Archive for September, 2009

Come On, Friday

September 30, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Full Frontal Dentistry

September 29, 2009

Monday September 28th, 2009 – Chicago, IL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Not In The Cards

September 28, 2009

Sunday September 27th, 2009 – Lake Villa, IL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Designated Kidder

September 27, 2009

Saturday September 26th, 2009 – Chicago, IL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Walk Of Life

September 27, 2009

Friday September 25th, 2009 – Lake Villa, IL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timbo’s Birthday

September 25, 2009

Thursday September 24th, 2009 – Milwaukee, WI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Positive Force

September 24, 2009

Wednesday September 23rd, 2009 – Lake Villa, IL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Been Here Before

September 23, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Personal Hurricane

September 22, 2009

Monday September 21st, 2009 – Chicago, IL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Struggles To The Max

September 21, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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