Archive for October, 2010

Cozumellow

October 31, 2010

Saturday October 30th, 2010 – Cozumel, Mexico

Usually, not having a gig on a Saturday bothers me. Not so much this week. The cruise I’m on isn’t a full week like the others I’ve done so there are only two comedians needed for the duration. Tonight was a dark night in the comedy club and we finish up tomorrow.

If I have to be off work with nothing to do at the end of October, Cozumel isn’t too bad of a place to hang for a day. This is probably my favorite of all the ports I’ve gotten to see so far, and I took a nice long walk in the sun today to let some ideas bake into my brain.

Plain and simple, I’m at a major crossroads in life and I really don‘t have a crystal clear vision locked in of where I’m going. Since I’ve spent most of my life in survival mode, it feels kind of strange to even think about any kind of direction at all. I’m so used to having to grab on to any old piece of floating debris and hope I can hang on until morning comes.

That really needs to stop, at least for this next chapter of my life. In all reality, this is my last shot to do anything that might be the least bit meaningful and I don’t want to waste it. I see all the mistakes I’ve made, and part of me is embarrassed. Another part is pleased to know I had the guts to make them in the first place. I sure learned some valuable lessons.

I’ve had my share and what seems like a dozen other people’s share of bad breaks, but I can’t and won’t blame that for anything. I’ve had plenty of time to recover from wherever I came from or whatever went wrong and at this stage of the game my life is in my hands.

That thought hit me hard as I sat in a beach front cantina having an order of ocean fresh lobster that was supposedly flown in today. It sure tasted like it, and looking out over the vast beauty of the Gulf of Mexico made me feel more humble and insignificant than ever. The haunting lyrics of ‘Dust In The Wind’ crawled into my ear and shut me up but quick.

It also hit me that I was probably the first in my family to sit in Cozumel on the beach to even have these thoughts at all. My father never wanted to go anywhere and rarely left his own little world. My grandfather was a wanderlust like me, but from what he always told me he never did much more than hobo across America on freight trains back in his day.

His father came from Russia and the only cruise ship he got to ride on wasn’t nearly as nice as the ones I’m on, and that was a one way trip to Ellis Island. Before that, I’m sure there were probably many generations of Russian peasants who lived in squalor and filth.

Here I am getting to hang out in exotic Caribbean ports eating lobster, and I don’t even want it at this point in my life. I appreciated it today, but if someone told me it was going to end forever next week and I’d be able to do what I really wanted, I’d be fine with it.

That was my major focus today – what the hell IS it I ’really want to do’? It’s late in the game to be making major changes, and a lot of things just aren’t possible anymore. But, if I keep drifting like I have been I’ll die in my own squalor and filth and I don’t want that.

I must have walked at least five or six miles to the cantina and back, and I was in one of my reflective, deep in thought bullet proof moods. The sunshine made my thoughts come clearly, and I felt like I was in a creative hot zone all day. I just saw things in a big picture kind of way, and it felt totally right. I feel like a flower getting ready for my bloom time.

I realized it doesn’t matter where I live, and it doesn’t matter if my life is whatever the term ’normal’ means. If reincarnation and past lives are indeed real, this one was a huge step in a good direction for me. I may have lost out on a lot of things most others on this plane get to experience, but I’ve grown so much in so many areas that it was worth it.

I wouldn’t be surprised if I died soon, and it doesn’t scare me in the least at this point. It actually intrigues me in a way. If indeed there is a reason for all of us living through all of the insanity this life, I‘ve got to believe at some point we’re going to find out why. I want to know why my life has been so different and seemingly more difficult than many others.

This isn’t the world I want to be the king of anyway. It’s unfair, vicious and run by idiot sticks who’ve had thousands of years to figure things out and still haven’t done it. I’ll be a passenger on this ship until the ride is over, then see where my transfer will drop me off.

I really enjoyed every step of my walk today, and felt the sweat soak my whole body on the way back. I was sore, soaked and satisfied as I got back to the ship and took a long hot shower in my cabin. I felt refreshed and ready to go, so I took out my computer and took a long detailed look through all my files of ideas, projects and goals and I got very excited.

