Friday, November 30, 2012

Stress And Strain

Thursday November 29th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   The stress and strain of the booking end of the business continues. It has nothing to do with the comedy end, but then again it totally does. If I don’t get bookings, I can’t be funny. It’s a vicious cycle, and getting more so all the time. It doesn’t help that I can’t stand dealing with any of this.

    Too bad for me, as that’s part of the deal and goes with the territory. If I don’t like doing it on my own – and I don’t – I need to find someone who does or at least fakes it better than I do. I’ve never been a good actor, and handing me the salesman role is about as miscast as it gets. I stink.

   Today there were two more prime examples. First, I was scheduled to do a thirty minute set at a company’s sales meeting tomorrow afternoon in the far south suburbs of Chicago. The money wasn’t great and it was a far drive, but any time money can be made when the sun’s up it’s good. I have several friends on the south side, and it would be a great excuse to get together for a visit.

   I called to confirm, and was told they are postponing the meeting until after the holidays. It was apparently a last minute decision, but that doesn’t help me tomorrow. They may or may not book me for the new date, and I may or may not be in town and available. I was counting on that cash.

   It’s the end of the month, and I’ve been hammered by both car problems and the IRS. I’ve been due for a dental checkup for a while, but can’t make an appointment because I have no money to pay for it right now. If my teeth rot out of my head, I’ll have to deal with it later. I’m tapped out.

   The other situation was also stressful. I got a call about a possible holiday party in December in the Kansas City area. It’s nice money, but I’m booked at a club in the Chicago area that weekend and it’s going to be a hassle if I have to bug out of it. The pay for the gig in Kansas City is twice what I’m getting for the entire week at the club, but if I take it there will be some risk on my part.

   The club may or may not book me back, and that could be at least a semi steady gig right in my backyard. What do I do? I can really use the money right now, so I didn’t say no just yet. It could come through, or it couldn’t. The smart thing to do is just let it play out and then make a decision if and when it comes to that. I can attempt to reason with the club, and that may or may not work.

   Everything has to be so complicated and delicate, and I’m growing very tired of having to walk an emotional tightrope for every single booking I get. I just want to go out and perform, but there is always a lot more to it than that. It’s part politics, part sales and total hell - but that’s how it is.

   I’m terrible at all this, but so are most performers I know. It’s not what we do, and most people don’t like to work at what they’re not good at. Getting someone else to do it sounds wonderful in theory, but not only does it cost money up front the danger of being ripped off becomes an issue.

   My ex business partner scorched me for several thousand dollars, but it was stupid of me to let him have that kind of access to my money. I trusted him, and that’s another mistake. This is part of the business nobody ever thinks about when they get into it. Let it be a lesson. It was for me.

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

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Zig Was Big

Wednesday November 28th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   Zig Ziglar passed away today – or at least his physical body did. His body of work has touched millions over several decades, and he will live on through that. If there ever was a life well spent, his was right up there with just about anyone in my opinion. He made the most of his time here.

   I have enormous respect for Zig Ziglar for several reasons. He was a pioneer and a legend, and neither of those is easy to pull off. He built himself up from obscurity, and stayed there. It took a long time to accomplish, but it was worth the effort. He’ll go down as one of the all time greats.

   Although I wasn’t necessarily a rabid fan of much of his recorded stuff, the fact he cranked out so much of it should not go unappreciated. He was very consistent, and his work ethic was at the top of the spectrum. I know how difficult it is to create ONE audio or video program. He put out product after product after product, and wrote books too. That doesn’t count his speaking career.

   Zig Ziglar became his own brand, and I’m sure he was paid handsomely for it. He was the top name in motivational speaking for years, but never rested on his laurels. Jay Leno was known as the top name in standup comedy during the boom years, and he had a stellar work ethic as well.

   Coincidence? Hardly. A hearty work ethic is a must for any entertainer, and that’s exactly what Zig was. Nobody can truly motivate anyone else, and I’m sure Zig knew that. But he presented a message in an entertaining way, and those who wanted to be motivated latched on and heard it.

   I have his book ‘See You At The Top’, and I really like it. His audio programs weren’t on my list of favorites, but that’s no disrespect. His style and delivery were a bit syrupy for my personal taste, but that takes nothing away from what he accomplished. He achieved a level of greatness.

   To me, motivational speakers have to be listenable for long periods of time. That’s not easy to do, and it becomes a matter of personal preference just like music. I can’t stand Pink Floyd, but I know millions of others love them. Are they right? Am I wrong? Personal preference is just that.

   As far as speakers go, people like Tony Robbins and Wayne Dyer I could listen to all day. Earl Nightingale is another. Stephen Covey, Deepak Chopra and Zig Ziglar I can’t. That doesn’t take anything away from the greatness of any of those people, and I still respect every one of them.

   My friend Steve ‘The Homer’ True is a sports talk host on ESPN 540 in Milwaukee. His father is Dr. Herb True, a very big name in the speaking field. Homer has always been a huge supporter of my comedy, and frequently comes to see me perform when I am working the Milwaukee area.

   Homer asked his dad to call me years ago and give me some encouragement, and I never forgot it. A ten minute phone call made a huge impact, and that’s what Zig Ziglar’s work did for a wide variety of people from all walks of life and will continue to do for years to come. That’s what we all should aspire to, and many of us who do still don’t come close to achieving it. Zig Ziglar took it to the highest level, and for that he deserves major kudos. He sure gets it from me. Zig was big.

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Aching For A Break

Tuesday November 27th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   Being an entertainer in general comes with all kinds of unexpected difficulties, but comedy has a set of unique problems that go beyond even those. One thing that can be especially tough is the process of staying in a funny mindset when funny is the last place one’s mind is at a given time.

   It needs to become a habit, and something that can be turned on and off at will. That’s not easy, especially when life does what it tends to do to upset one’s personal apple cart. I remember very vividly having to do comedy shows as I was going through the horrific process of being prepared to testify against my lifelong best friend in a bank robbery trial. I still don’t know how I did that.

   There were weeks of daily preparation for the actual trial, and I had absolutely no choice but to show up and do what I needed to do – which happened to be the most painful experience in a life jam packed with them. I used to have nightmares about that trial, and when it actually took place it was a surreal moment I wish I would have never experienced. Who could be funny after that?

   I had to find a way, and I did. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been paid to be able to squeak out the meager existence I’ve been able to squeak. Club owners didn’t care about my personal problems, nor did the audiences. I was paid to get laughs. Period. And I did. But I wasn’t laughing myself.

   That’s where I am now on a slightly smaller scale. I’m not facing having to testify in any court trials any time soon, but the stress of keeping myself booked and all the other issues I’m dealing with is keeping me more than occupied. I’ve got the stress of a dozen, and I’m feeling the strain.

