Monday December 24th, 2012 – Chicago, IL/Reno, NV
I was prepared for my trip from Chicago to Reno on Christmas Eve to be difficult, but I did not expect the stress filled ulcer causing nightmare it became. I had all I could handle and then some to maintain my composure, but I managed to not punch anybody so I’ll consider that a victory.
It started off rather smoothly, as I pulled up to Jim McHugh’s house exactly at 5:15am as I said I would. Jim is a great friend, and has always been willing to get up at any hour to help me get to an airport if I need to and I couldn’t be more grateful. He knows I’d do it for him, and I owe him about a dozen favors for all the times he’s done it for me. It’s an honor to have friends like that.
Jim dropped me off at the train station, and I bought my ticket and hurried down a big flight of stairs just in time to miss my train. Another one came in about ten minutes, so it didn’t make me late but that was the start of things to come. From then on the stress-o-meter cranked up to a 10.
I made my transfer in downtown Chicago and arrived at Midway Airport at 7am sharp for my 8:35 flight to Las Vegas. I thought I was golden until I saw the line of people waiting to check in at the gate. It looked like the welfare line on double cheese day, and I knew I was in for trouble.
We were directed into the deepest bowels of the airport to wait in the longest line I’d ever seen this side of Six Flags or Disneyland. People were in foul moods as many were missing scheduled flights, and the tension level was on red alert. I was hoping a riot wouldn’t break out, but I would bet not as much as the security guards were. They earned every last penny of their pay and more.
I wasn’t in full blown panic mode as I had a two day cushion to get to Reno, but it wasn’t how I’d planned to spend my Monday morning. That line was NOT moving, and I truly thought I had no chance of making my flight until a woman from the airline walked through the line and asked if anyone had a small enough bag that didn’t have to be checked. Only a few of us raised hands.
We were told to follow her to another part of the airport and stand in another line. I had a small glimmer of hope I’d make it, but then I saw the security line and it went away. That’s always the killer, and it was moving extra slow today. I gritted my teeth, shut my mouth and got in the line.
Miraculously, I managed to get through the line with about five minutes to spare from the time my flight was to take off, and I ran to the gate and was the last one to get on the plane. My heart was beating like a drum solo, but I made it. Still, the feeling of not knowing is one of pure stress.
I made it to my seat in the very back of the plane and was of course destined to the middle seat between Hoss Cartwright’s love child who was about 6’6” and 350 lbs of blubber – half of which was oozing over into my seat – and a lady from Canada who wanted to hear my full life history.
To add even more tension, I wore a Packers jacket and sweatshirt and Moose had a Bears shirt on. I sensed his disgust as I sat down, and the lady had to immediately ask if I was a Packer fan. I told her I grew up there and had no choice. I didn’t want to get into a war of words with Hoss Jr.
I hoped to get some sleep, but I just couldn’t manage to nod out. There was far too little room, and the lady refused to be quiet long enough for me to try. I never mentioned to her that I was a comedian, and I’m glad I didn’t. She’d have been telling stale knock knock jokes all the way to Las Vegas and I’d have had to choke her at some point. It was hard enough to endure as it was.
I was as polite as humanly possible, but this was not a day I felt like getting into a conversation with anyone – especially an exuberant Canuck who loves Christmas more than anything and isn’t afraid to tell strangers on a plane. I didn’t want to be mean, but I did want to hear ‘Silent Night’.
My flight to Reno from Las Vegas wasn’t much better. I was between an old man who smelled like a cross between moth balls and the unwashed pair of his own and a woman who could easily have been a stunt double for Weezy from The Jeffersons. At least it was only one hour, not three.
Dave Mencarelli picked me up at the airport, and I’m thrilled he did. That was very nice of him to do that, as he totally didn’t have to. He took me to the Silver Legacy Hotel and I checked into a beautiful room on the 32nd floor. I was sound asleep in what seemed like sixty seconds or less.
I woke up from my nap and realized it was Christmas Eve, and that put me in a reflective mood for the rest of the night. The icy fact hit me that no matter what happens in my comedy pursuit, it will never ever fill this hole in my soul that comes from not having a family. They’re not related.
Most if not all entertainers think hitting the big time in show business will make up for all their deficiencies in other areas, and it’s just not true. Somewhere in my twisted logic process I’m sure I believed that same thing, in fact I know I did. I thought hitting it big would erase all the hurtful memories of childhood and make those people love and accept me. Nothing could be more false.
I’m very proud of how far I’ve come as both a comedian and a person, but Christmas is always a harsh reminder that I’ve never had the support of a loving family to carry me through the times I really need it - and it’s not a pleasant feeling. I feel all alone, like I’m drifting through space.
Yes, the feeling of being on stage when it’s going well is nothing less than intoxicating, but it’s not worth a damn thing if there’s no immediate family to share it with. Enduring a travel day like today doesn’t pay back enough to keep going through them. Anyone I may have needed to prove anything to is dead, and it accomplished nothing. I have proved to myself everything I need to.
I walked around the streets of downtown Reno, and saw some poor bastard playing a guitar all by himself. He looked weathered and frazzled, and his story can’t be a happy one either. I’m sure if he had some place to go on Christmas Eve, he’d have been there. I wasn’t alone in being alone.
There’s a small casino called The Nugget that has a diner in the back that features a big greasy hamburger called ‘The Awful Awful’ - as in ‘awfully big’ and ‘awfully good’. I haven’t had one since I lived here, so I ordered one and looked around at all the others who had no destination for Christmas Eve. They looked sadder than I was, and I was pretty sad. I’ve made others laugh for a lifetime, but on a lonely Christmas Eve in Reno who brightens my spirits? Who the hell knows?