right workout and there’s a fine line to doing that. There has to be enough movement to stimulate a nice pump and be a challenge, but not enough to pop all my tendons like cheap rubber bands.

   There’s a fantastic nature walking trail just a few blocks from where I’m staying here in Cary, IL at my friend Jerry Agar’s house. I really am lucky to have Jerry and his family be so generous and caring, especially now when I really need a quiet place to recover. We’ve done each other favors for years, and haven’t kept count. This time, it’s his turn to give.

   He used to run a weekend comedy club in the Chicago area many years ago but lived in Minneapolis of all places. He was between radio gigs and was trying to feed his family so he took the comedy club job to get by. He didn’t want to have to spring for a hotel so he’d snooze on my couch when I lived in Milwaukee. It let him split up his drive and get rest.

   It was no big deal for me to do that then, and it’s no big deal for Jerry to do it now, even if it is a big deal to me. I couldn’t appreciate it more, and he’s got an ideal situation with a secluded guest room area that has a great shower where I can tend to my wounds and heal up a lot better than where I’m living. No offense to that place, but this is by far superior.

   Today I got to hang out with Jerry’s son Tanner, who I’ve known since birth. He’s soon to be leaving for college and I totally feel old, but what a kid that is. He wants to be a chef of all things, and he’s very passionate about it. I think it’s great. The kid is a total winner.

   There’s a fine dining restaurant opening not far from here and Tanner found out about it on Craig’s List. He drove all the way over there today and without warning walked in and found the owner and asked him for a job. And he got hired! I was completely impressed.

   That takes a level of passion few ever reach. I don’t know if I could have done it myself to be honest. He really knows what he wants, and he’s going to get it. And he will. I wish my passion level was so focused when I was his age. I hope he hires me as his pool boy.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hotdog Hangover

Tuesday July 5th, 2011 - Cary, IL

   I’m finally starting to focus in on funny again. I think that part of my brain shut off for a  couple of weeks, even though some hilarious hi jinks happened in the hospital that will be ripe for both standup and movie scenes. It just doesn’t any get funnier than other people’s most excruciating pain and extreme embarrassment. Those are two base comic elements.

   I was too busy trying to save my giblets and get through my stay to take physical notes, but I’ve trained myself since childhood to always look where the funny is and file it away for later. Now I can start not only looking back on my own experience, but at all the other things that were going on while I was out of it. Comedy doesn’t stop because I’m laid up.

   For one thing, the Chicago Cubs are absolutely horrible. What’s funnier than a bunch of million dollar morons finding new ways to lose day in and day out? I’d hate to be a kid in the hospital waiting for one of the Cubs to hit a home run for me, I’d be dead but quick.

   One of the funniest things I laughed about even in the hospital was turning on my TV to see the HBO movie about Jack Kevorkian starring Al Pacino. What perfect timing for Mr. Lucky to get wheeled back from surgery and have that on as inspiration. I started laughing out loud when I saw it, but my nurse was East Indian and had no idea why that was funny.

   Another subject that has a whole new angle for me is competitive eating. The 4th of July is when the big hot dog eating contest happens at Coney Island in New York, and it made me laugh to see how intense these wackos are as they ram wieners down their windpipes.

   Here I am, newly diabetic having to account for every single carbohydrate and calorie in my daily diet while a sanctioned contest is going on to openly promote and condone being a disgusting glutton. I find that uproariously funny. I’d love to have just ONE, but I can’t.

   That’s ok, I’ve had enough hot dogs for a while. I need to scrape some of the residue off my inner walls and blow some gunk out of my pipes. I’ve actually eaten better during this last two weeks than I have in years. NO sodas, NO red meat. NO pasta. No fun, either.

   That’s why I find it so funny that these idiots aren’t even enjoying the hot dogs. They’re dunking the buns in water to make them go down easier, then stuffing the meat in like it’s kindling in a fireplace. What’s even more insane than people do this, others WATCH it.

   I saw the crowds on TV and if I could draw that many to see me perform I’d have a nice career going. There has to be a serious father tweak somewhere to make someone need to put away five dozen franks for a cheap trophy and their name in the paper. I’m sure this is exactly why our founding fathers gave their lives to insure freedom for future generations.

   Luckily for me I don’t see any shortages of stupidity or turning around of my luck in the near future, and those have been two rich sources of humor for me through the years. I am not saying I haven’t done stupid things myself, but competitive eating isn’t one of them.

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

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independent Thoughts

Monday July 4th, 2011 - Cary, IL

   Independence Day. That could mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Funny is the beast called man, as we never seem to be satisfied. When we’re constricted, we want to be free. When we get free, we crave structure. Is there a happy medium? I’m feverishly searching.

   Nobody wants to be told what to do, but the truth is sometimes we all need a swift kick in the education department. I know I do. Where that comes from is the $64,000 question. Should the government be the one telling us what we can and can’t do? I have to say no.

   On the other hand, who should? Family? If that were the case, I’d be in a biker gang and wouldn’t have graduated high school. I don’t have to wonder how that would have turned out. Instead, I clawed and scratched my way to where I am, making mistakes constantly.