   The IRS problem is going to be a major issue. I got two letters today telling me I owed a total a lot higher than my accountant told me. With all of those penalties and interest tacked on, I’m in a much deeper hole than I first thought. How the hell am I going to get out of this? It’s a tight spot.

   I’m not finding much funny right now, at least not off stage. I was able to pull off strong shows in Springfield last weekend, and the audience would never have known anything was wrong. The way I learned to do that was from having to do it during the bank robbery trial and other times of turmoil throughout my life. But one can only do that so long, and I’m really growing weary of it.

   All it would take to really bring my spirits up would be a run of quality shows somewhere. I’ve paid plenty of dues, and I can pull off the shows. Comedy clubs, cruise ships, theatres or a mix of all those venues would be fine. I just want to work and practice a craft I’ve spent my life to learn.

   A successful run of quality shows would wipe out my tax debt in no time, put me in a fantastic mindset and also be a treat for the audiences who come to see the shows. I’m ready to give them a great one, as I’ve spent decades on the road polishing it. All they have to do is come and laugh.

   It all seems so simple, yet at the same time as far away as scientifically possible. How will I get a chance to make my mark? I don’t know, but when I do I’ll be ready for it. I just need a break to get it all in motion. As the United Negro College Fund says, “All I ever needed was a chance.”

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Neck Up Checkup

Sunday November 25th, 2012 – Springfield, IL/Kenosha, WI

   A good night’s sleep after two shows last night made me feel a little better, but not as much as I’d have liked. There’s still the lingering residue of dissatisfaction from having to shell out a pile of money I don’t have for a car I didn’t think I’d have to sink this much into. It peed in my pool.

   It also caused me to really reach back and try to look at the big picture to see what I need to do to get myself out of this rut and reshape my destiny. In my heart of hearts I know I can be doing a whole lot more than I am – or at least doing it on a much higher level. I’m beneath my abilities.

   There are times when I feel like I’m totally in sync, but then I get off track and it’s a frustrating off road hell ride through a muddy swamp with the windows open. Before I know it I’m caked in mud, and I can’t see my way to steer myself out. That’s where I am now, and my patience is thin.

   I’ve been here countless times before, and that’s where the danger lies. It’s easy to develop bad habits, and that perpetuates the ugliness instead of finding a way to steer out of it. It does have an attachment to childhood, and that’s true for all of us. Dented cans tend to focus on the unpleasant things because that’s what we’re used to. Disappointment and disaster are the expected outcome.

   My friend Max and I talked about that yesterday over lunch and we both agree everybody puts out a vibe on a certain frequency - and that’s exactly what comes back. Dented cans have sucked up negative vibes in their formative years, and no matter what we do we can’t seem to escape no matter what we do. It’s deeply ingrained, and subconsciously we tend to gravitate to the familiar.

   I’m no analyst, but I’ve read enough books or at least parts of books through the years that I’m familiar with at least part of the reason my wheel is stuck in the mud right now. I’ve struggled to get past this for years, and I’ve actually had some tangible success. I need to acknowledge that.

   From where I started, I’ve made nothing short of miraculous strides. I don’t know why I stayed the course, but for the most part I totally did. I’m not saying I didn’t pull some world class stunts of stunning stupidity - but I stayed away from booze, drugs and prison so that’s a major victory.

   I have been able to squeak out an existence doing the things I truly enjoy, but therein lies a part of the problem. I’ve grown used to ‘squeaking’, and it’s become what I expect. Should I have the lifestyle of a college freshman this late into the game? I think not, and it’s up to me to find a way to get past it. Something is not right, and if I change my thoughts I will change everything else.

  This is a very crucial time for not only me but the entire planet. The whole system we’ve come to view as ‘normal’ is changing by the day, and that means the entire vibe of life is changing as well. I don’t know what it’s changing to, but there’s definitely something different happening.

   We talked about this on The Mothership Connection radio show tonight, and it felt good to get it out in the open. I know I’m not the only one who struggles, but I refuse to let it keep me down. I’m where I am because of who I am and what I chose. I can make new choices and I intend to.

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

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Saturday November 24th, 2012 – Springfield, IL

   Hello darkness, my old friend. I thought I was on an upswing, but I got hammered today when I took my car in to have a loud muffler looked at. I thought it had been taken care of when I had it inspected at the garage, but that was apparently only a patch job. That patch broke, and so did my spirits as I learned I would need a whole new exhaust system that would cost $825 to install.

   $825 for a 1993 Nissan Sentra? That sounds ridiculously high. I wouldn’t expect it to cost that much to replace the exhaust system on the Space Shuttle. Apparently Midas is named that due to the goldmine it is for those who own one. They prey on helpless schmucks like me and get rich.

   There was nothing I could do about it but pull out my credit card and take the direct hit. It kills me to have to do it, and now whatever benefit I had from getting a ‘free’ car from my friend Rich is now gone. I’ve got way more invested than it’s worth, and I’m stuck driving it to pay back my investment. There’s no guarantee it will last, and now I’m backed into a spot I don’t want to be.

   I’m not blaming Rich at all. He’s a great friend, and only had good intentions when he gave me the car. It’s got low miles, and in theory it should run for a while. But after putting ball joints and brakes and body work and now a totally new exhaust system in it, the ‘free’ part has long passed.

   To make it even worse, I picked up a nail in one of the tires and had to get that patched as well. They didn’t put my hub cap on tight, and it rolled off somewhere in Springfield so that’s gone as well. I didn’t hear it fall off, and I hope it didn’t roll up on a curb and kill anyone. That would be all I’d need, and I wouldn’t put it past the realm of possibility with how my luck has played out.

   I also discovered a crack in the windshield that wasn’t there before. I don’t know when or how it came to be, but it’s right in front of the steering wheel, and if I don’t get it fixed I’ll need to get a new windshield to boot. I had to do it for my last car, and that was $200 I didn’t want to spend.

   I asked the guy at Midas where a glass place was, and he told me there was one right down the block from where I’m staying. I went there, and of course they’re closed for the holiday weekend and will open Monday at 7am. The whole situation made me want to swallow a big shiny bullet.

   So here I sit with the world’s most expensive 1993 red Nissan Sentra that has a blue fender and hood, wondering where the nearest mountain is that I can drive off of with me inside. It’s not just this isolated incident that put me in this mindset – it’s the lifetime of taking hits. I’ve had my fill.

   I’ve tried to be a nice person my entire life, but what does any of that prove at a time like this? It doesn’t mean a damn thing, and quite frankly it really pisses me off. I don’t see God, and I am really hating my life at the moment. There is only so much anyone can take, and I’m at my limit.

   If I could lie down and end my life right now, I totally would. Why the hell was I even born in the first place? Everything I have tried has been a flaming failure, except entertainment. I have a natural flair for that, but no matter how hard I try I can’t crack journeyman status. It’s killing me.

