Driving Myself Crazy

Wednesday October 28th, 2009 – Bluefield, WV

What an idiot I can be sometimes. Today was one of them. I accepted a gig in Bluefield, WV which is 714 miles from home. I’ve worked here before and should have known how far it is, but it’s been a while and I didn’t bother to look it up. I’ll surely not do that again.

There were several reasons why I did it. First, Halloween week is usually pretty slow in the comedy business. Everyone is at parties and I totally get that. I had this week open so I took this gig and strung it together with a weekend in Pittsburgh. In theory, it’s smart.

In reality, it’s a LONG drive for not enough of a payoff. In the old days there were a lot more one nighters to string together and I may have been able to put two or three stops on the tour before I got to Pittsburgh. Those are drying up quickly, and this is all I could find.

Now I have a night off to fill, at my own expense of course. My friend Darryl Rhoads is working in Ft. Wayne this week at a club called Snickerz. I haven’t been there in years so I thought I’d not only hang out with Darryl but also poke my head in and see about work.

Again, it didn’t seem that far but looking at it closer it’s 450 miles from here. Then it’s another 350 or so to get to Pittsburgh tomorrow. That’s too far and I admit in my old age I’m not nearly as bullet proof for driving as I used to be. I used to be able to grind it out.

The times are surely changing on all fronts. I’m getting older, the gigs are getting fewer, gas prices are getting higher and I’m getting tired of it all. The thrill is long gone and now it’s just a chore. I said years ago if it ever got to be like that I’d quit. Well, it’s like that. If I keep doing it so haphazardly. I’ll never get out of  this rut. It’s time to evolve gracefully.

I’ll never quit enjoying the stage time, but the drives are getting longer. I stopped to see my friend Greg Phelps in Indianapolis on the way here. He’s a former comic that’s moved on and started his own business. We talked about the road life and he said he doesn’t miss it at all. His family gets to see him and he’s got a daily routine. What’s so bad about that?

I guess everything has plusses and minuses but right now I wouldn’t mind having some routine in my life. I’ve seen the country and it’s beautiful but driving to Bluefield in a day doesn’t float my boat anymore. Even NASCAR drivers only have to drive for 500 miles.

Greg and I talked about my CD project because that’s what his business does. He helps design packages and arrange orders and is very good at it. I’ll use him in some capacity to do both my comedy CD and also the recorded version of my comedy classes. He’ll do the job and I also want to see him get the business because he’s a quality guy and deserves it.

I left Greg’s house and headed south on I-74 to Cincinnati. Then I went south on I-75 to Lexington, KY and east on I-64 to Charleston, WV. I didn’t need a map as I’ve driven all these roads many times before. I set the cruise control and popped in some tapes and used the time as a work day. I transformed my car into a mobile office and made the most of it.

I laid out all of the notes I’ve been making lately about my comedy classes and took the best ideas and wrote them on a legal pad. I came up with a skeleton outline of three levels of classes and I was very happy with the results. This will be a thorough teaching course.

I know I probably shouldn’t be writing when I’m driving but I put the legal pad right on the steering wheel and jot notes and catch phrases down as I watch the road. If I do crash head on into a pole at least I’ll die doing something I love. The notes can be saved also.

As I was driving east on I-64, Kentucky became West Virginia and I passed through the town of Huntington. That’s the home town of Soupy Sales, who passed away last week. It reminded me of the week we worked together in Reno when I lived there. He was a trip.

I don’t think younger people realize what a huge star he was in his day. We were sitting in a restaurant at the Reno Hilton where we were working when an older lady came up to Soupy and asked for an autograph. She was shaking with nervousness but Soupy signed a placemat and she just about jumped out of her orthopedic shoes. He made her whole year.

I liked working with Soupy because I’m a student of the game and knew how much of a star he was in his day. He could sense I knew what I was talking about and his wife Trudy told me all week how much Soupy liked me and would laugh while I was on stage. What a sweetheart she was and probably still is. When I heard he’d passed I felt sad for her.

At the end of the week we worked together Soupy asked me if I’d work a benefit show he did every year in Huntington. I told him I would if I was available and Trudy contacted me a couple of times over the years but I was never able to do it. I’m sorry that I wasn’t.

Life is short and then it’s over. Soupy’s life came and went and mine will too. Whether or not I’m a big star doesn’t matter. It’s about doing what pleases ME. It used to be going from town to town doing comedy and seeing the country. Now I’ve seen it. That part isn’t the fun adventure it used to be so it’s time to revamp my plan. I’m the one in charge here.

When I got to Charleston there was a horrific accident and traffic was completely halted on I-77. That wasn’t what I needed and I called the Holiday Inn and told them it would be a close call. If I was lucky, I’d make it just at show time. If not, I’d keep them posted as to where I was and we’d go from there. I could feel the stress coming on and I dreaded it.

I inched through the accident scene and it took WAY too long. I then had to haul ass on I-77, which is a mountainous curvy toll road with all kinds of twist and turns. It was like a big video game as I raced at top speed to get to Bluefield, and I made it about an hour late only to find sixteen people sitting in the hotel lounge, calmly watching the World Series.

Nobody cared if I was there or not. The bar manager Lori Bailey is a sweetie and I know her from last time I was here. She was glad I made it safely and wasn’t angry at all. There is no opening act anymore and they just have one comedian. I had to go up and do my set to sixteen people just after driving over 700 miles. This isn’t what I thought life would be.

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