   Is it wrong to make mistakes? No, it’s part of life. But ‘mistakes’ are defined differently by different people. To some, a mistake is getting caught doing something illegal. They’re not sorry they did it, they’re just sorry they got caught. Everyone is an individual entity.

   I think that’s why life is so difficult. Some of us can handle freedoms better than others, and there’s a fine line between escaping oppression and needing outside discipline. I sure know that many times I’ve taken my freedom of choice and screwed it up beyond royally.

   Looking at my current situation is a perfect example. Could I have eaten better food and worked out more for the past twenty years? Yes, but I didn’t. I totally blew it. Now I have diabetes. My ‘freedom’ didn’t lead to a positive result, but if I’d had someone forcing me to pump iron and eat vegetables every day, I’m sure I would have bitched beyond belief.

   Can you leave idiots in charge for long and not expect something major to go haywire? Not in the real world. Give a classroom full of kindergarteners some open paint cans and brushes and tell them not to touch anything as you leave the room for the next half hour.

   Think there might be a couple of racing stripes painted on the walls? Yes - and floors, windows, desks and everything else. It’s human nature, whether five years old or fifty. In a perfect world we’d all be able to take our freedom and build a dream life, but this by far isn’t a perfect world so what do we do? I for one am glad to have a little structure in life.

   I’ve lived foot loose and fancy free for a lot of years, and even with all my problems it’s been a hell of a ride in retrospect. I’ve had fun adventures, but honestly I could have gone a lot farther had I had a structured plan at an early age and someone to enforce it on me.

   Don’t get me wrong, I’m not turning into some pinko sympathizer who wants America to turn into a government run state, even though that’s exactly where it seems to be going. I’m all for freedom of all kinds, but I also think there has to be some kind of regulation to keep us from killing ourselves with it. I don’t have an answer as to what to do for a nation or a world, all I know is I need it personally. A little dependence might not be a bad thing.

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

I Am Not Alone

Sunday July 3rd, 2011 - Cary, IL

   Now that the worst of my unexpected health ordeal is allegedly over, I need to really get myself together and recalculate my bearings. This was a big time wakeup call, and there’s not even a hint of a guarantee something similar or worse won’t happen without warning.

   I need to toughen myself up, both mentally and physically. I’ve gotten loads of positive thoughts and well wishes from people across the country and I can’t be any more grateful for every one of them, but it’s time to heal up as fast as possible and get moving forward.

   No matter how many times my world blows up, and I’ve lost count at this point, I have never ever thought I was the only one with problems. My only real complaint is that mine are so off the charts goofy, I have nobody else who can relate to what I‘m experiencing.

   Yes, millions of other people have been diagnosed with diabetes, but not a lot have had to endure surgery on their nether regions to remove a gangrenous infection. I can hear the people snicker, and if I’d heard about it I probably would too. That’s water cooler talk.

   But although it’s not pleasant, I know it could have been all kinds of worse. There are a lot of bullets I dodged, and I don’t take any one of them for granted. I could have lost one or both of my testicles, and as funny of a word as ‘testicle’ is - thinking of that scenario is as scary as it gets. It paralyzes me with fear thinking of it now. It’s a real life boogie man.

   That being said, there are six billion people in the world who don’t know or care about any of this. They have their own problems, and I’m starting to hear from quite a few long time friends I hadn’t heard from in a while who are navigating rougher terrain than me.

   My friend Lee Adams is a super nice guy I met a few years ago on a hellish run through Arkansas working a chain of discos that wanted to have a comedy night. The shows were brutal, but Lee and I really hit it off. He lives in Louisiana and started comedy later in life, but he’s naturally funny and one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. We stayed in touch.

   We don’t communicate every week, but we have exchanged semi regular emails and he just informed me he’s going in for major spinal fusion surgery in August. Apparently he’s been in constant pain for going on two years, and the surgery itself is not a guaranteed fix.

   Like me, he’s got to try to work around his comedy schedule and it’s going to be a huge life changer for him too. He was in the military for years so I’m hoping he’s insured, but I didn’t want to ask because it’s none of my business. I’ve got my own problems, but I hate to hear such a fantastic human being is in so much pain. We wished each other the best.

   Another is a guy named Marty Beimer. He was a morning guy on a sister station when I worked in Reno, and a very hip funny Bay Area native. I remember getting regular update emails from his wife last year about him being in a coma and needing back surgery and it chilled me to the bone. He wrote and said he’s going back in again. I have no problems.

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Gospel Gratitude

Saturday July 2nd, 2011 - Cary, IL

   One of my many personal paradoxes is that even though I’m having severe doubts as to the existence of a God per se, or at least the one I had rammed down my throat in church as a kid, I find myself absolutely loving gospel music. Unfortunately in that world, gospel means ‘black’. If it’s a white artist, they’re ‘Contemporary Christian’ Sorry, I like gospel.