   What kills me even more is that I have to drive a car donated by a friend in the first place. It’s a flaw in my personality or something that my subconscious mind keeps attracting half ass projects like this and I keep falling for them. I’m trying to save a buck when I can, but it ends up a whole lot more expensive than if I’d have bought a new Mercedes and just paid it off. I screwed myself.

   I’m not going to lie, this is a very dangerous time. I’m tired of everything, and this just snapped my chain big time. I keep trying to fool myself into thinking I’ve got a chance at something good in life, but then something like this happens and it wipes me right back to ground zero. It stinks.

   This is totally not what I pictured life to be, but apparently I must have since that’s exactly the scenario that keeps popping up again and again. Somewhere in my past, this is the picture of how life was supposed to play out must have been painted and my subconscious mind has obeyed the order. I want to change that order, but I am apparently having trouble in getting it done. I’m lost.

   I feel like I’m trying to crawl out of quicksand, and the more I kick the lower I sink. My friend Max Bumgardner lives in the Springfield area, and he and his son Dustin came to take me out to lunch. Max is also a dented can, and one of the few people who can relate to my feelings of pain in seemingly hopeless situations like this. We’ve talked each other off the ledge more than once.

   It’s not just a matter of a muffler falling off an old car. That happens every day, and it’s no big deal. I should have expected it to happen at some point, and this just happened to be that point. It is what it is, and it either gets fixed or the car gets junked. That’s the logical way to look at this.

   I suppose I could have nursed it back home and shopped it around to a few places to shave off a chunk of the bill, but I chose to get it fixed and move on. The deeper matter is that I’m stuck in this situation in the first place. Max and I are both struggling, years after getting blown out from our dream radio job at The Loop in Chicago. There was no real reason for it, and we’re drifting.

   Had we been able to stay on that track, we’d both likely be extremely well off right now if not actual millionaires. We were on the golden path, and it all came unraveled because of no fault of our own. Apparently it was a once in a lifetime shot, as another hasn’t come along to replace it.

   We both realize it’s been years ago now, and we’re both trying to move on and deal with it but things like this keep blowing up in both our faces and it’s getting very old very fast. Max is great at what he does, and honest as the day is long. He’s getting hammered with some rental property he’s been trying to sell, but can’t find a buyer. It’s bleeding him dry, and he’s frustrated as well.

   It was great to be able to vent with Max, but that doesn’t change the fact we’re both still having a hell of a time trying to figure out what life is all about. I thought I was on a good path, but I am very down right now after this little incident. I’m going to end up losing money for the week, and this was the money I was going to use to pay my rent for December. I don’t know where that will come from, and my soul hurts even thinking about it. My self esteem is crushed like a cockroach, but I had to suck it up and do two more shows tonight. The crowds had no idea I was miserable.

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

Donnie B's Gets An A

Friday November 23rd, 2012 – Springfield, IL

   I am thoroughly delighted to be making a return to Donnie B’s Comedy Club in Springfield, IL this weekend. I can’t say enough good things about this place, and I wish every last comedy club in America would take lessons from Donnie B on both how to run a business and people skills.

   This guy just knows how to do it right. I loved it the last time I was here, and it was even better this time around. He has since changed locations, and now the club and hotel are side by side in a place called the Route 66 Hotel and Conference Center. That’s always a welcomed convenience.

   The other club was very nice as was the hotel, but being in the same building makes it so much easier. I can go back to the room between shows and relax, take a shower, whatever. I also don’t have to worry about getting to the club in traffic, finding parking or many other annoying things.

   An example of how well Don pays attention to detail, when I checked into my hotel room there was a business card sized piece of paper in with my room key card letting me know the club was now located in the hotel and their hours of operation. How smart is that? Every club that’s part of a hotel complex should absolutely do the same, but I’ve very rarely seen it done in all my years.

   The new room seats about 100 more people than the other one, and there was a much healthier audience for the first show than I expected on a holiday weekend. Not only were there more than I expected, they were polite and smart and ready to laugh. Don hosts the shows and warms up his audiences, and also trains them how to behave during the shows. Over time, this pays a dividend.

   The late show wasn’t as well attended, but there were still a respectable number who were also there to see a show. The typical late show Friday in a comedy club can be a babysitting of drunks but not here. They were totally into the show, and I had an absolute blast – so much so that I took it upon myself to see how much different material I could pull out since Donnie B was watching.

   Not many club owners watch all the shows, but Donnie B is not the typical owner. He wants to see how his audiences react to the comedians he uses so he knows who to bring back. He knows who his clientele is, and busts his ass to please them so they’ll keep coming back. And they do.

   I also thought it was good practice to stretch out a little and use some material I hadn’t used in a while to keep in practice. I’d say I was able to do 95% different material in the late show, and it felt great to do that – especially knowing that headliners need to do 60 rather than 45 minute sets. That’s another smart move on his part. He gives the audience more comedy and less bad openers.

   I really had fun both shows tonight, and as I was on stage I wished it could be like this in every club in every town. I know I won’t have to fight for my pay at the end of the week, and it will be the exact amount we agreed on. There will be no hassles, and that’s exactly how it should work.

   It doesn’t, and that’s just how it is. I will enjoy this weekend as much as I can, and hope I’ll be able to make this a regular stop for a long time. Now, I just have to find 51 more weeks like this.

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

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Manly Style

Thursday November 22nd, 2012 – Kenosha, WI

   Here comes the holiday season, like it or not. I’ll be glad when it’s over, but I know millions of people love it so I hope it’s a good one for their sake. I just wish the whole thing wasn’t so damn omnipresent so those of us who don’t care to be reminded of it could carry on with our existence.

   EVERY commercial on TV and radio has annoying sleigh bells in it, and I’m already tired of it and it’s only Thanksgiving. There’s more than an entire month of this torture ahead, and I’m just not up for it this year. Too bad for me. It’s not going to stop, so I better suck it up and move on.

   I do like Thanksgiving though. The older I get, the more I realize that gratitude is a choice. It’s one I’m choosing to make as often as I can, and only good things come of it. It’s easy to focus on everything we don’t have – and I’m good at that too – but seeing what we do makes life livable.

   One thing I do have is a fantastic group of world class friends scattered all over North America and beyond. It took a lifetime to accumulate them, and I’m grateful for every last one. I received at least a dozen invitations to spend Thanksgiving all over the country, and that was appreciated.

   I have to be in Springfield, IL tomorrow to do this weekend at Johnnie B’s Comedy Club, so it was smart to keep it close to home. My friend Mark Gumbinger lives in Kenosha, WI and he had a “guys’ night out” theme this year. It was just him and his cousin Greg, and I rounded out a trio.

   No offense to any of the other invites, but this was the right choice by far. None of us believed in the tradition of a turkey, so Mark cooked New York strip steaks on the grill that were about as delicious as any of us had ever eaten. Those alone made it worth showing up. Turkey shmurkey.

   But there’s more. Mark has a giant screen TV in his basement, and it’s the perfect man cave for watching football or anything else. We had shrimp cocktail and all kinds of other delicious treats and appetizers piled high and football to watch, and nobody had to say a word. We were satiated.

   Then it got better when Mark’s cousin Greg brought out a DVD of Led Zeppelin he bought last night and Mark popped it in his system. WOW, was that a treat. It was like we were attending the actual show. I’ve never been a big Zeppelin fan, but I also never hated them. This won me over.

   I had no idea they even got back together, and I probably should have. Apparently they did this particular event five years ago in England, and they’re just releasing it in the US now. I’ll bet it’s a monster seller, as I know I’m going to buy one for sure. Jason Bonham was great on drums and those guys just tore it up. Robert Plant sounded amazing, and it was just an all out kick ass show.

   After that we watched some Three Stooges and Beavis and Butt Head DVDs Mark had and felt like teenagers in a tree house for a night. I know it wasn’t a ‘traditional’ Thanksgiving, but it sure was fun and none of us complained. There was no pressure, and everybody went home full of red meat and singing a tune. Life is what it is – warts and all. I’m learning to be grateful for days like today and try to make as many of them as possible. This started the holiday season with a bang.

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

Thursday, November 22, 2012

You Want Stable? Raise Horses

Wednesday November 21st, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   The average person has no idea how difficult it is to be a professional entertainer. Had I known before I started, I seriously doubt I’d have chosen the path I did. There’s a lot to be said about the security of a ‘normal life’ – if indeed such a thing exists. It doesn’t for me, and I’m not thrilled.

   I gave it all up to have my chance at the big time, and the chance of that happening is shrinking by the minute. Bad breaks mixed with bad decisions has put me in a place I really hadn’t planned on being – especially this far into the game. Couple that with changing times for everyone on the planet, and it’s a downright scary scenario. I don’t like to be a downer, but the future looks scary.

   Everything I thought I could count on is unstable, and it’s that way for almost everyone except a precious few at the top. It seems to be that way everywhere too, not just in show business. It’s a world of instability, but the older I get that’s the last thing I want. How can I turn this all around?

   What’s most frustrating is the politics of it all. I’ve never been a good ass kisser, and that’s hurt me big time. I like people because I like them – not because they can help me advance my career or lift my social status. That’s not the optimal way to play the game, and that’s why I’m not in it.

   I also had a couple of delicate situations to deal with today that could easily blow up in my face at any time. Everything is a house of cards, and one slam of a door will make it all come crashing down. That in turn makes for extreme tension and stress, and I’m just not up for living like that.

   One situation is my Reno booking December 26-30. I really want to work there, but that’s the worst week of the year to be traveling. Plane tickets are through the roof, and I have to be careful in case I get a New Year’s Eve gig somewhere. I want to leave myself a chance to switch a flight if I have to, but I also have to make sure I can get a ticket at the lowest possible fare. It’s tricky.

   It’s coming down to crunch time, and either way I’m going to have to do something. Reno isn’t a driving option, even though in my early days I’d have done it without hesitating. That was then and a very long time ago. Three days in a car each way is not my idea of adventure anymore. It’s a prison sentence, but I want to do the gig both for the money and to get myself into a new club.

   The other situation was a one nighter offered to me by a booking agent that’s in a town that has another one nighter booked by someone else. I’ve done the first one, but not for a long time. I am not booked back there at the moment, but they apparently don’t want anyone who works there to work this other place. That’s a lot to ask for a one nighter, but that’s the way the game is played.

   Do I stay ‘loyal’ to the first place and say no to immediate work that I could use even though I have no concrete date? It’s a tough call, and I asked the second booker if I could avoid using my name in any advertisements. A buck is a buck, and I’d slide in and out of town like a mercenary. We were all set to go, and then I get the message they’re going to take that week off so the gig is off. Just like that. No pay. No notice. No nothing. Loyalty? What’s that? This is not what I had in mind when I started, and it’s getting old really fast. Come to think of it, so am I. What do I do?

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

At Least It's Fun

Tuesday November 20th, 2012 – Niles, IL/Mt. Prospect, IL

   Fun by day.  Fun by night. That’s how life is always supposed to unfold in my humble opinion. It rarely happens, that’s why it’s memorable when it does. I try to make fun the secret ingredient that makes life bearable. Without that, why get out of bed at all? Too many people are miserable.

   I get miserable too, but days like today help to grease the skids at least a little. My friend Marc Schultz is a booking agent and puts together an annual show business lunch where he invites his performing clients that range from magicians to jugglers to almost everything else in between.

   Marc’s father ran a talent agency talent booked a lot of circus performer type acts of all things, and Marc has evolved with the times. He still books some of those kinds of acts, but also does an array of other things that even includes comedians. I get some work from him once in a while as well, but I consider him a friend far more than an agent. He’s one of my very favorite people.

   We go to lunch regularly on our own, but this is different. It’s like a local version of Broadway Danny Rose where anyone and everyone in the Chicago area who is around shows up and we all sit around and have lunch at a Chinese buffet. I’ve been to several of them, and it’s a total blast.

   Nobody understands entertainers like other entertainers, and Marc always invites an interesting mix of personalities. I’ve met some great people I now consider friends of my own from going to these lunches, and I never like to miss them. Marc encouraged me to invite people of my own, so I went through my list and asked quite a few. Todd Hunt and Karl Newyear were able to make it.

   It’s good to feel a sense of camaraderie, and I love hearing all the stories from other performers to let me know I’m not the only one out there slugging. Magicians and ventriloquists and anyone else who entertains for a living can relate to the extreme degree of difficulty it takes to survive.

   There was a healthy turnout today, and I really enjoyed myself. Quite a few of these people are only people I see at these lunches, but it’s a great way to stay in touch and network. I don’t know how we can help each other, but it never hurts to keep everyone’s name out there so we all do it.

   Tonight I was asked to appear as The King of Uranus on Mike Preston’s ‘Psychobabble’ cable TV show and that’s another can’t miss proposition. I love doing that show, as Mike allows all of his guests to have creative freedom and experiment with ideas without fear of being shot down.

   The vibe on that show is always laid back but still creative, and Mike surrounds himself with a revolving cast of very talented people who get what’s trying to be accomplished. He does it on a wing and a prayer, and that’s what’s even more amazing. He’s been able to keep it going for ten years now, and just like my Mothership Connection radio show it’s a constant work in progress.

   There are always people coming and going, and as in all passion projects the lack of budget is both a blessing and a curse. I’d love to see Mike turn a buck with the show, but for now it’s just a chance to play show business so we all do it. I didn’t make a dime today, but I sure did have fun.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gramps Of The Century

Sunday November 18th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   Anyone who knows me even the slightest bit knows how much my grandfather’s influence has meant to me throughout my life. He was my father figure, mentor and guiding force and I always say if it weren’t for him I’d surely be dead or in prison by now. Even with his input, I almost had both of those outcomes anyway. I’ve met a lot of people in my time, but Gramps is still the king.