   There’s some heavy duty soul and emotion going on there, and when it’s on target I get chills down my spine. Some of the greats I love include Walter Hawkins and his ex wife Tramaine. She’s got one of the most amazing voices ever, and her power could blow the glass out of a 747 at 30,000 feet. Find the song ‘Changed’ on You Tube and buckle up.

   Andrae Crouch is another one, along with The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Albertina Walker, James Cleveland, Teddy Huffam and The Gems, Jessy Dixon and others. Walter Hawkins and The Hawkins Family would be my very favorite. He’s the George Clinton of gospel.

   No matter anyone’s beliefs, it’s just amazing music. There is such a deep soulful vibe to the songs that they’re almost hypnotic. They soothe the soul, and I hate to say it but I have not heard any white artists who can hold a candle to it. Go see a top level black choir and tell me white people have any rhythm at all. Maybe a couple here and there, but very few.

   I know I don’t, but I sure do appreciate the genius of Walter Hawkins. He unfortunately passed away last year at only 61, but his music will live forever. That guy had ‘it‘, and I’ll always be a fan just like I am of George. There’s a distinct style there and it’s all his own.

   One song in particular has always intrigued me. It’s called ‘Be Grateful’, and it’s one of my favorite songs of any kind I’ve ever heard. It’s got a haunting beat and cuts through to the quick without frills. The lead singer is Lynette Hawkins-Stevens, and her vocal wail is perfect for the song. I heard it one time when I was about twelve, and I‘ve loved it since.

   For whatever reason, that song kept playing in my head today. I’m not near a stereo and I don’t even think I have the song on CD. I just know I love it, and the message is so clear nobody can miss it. No matter what happens, always give thanks for whatever is good.

   That’s what I did all day today, and I meant it. Yeah, I’m in a bit of a rut, but it could be a lot worse. I’m grateful for Jerry Agar and his family for taking me in and letting me rest. I’m grateful for the home nurse that came over and told me she thought I was doing great.

   My friend Tim Walkoe called from the road to see how I was, and I totally appreciate it.
Tim has a giant heart, and is one of my favorite comics on any level and a great guy also. He cares about people, and in my opinion should be a huge star. I’m delighted he called.

   I’m grateful for everyone that’s called or sent an email or Facebook note, and no matter if there’s a God or not, they’ve all got giving hearts. More and more that’s what I find life is really about. It’s all about what we can give, and I want to get well so I can pay it back.

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Dealing With Detours

Friday July 1st, 2011 - Cary, IL

   Here we go with the second half of 2011, a year which will go down in infamy - at least for me. I sure didn’t expect to be in the precarious position I’m in six months or even six weeks ago, but here I am. There’s been another major detour on my personal road of life.

   My entire existence in this world has been such a series of detours, make dos and Plans B through Z that I’m not sure what or where the real road is. What’s ‘normal‘? Anything? Anybody? Dysfunction and insanity have been the only common thread in my world, and I’m growing a tad weary of playing the fool. Is there a lesson I keep missing in all of this?

   I sure am trying hard to see it if there is. One thing I know I’m learning is to let a lot of things go. I used to be perpetually pissed off about a plethora of problems, but now I’m in a whole different and much better place because I’ve had my world get shaken to the core so many times in so many ways. After a while, one just learns to deal with it and press on.

   The first time I remember the world really blowing up was when my grandparents split up when I was about twelve. My grandfather was my backbone and father figure, and his departure rocked my world. I still saw him after that, and we had a great relationship until he died, but at the time I thought the world was coming to an end. It didn’t, and still isn’t.

   I’ve survived radio firings in all four U.S. Time Zones, nasty car wrecks, getting kicked off the Bob and Tom show for reasons I still can’t identify, and having to testify against a person I thought was my lifelong friend who tried to pin a bank robbery he pulled on me. And those are only the top of mind highlights I can think of. There have been a lot more.

   I’m not saying I’m the only one to have problems, but mine seem to be rather unique for some reason. It would be nice to have someone to commiserate with, just so I can flush it out of my system and not feel so alone. It’s always easier to make it through when there is someone around who’s been down the road before. I feel like a one man crisis magnet.

   One thing I’m not going to do is panic. I’m going to let it go. Everything. I’m not afraid to die, and in fact part of me looks forward to it. The next world if there is one has to be a step up from this one. Still, there are good things about this one I still want to experience. I want to be of service to human kind, and the best way I can think of to do it is comedy.

   I don’t have to necessarily be performing myself to make that happen either. Producing the DVD for James Wesley Jackson has been extremely rewarding, and I’m working on a tour idea with my friends Don Reese, Dwight York and Dan Still. Those guys are grade A talents and even better human beings. These things excite me and make me one with life.

   Still, maybe that’s not the lesson I need to learn. Maybe there are no lessons. Maybe it’s all random, and I was a cosmic fluke - like the five legged cow at the carnival freak show. It sure does seem that way at times. All I ever wanted was to hang out in that pasture and moo with my bovine buddies, but that’s just not in the cards. Welcome to my freak show.

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