   Today is the 100th anniversary of his birth, and I couldn’t help thinking about him all day. He’s been out of my life longer than he was in it, but I still feel his mark on my soul every single day I am alive. He was the wisest person I ever met, and the seeds he planted throughout my childhood have taken decades to germinate but are now in full bloom. I owe him a debt I can never repay.

   Gramps spent quality time in my formative years, and taught me lesson after lesson that wasn’t always pleasant as I was learning it. He was from the ‘tough love’ school, and never held back if he thought I needed to hear or experience something. When I deserved a kick in the ass - I got it.

   But when I deserved praise, he handed that out too. It made me eventually keep striving to gain his approval, and he set high standards for whatever I was going to do with my life. Maybe that’s why I’m so frequently disappointed, but I’d rather be that than the underachiever my father was.

   Gramps and my father had a tumultuous relationship, and I don’t think they ever got along very well. Gramps used to tell me it was his biggest regret. He said no matter how hard he might try to reach him, he just never could. My father was a troublemaker, and stayed that way all of his life.

   Gramps told me he could see I was the complete opposite, and vowed to do his best to give me the best fighting chance I could have to survive. I was five months old when he and my grandma took me in, as my mother had abandoned the family and left to apparently pursue her drug habit.

   I have an older sister and brother, and they stayed with my father. I was originally going to get sent off to an orphanage, but Gramps told me later he thought it was his duty to raise me himself to make sure he knew someone was in my corner. He didn’t have to do that, and I love him for it.

   Gramps was never mega rich or famous, but he did alright. He grew up in the Great Depression era, and was very ‘thrifty’ to say the least. He always looked for sales, and scraped by with cheap alternatives whenever he could. That’s just how he was, even when he could afford better things.

   We became especially close in his final years as he battled cancer. Cancer always wins, and his body was totally ravaged in the end. Still, he volunteered to take new chemo drugs so as to serve as a guinea pig for future generations. Even in death, he was thinking of how to help humankind.

   I sent a request to the Office of The Mayor in Milwaukee and it was accepted, making this day ‘Albert A. Dobrient Day’ in Milwaukee. Gramps was a lifelong proud Milwaukeean, so I wanted to do this in his honor as I know he’d have loved it. Very few are honored this long after passing, but Gramps was special and still is. If I can be half of who he was, I will have been a big success.

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Celebrity Letdown

Thursday November 15th, 2012 – Rockford, IL

   Mike Preston called today, and that’s usually a sign something fun is about to commence. Mike interviews a wide range of people for his ‘Psychobabble’ cable TV show, and often needs a hand to help him with video shoots. His guests range from celebrities on all levels to strippers, and it’s always been big fun to tag along and be part of the adventure. If nothing else, it’s an experience.

   Dealing with celebrities up close can be unpredictable, but I guess that adds to the fun. Mike is an outstanding interviewer, and always does his homework. He likes having me along because he doesn’t have to worry about me being star struck or saying the wrong thing. That can really be an issue, and he’s had it happen quite a bit in the past. He knows I’m not going to ruin the moment.

   Today’s interview was the former WWE wrestler and current author Mick Foley. I’ve admired his work for a long time, both in the ring and in print. It’s difficult enough to develop a wrestling persona that resonates with the public for any length of time, but he has done it again and again.

   First there was ‘Cactus Jack Manson’. Then it was just ‘Cactus Jack’. Then in the WWE it was ‘Mankind’ and then ‘Dude Love’. Then it was just Mick Foley – much like the metamorphosis of John Cougar Mellencamp. He’s had a very respectable run, and I’m sure he’s made a nice living.

   My friend Mike Moran has been wrestling about as long as I’ve been a comedian, and we have both reached about the same level. We’ve made our livings at it, but haven’t managed to become household names. Only a few in any profession ever reach that level, and we didn’t make the cut.

   We’ve both rubbed elbows with the biggest names in our fields however. I remember bowling with Jeff Foxworthy and sitting in a diner with Drew Carey just like Mike remembers driving in a car with Stone Cold Steve Austin and working in Puerto Rico with Mick Foley. Why the ones that make it big do has to do with a lot of factors – luck being part of the mix. It’s a crapshoot.

   I’m not saying Jeff Foxworthy or Drew Carey or Steve Austin or Mick Foley don’t have talent. Sure they do, but so do Mike and myself. We’re in the mix when it comes to the pool of those to choose from, but for whatever reason we just haven’t been able to make that final leap to glory.

   Mike has told me stories for years of making long drives and working in dingy hell hole arenas just like I’ve made drives to work dingy hell hole honkytonks doing comedy. At least in comedy I don’t have to take body slams night after night, but the bruises to the ego can be pretty severe.

   Mike Preston had interviewed Mick Foley before, and said he was pretty laid back and also an interesting interview. I was looking forward to meeting him and bringing up Mike Moran’s name to see if he remembered working with him in Puerto Rico, but I wasn’t able to have that chance.

   He showed up about an hour late, and apparently had some issues finding the book store where he was set to appear for the signing. He gave a short interview, but was scattered the whole time and cut it short to do his signing. This was a disappointment, but it’s one in many that went well.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Hillbilly Two Tone

Wednesday November 14th, 2012 – Kenosha, WI

   I received the phone call today telling me my new old car was ready to be picked up after about six weeks of waiting for it to be repaired. When I dropped it off, I told the mechanic there was no rush and he really took it to heart apparently. It was to the point I’d almost forgotten it was there.

   My friend Richard Caan gave me a 1993 Nissan Sentra that first belonged to his mom and then his sister. His mother bought it in 1995, and drove it mostly back and forth to work. It’s only got 107,000 miles on it, and despite needing a list of repairs I thought it was worth rolling the dice.

   Richard’s sister got into a fender bender which took out the right front headlight and dinged up the hood and right front fender. The person who hit her was insured, and she was paid off for the damages and kept driving the car. Still, it was generous of Richard to give it to me. I’m grateful.

   He knows I go through cheap cars like KISS goes through makeup, and I appreciate the chance to nurse another one back to health. He knew I’d give it a good home, and I knew his family had owned it for years and it had the potential to be driven for thousands more hopefully easy miles.

   The grand total after getting a junkyard hood and fender along with ball joints, a muffler weld, heater blower repair work, an oil change, coolant flush, new battery and wiper blades totaled out at right around $1000. I transferred the title and registered it legally and that cost another $100.

   The mechanic I took it to is located in Kenosha, WI and was recommended by my other friend Mark Gumbinger. The guy works on all of Mark’s cars, and does quality work at a fair price. He told me when I brought it in it was a solid car, and would be worth fixing if the price was right.

   The mechanic went through it with a fine tooth comb, and gave me the final total of how much it would cost to get it road ready. I told him I’d prefer to keep it under $1200 if possible, and I’m thrilled he did. If I can keep it running for a year at right around $100 a month, it’s a sweet deal.

   Of course he couldn’t find a hood and fender that matched color, but that’s ok. I am long past the point of having to impress anyone with my car. If Carmen Electra won’t date me it’s surely not going to be because my car is a hillbilly two tone. There will be other reasons besides that.

   It is a little disappointing that I’m still driving pieced together Frankenstein mobiles this late in the game, but that’s how it goes. I’d rather do that and still be able to live my dream than have an ulcer producing hellish job that comes with a shiny company car. We have to choose our battles.

   Sometimes being a comedian can be hellish, but at least there are good times to make up for it to balance it out. Every other job I’ve ever had has always been a living nightmare. I’ll trade off multicolored fenders on a 20 year old car given to me by a friend to have a chance at satisfaction.

   As far as my other pickle, that was a good car too. I put more than 50,000 miles on it and I just think it’s time to be safe and move on. I’ll hopefully be able to get $1000 for that one, and make it a wash. I’m getting an older car with far fewer miles. Is it the right choice? I’ll soon find out.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Customers Wanted

Tuesday November 13th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   If I had to focus all of my energy for the next couple of years on only one aspect of the standup comedy experience, without a doubt it would be finding and securing quality places to perform at on a regular basis. That’s IT. Nothing else comes close, and if I’m smart I’ll start doing it ASAP.

   As much as I don’t want to hear it, I don’t ever have to write even one more joke as long as I’m above ground. I can still make a living at standup comedy, because I’ve learned the craft and can consistently entertain an English speaking audience for an hour with little difficulty. I’ve got that part down pretty well if I do say so myself. The hard part is getting people in a room to watch it.

   And even when it’s happened, I’m always concerned with when it will happen again. There are not any guarantees, and no matter how funny anybody is isn’t important if nobody else is around to witness it. I always thought building a funny act would be enough, but that’s only a small part.

   The trouble is, that’s the only part I truly care about. I love working on polishing new material or individually tailoring a show to a particular audience on a given evening. To me, that’s where the lion’s share of the fun of being a comedian lies. That’s what makes up for all of the insanity.

   But nobody cares about that. Audiences want to see someone they’ve heard of. Period. It’s how the entertainment game is played these days, and if I don’t adapt in a hurry I’ll soon be wearing a name tag that matches the color of my mop handle. It all really stings - but it’s the honest truth.

   I was genuinely excited yesterday as I looked over all of my comedy notes from my lifetime of hard work and sacrifice, but today I realize none of it means anything if I can’t find anyone that’s interested in paying to either read it or see me perform it live or on a recording. I need customers.

   I do have some, and the ones I do have are more often than not repeat buyers of my services on at least a semi regular basis. I have some scattered comedy clubs and a variety of booking agents who call me. There are a lot less than there used to be, but they exist. I have to chase all the rest.

   Today I received about a half a dozen promising calls, and I’m starting to book random shows for 2013. I’ve got one each in Pennsylvania and Minnesota in January, and had an opportunity to send my resume in to the new booking agent at a cruise line. This is exactly what I need to do.

   I also received an inquiry about a corporate date in Wisconsin in March that should pay rather well. I was referred by someone who did it last year, and passed my name along. That’s never an imposition, and I’m grateful to be thought of. Now I just need to get thought of more regularly to keep my name on the tops of as many minds that make hiring decisions as possible. It’s all sales.

   I guess it’s always been sales, but circumstances have changed on every level since I started on my journey. I now put out a solid product, but it’s in a completely different market. Had I owned a product then like I do now, I’d be rolling in money. That’s not the case now. Competition is not the issue, it’s the market itself. More comedians are fighting for fewer gigs that don’t pay well.

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Ripe For Harvest

Monday November 12th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   I could use a day off, but who’s got time for that? There’s too much to do and too little time to do it. I feel like I need to do at least a little something every day even though I know I will never get to half of what I’d like to. Now it’s a matter of picking and choosing what’s truly important.

   Even though I’ve made some tremendous strides in the past few months, I still have mountains of work in front of me and that can be overwhelming if I let it. The key is not to stare up at those mountains, but focus on the tasks at hand. That’s fine in theory, but sometimes it just gets tiring.

   I toned it back for today, at least a little. I put some movies on in the background as I arranged and rearranged piles of paperwork I’d recently sorted from scattered sources. It’s a never ending process of shrinking piles and sorting things into categories and filtering out what I don’t need.

   The pile I focused on most of the day was my lifetime accumulation of comedy ideas. If I have managed to do one thing correctly it’s been diligently keeping track of my ideas. I may not have kept them in the same place, but I did manage to keep them throughout all of my many moves.

   They were randomly stored in different boxes for many years, and written on everything from torn out notebook pages to napkins to anything else I had around at the time – but at least I wrote my ideas down. Now, I’ve got a giant storehouse of fresh ‘new’ ideas I can use however I want.

   It’s like I willed myself a valuable gift decades ago, and I’m just collecting it now. I’m looking over ideas I started cataloging in 1985, and most of it I don’t remember. I know it’s me as it’s in my handwriting, but it’s as if it came from someone else’s brain. I have a whole new perspective, and I know exactly what ideas I can use now. The seeds I planted then have matured for harvest.

   It’ll take a while, but eventually I intend to compile what I can salvage into a book like George Carlin did with ‘Brain Droppings’. That was basically his accumulation of comedy notes put into book form, and there was such a glut remaining he was able to squeeze out two additional books.

   I won’t compare myself to George Carlin, but if I could come up with one that would be a fine accomplishment. I think Jerry Seinfeld did a similar project, and Woody Allen wrote three books of essays in the ‘70s. Standup comedy alone is not the only way to stretch the creative muscles.

   As I was sorting out my notes I watched all three ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ movies that were on one DVD. I’ve always loved the first one, as I find the Buford T. Justice sheriff character played by Jackie Gleason to be absolutely hilarious. To be able to go from Ralph Kramden to that guy is a real talent, and both characters still make me laugh today. I’d love to have one winner like that.

   I don’t think I’d ever seen the sequels before, and they were both pretty painful. Even Jackie’s presence didn’t save either one, but it was still fun to watch how bad they were. I learned from it and still managed to get some work done so that’s a win in my book. Forward progress is always a good thing, but once in a while it’s nice to just lay back and relax a little. This was pretty close.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Still Buzzing

Sunday November 11th, 2012 – Ottumwa, IA/Fox Lake, IL

   I’m still buzzing about how much fun the show was last night in Ottumwa, IA. Everything that needed to come together to make it happen did, and it was a grand slam home run. We all made a fair profit, and the people who came out were satisfied customers. For a night, we were big stars.

   That night is over, and that’s what can be so frustrating. It took months of hard work to put that one isolated show together, and as fun and successful as it was we’re all back at ground zero and have to find work all over again this coming week. All I have is a one nighter in Champaign, IL.

   That’s on Friday, and it’s all I was able to scrape together for the week. It would be convenient to tack on a Saturday in the area somewhere, but the chances of finding that this close to the date get slimmer with each tick of the clock. I can’t count on it, so it’s likely my income for the week.

   This just isn’t going to cut it much longer, and I’m going to have to find a way to start bringing in a much more regular income. Words like ‘stable’ and ‘steady’ don’t tend to fit in with the life of an entertainer very well, but after a while living on fumes gets old. I have reached that point.

   Lucky for me, I didn’t have to do anything but show up for this one. I know how much sweat it took to organize, as I just did it for the benefit show last month at Shank Hall in Milwaukee. That was also a satisfying experience, even though I didn’t make a nickel. It went for a worthy cause.

   At some point I’ve got to be the cause, and raising money for me becomes the focus. I have no problem helping others, but if I can’t help myself everyone is out of business. I still haven’t been able to put myself over the top financially, and until I do it’s going to be a continuous distraction.

   I’ve been making some rock solid decisions lately – ones I probably should have made decades ago but didn’t. Now the question becomes did I turn things around with enough time to salvage a real career. That’s still a question, and I don’t have a definite answer. The truth is I don’t know.

   Shows like the benefit in Milwaukee and the one last night give me real hope. They were both representative of what I want to accomplish, even though it doesn’t happen every night. They’re getting a lot closer together than they’ve ever been, and two in less than a month is a good sign.

   I’d like to do stuff like that every single week of the year, and I don’t see a reason why it can’t happen in theory. In reality, it makes my brain hurt. How big name entertainers make major tours happen is beyond my comprehension. There must be a staff of people working overtime to put it all together. Arranging venues and hotels and travel and media for a fifty city tour must be hell.

    Still, the idea of pulling one off really intrigues me. Even one tour like that could set me up for the rest of my life financially, and be the most fun I ever had. An extended run of solid dates like last night would be the ultimate reward for a lifetime of dues paid, and I’d love every last second of it. Yes the road can be a grind, but it’s a lot worse doing it like I am now. Getting a taste of the next level makes me want to keep slugging. The show is there, now I have to grow the business.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Closer To The Dream

Saturday November 10th, 2012 – Ottumwa, IA

   The vision of what I always pictured being a comedian to be like is getting closer and closer to becoming reality, and I couldn’t be more delighted. It’s not every night unfortunately, and it took a whole lot longer to achieve it than I ever thought – but it is happening and that’s all that counts.

   Tonight was as close to perfect as it gets, and I loved every second of it. Jim McHugh booked a Chicago Comedy All Stars show in Ottumwa, IA at a gorgeous venue called Bridge View Center through a contact he’s known for years named Larry Gawronski and it was a big time home run.

   Larry is Executive Director of the venue, and is about as on the ball as anyone I have ever met when it comes to putting an event together. He and Jim have worked together for years as Larry has moved around the country in his career, and fate happened to relocate him to Ottumwa, IA.

   His last stop was Vicksburg, MS and I got to be on a show with Jim there years ago. I had a lot of fun then, but it didn’t come close to tonight. This one rocked on every level, and it was all due to the hard work and vision of Larry and Jim. They put their heads together and made it happen.

   All I had to do was show up and be funny – which is all I ever wanted to do in the first place. It all worked according to plan, and everyone was in a great mood. The venue is brand new and it’s absolutely spectacular. The sound and lights were world class, but more importantly it was full.

   Larry and Jim worked for months to make this happen, and there were local sponsors involved as well. Without all of their hard work, the event couldn’t have happened and I knew that as soon as I walked in the door. There were banners with our pictures on it throughout the venue, and our names and pictures were on a marquee outside of the venue. It felt like I was finally in showbiz.

   Besides Jim and me on the show, Tim Walkoe and Patti Vasquez rounded out the lineup. It was like a night off, as we all were asked to do was a total of about 25 minutes each. That makes for a lot of creative freedom to be able to go with only the very best material, and that’s what we did.

   The audience was really into it, and we all fed off of their energy. I could tell it was going to be a killer show about thirty seconds into it, and when that happens it’s pure electricity. We all have a lot of experience, and that makes it even easier. We’d all worked with each other before, and at the end of the show we were all on stage together like The Rat Pack to close it out with a bang.

   After the show, Larry invited us over to his house where his wife put out an amazing spread of food that blew us all away. The sponsors and some local VIPs were there, and they couldn’t have been nicer. They all said how much they enjoyed the show, and it was just first class all the way.

   Larry put us in the Americinn Ottumwa, the nicest hotel in town. They treated us like stars too, and everything about this event was stellar. This is how I always pictured it, and just because it’s in Ottumwa rather than Las Vegas doesn’t take a thing away from it. Fun is fun, and this was one of the most fun shows I’ve ever been a part of. Larry and Jim put together a night I won’t forget.

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Take Flight To Stop Diabetes

Friday November 9th, 2012 – Milwaukee, WI

   November is diabetes awareness month, so I gladly volunteered to take part in the ‘Take Flight to Stop Diabetes’ annual gala for the American Diabetes Association in Milwaukee tonight. I try to be of service whenever I can, but I especially want to help with anything to do with diabetes.

   My own diagnosis of type 2 diabetes feels like two lifetimes ago. I have made and maintained a major lifestyle change because of it, and I feel better than I ever have. It was a shocking wake up call, but I heard it loud and clear. I’m going to keep hearing it and spread the word to others.

   The ADA office in Milwaukee is filled with sweet people, and I have really enjoyed getting to know them. Sally Shepherdson is the director, and she’s an absolute peach. She’s down to earth and easy to deal with, and that trickles down to everyone else I’ve met who works in the office.

   Tonight’s event was a big smash hit, and I was delighted to be a part of it. My job was to serve as the assistant auctioneer for the charity auction and lead in a game called ‘Heads/Tails’. That’s when a coin is flipped and people grab either their head or their tail to predict what the coin will land on. I had never seen that game before, but it was fun to do and I’ll remember it for later use.

   The host of tonight’s event was Sally Severson from Channel 12. She’s a meteorologist and I’d heard her name for years but never met her in person. Well, that was definitely my loss. What an outstanding lady she is, and she’s been the annual hostess for these events for sixteen years now.

   I didn’t ask what her reason was, and it’s really none of my business. I’m not sure if she herself has diabetes or not, but I will say she was all in for the cause and was as sincere as anyone I have ever met. She was there to help, and she did a magnificent job of keeping the event on schedule.

   I was really impressed by her onstage and off, and I see why they keep having her back. I have seen television people who don’t have a clue how to handle themselves in a live situation, but not Sally. She took charge from the start, but offstage she treated everyone humbly and with respect.

   These are the kind of people I want to be around, and the kind of person I try to be myself. In a perfect world, diabetes wouldn’t be a part of it – but it is. People who roll up their sleeves and do what needs to be done are hard to find, but there was a room full of them tonight. I admire them.

   One lady I especially admire is Michelle Alsweger. Her son Jesse passed away at age 13 from the disease, and she gave a moving presentation tonight which touched everyone in the room. If that alone didn’t make me want to donate my time and energy, nothing would. It was emotional, but also educational as it opened the eyes of everyone in attendance how diabetes affects us all.

   I was not the star of the show tonight, nor did I intend to be. I just wanted to show my support and pitch in to help in any way I could. I hope I can be part of more events on behalf of ADA in Wisconsin and all over the country. I’ve been lucky to be able to keep my own diagnosis under control, but there needs to be a whole lot of education passed on to the masses. I’ll do my part.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ten Cent Triumph!

Thursday November 8th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   One of a precious collection of useful things my grandpa told me that still sticks with me today is the difference between good luck and bad luck is good luck isn’t funny. When someone else is mired in a losing streak, those who see it laugh out of sheer tension relief. The only one laughing during a streak of good luck is the one experiencing it. Everyone else is feeling jealous or angry.

   I’d much rather be the only one laughing, and today I got my chance. Actually, I have been in a tremendously upbeat mindset of late, and I can’t say it’s bothering me in the least. I’m enjoying a brief respite from being life’s dart board, and quite frankly if I never go back to the other side I’ll be more than fine with it. ‘Mr. Lucky’ is a character that lives onstage, and he needs to say there.

   Dobie Maxwell is an entirely separate entity. He’ll take all the breaks he can get - funny or not. Today I caught a nice one, and it piggybacked on a couple of others I’ve had recently. I’d like to gratefully acknowledge them all, and vehemently ask the universe to keep sending them my way.

   A couple of weeks ago, I happened to find a $10 bill crunched up on the ground and stuck it in my wallet to decide what to do with it later. A few days after that, I was walking through one of my favorite thrift stores and happened upon a collection of Apollo 12 collectible drinking glasses dated November 19, 1969. There were five of them on the shelf, and they were priced at $1 each.

   I bought all five, thinking if nothing else they’d make fun gifts on The Mothership Connection at some point for either guests or listeners. I paid for them with the $10 bill I found, and in return I received a receipt with a red star on it and was told those are lucky winners of a $5 store credit.

   Technically, the glasses were free and I still had the $10 I started with. I decided to keep going and see what else I could buy for ten bucks and hopefully spin it for more. I would have to scour the thrift stores, but I do that anyway. It’s a relaxing pastime I’ve always done. I enjoy the hunt.

   It’s kind of like my own personal ‘Storage Wars’ or ‘Pawn Stars’ adventure. I’m trying to find something someone else didn’t know the value of when they priced it, and neither did those who looked at it on the shelf before I got there. Chances are low that it happens, but once in a while it absolutely does. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time, and having street smarts.

   Today I drove by the same thrift store and was kind of in a hurry but that little voice inside told me to take a quick lap. I almost blew it off, but decided against it as I felt it strongly urging me to do it immediately. Positive things usually happen when I listen to that voice, and they did today.

   I walked past a shelf of knick knacks and saw two official National League baseballs in plastic cube holders screaming at me to buy them. One was priced at $2.12 and the other $2.62. I looked closer and saw that one was autographed by Hall of Famer Ernie Banks and the other by some of the 1989 Cubs including Mark Grace, Jerome Walton, Mike Bielecki and Rick Wrona. I couldn’t believe they were priced so low, and I took them right to the checkout and the total was $5.10 for both balls. I gave them my winning receipt and my total was .10! I floated to my car in ecstasy.

   So let’s review. I started with ten bucks I found on the ground and bought five collector glasses for $5. With tax, it was around $5.40. I won $5 in store credit, and used that to buy two baseballs in plastic holders – both autographed. The total was $5.10, so my out of pocket cost was a dime.

   There’s no way to authenticate the signatures, but I’d bet they are legit. They’re official league balls, and I’ve seen autographed stuff before. These should have no problem selling to somebody in the Chicago area who loves the Cubs, and I can hold out for my price since I have little into it.

  All totaled that would mean I’d have five collector glasses, two autographed baseballs plus my left over total of roughly $4.50. That’s a pretty good start, and I think I’ll be able to sell all of it for a healthy profit without gouging anyone and keep the ball rolling. I know how to find stuff.

   Selling it has been an issue, and it may continue to be. Where would I sell collector glasses or baseballs? The first thought would be Ebay, but I’ve never sold anything on it before. I bought a ton of stuff over the years, but never sold even one thing. But how hard can it be? I can handle it, but I’m not sure if I want to. I have enough going on without starting some new time demander.

   Still, the lure of the treasure hunt is strong. Who doesn’t love looking for the big payoff? I sure do, and I freely admit it. I know every deal isn’t going to be a winner, but I’ve heard tales of big scores through the years and I do believe things like that happen. To win, one has to participate.

   I did take a quick lap through Ebay and saw that the glasses weren’t all that rare, and weren’t at all priced consistently. I saw them listed for anywhere from $2 to $20 each, but shipping was the big expense. I’d be thrilled if someone gave me $20 for four of them, and I’d keep one to give to my Mothership Connection co-host Greg DeGuire. He’d enjoy it, and it would be a fun souvenir.

   The baseballs should realistically bring somewhere around $100 for both, or at least that’s what I’d look to get out of them. They’re in great shape, and Ernie Banks is a Hall of Famer without a doubt. I know he signed a lot of stuff in his life, but some Cubs fan would love to have that ball.

   Say I can manage to score my asking price somehow from someone and walk away with $120 for everything. Couple that with the roughly five bucks I have left from my original $10 and call it an even $125. That’s well over ten times my original stake, and it literally came from nowhere.

   I don’t think it’s realistic to expect to keep pulling off ten times my investment on a consistent basis, but doubling my money doesn’t seem out of line in the least. What could I invest $125 into that will bring me at least double in return? The possibilities are endless, and I’d love to give it a shot. I’d get it in cash in smaller bills and have them available to make a buy everywhere I went.

   Eventually, $125 becomes $250 becomes $500. Then $1000, then $2000 and on and on. It may take a while, and I’m sure I’ll blow it on occasion and make some less than stellar buys, but on a long term basis I like my chances to be able to build a significant wad of cash I can use to keep a constant flow of more items and cash coming in. It’s been done before, but not by me. I’d love to take it all the way from $10 to enough to walk in and pay cash for a new car. It will be fun to try.

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