There are all kinds of ideas that I know I haven’t given my all to, so I have to focus on a precious few and see what I think is most important. I really think I can help young comic wannabes get started properly and I’d love to be able to do that after I’m dead. A recorded version of the classes along with books and paperwork is a must. That jumped out at me.

I also think I can do better at my own standup. I’d love to get a few more shots on some network TV shows, and put out some new recorded product in the near future. I have all kinds of material I haven’t even tried yet, and it’s just waiting for me to get to it. I can use the ships to work it in, and there’s no reason I can’t have two or three TV sets ready to go.

That’s one thing I haven’t done since my Craig Ferguson appearance, and I’m flat out a big stupid goof for not doing it. That’s going to change immediately. Starting tomorrow, I will do ONE joke in each show that I want to start building television appearances sets on and keep building them until they’re razor sharp and I can do them backwards and asleep.

I should have been doing that the day after my first shot aired, but I haven’t. Why I had all this wisdom hit me today is a mystery, but it kept coming all day. I want to keep up the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ one man show also. I think there’s a winner there and that will be an ongoing project for the near future. Other than that, I’ve got all I can handle and a gut full of fresh lobster. It’s back to work tomorrow, then back north to find a new place to live.

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Finally Some Fun

October 30, 2010

Friday October 29th, 2010 – Key West, FL

This week is turning out to be by far the best I’ve had as a whole since I’ve been at sea, and I’m not going to question why. I knew if I hung in there long enough, there had to be SOMETHING about this whole major change in lifestyle that would be worth my effort.

The two main ingredients I’ve experienced from this endeavor to date have been stress and pressure, but precious few can relate in the least. Everyone assumes this is a lazy way to big time easy money but nothing could be farther from reality. It’s a very difficult gig.

Part of what’s so tough is the randomness of it all. Every week there’s a whole new set of variables to deal with, and they’re never the same twice. The audiences are completely different on the various ships, as are the staffs. Also, I’ve had a variety of other comics to work with. I haven’t clashed with anyone yet, but that’ll happen eventually. It just does.

I’ll deal with that when it happens. So far I’ve enjoyed everyone I’ve been matched with and this week is especially pleasant. I’m working with Louis Ramey, a very funny guy out of New York who’s originally from Atlanta. We crossed paths briefly many years ago but neither one of us has been able to pinpoint exactly where or when that was. But we did.

Louis is a real pro and I have nothing but respect for him. He’s had quite a few big time television appearances from The Tonight Show to Last Comic Standing where he was one of the finalists in season six. Even though I’m not a huge fan of Last Comic Standing, it’s a major credit and I take nothing away from anyone who gets it. That’s a lot of exposure.

What I really like about Louis is he’s a student of the comedy game just as I am. He got his start at The Punch Line in Atlanta which is one of the legendary clubs in America. His pedigree is rich, and since he’s close to my age we both have a similar base of experience.

He was an opening act when I was, and we both crossed paths with people who went on to be big time stars like Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Drew Carey and others. Now we’re both headliners ourselves and rarely get to hang out with the people we came up with on the comedy ladder. Today we hung out in Key West and had a great time talking comedy.

There’s a big event in town called ‘Fantasy Fest’, and I’d never heard of it before. It had been years since I’ve been to Key West, but I always enjoyed it. It’s a unique place with a lot of history, plus there’s great seafood. It was fun to have someone to hang with all day.

Louis was taking pictures of some of the wild costumes, and some of them made Mardi Gras in New Orleans look like a convent. There were plenty of topless women to gawk at, some in a good way, others in horror. There was no shortage of entertainment anywhere.

If there’s a better way to spend a gorgeous sunny day in Key West than talking comedy with a guy I like and respect, staring at naked breasts of all shapes, eating raw oysters and enjoying life, I’m hard pressed to come up with what that would be. This is how I like it.

Tonight was my night to do three shows, and I love doing that the first night. Almost all of the other weeks I’ve done so far have had me doing my three show night the final night but I’d prefer to get it out of the way early so it’s not hanging over my head for the day.

Sometimes the early shows can be difficult because of the kids, and tonight was another example. I really don’t think people mean to be difficult, so I don’t get angry or flip out at anyone. This is part of the game, and I know that going in. People are going to arrive late with their kids, and that’s just how it’s going to be. I have to learn to deal with it tactfully.

Many times they come right up front, just as I’m in the middle of a bit. They talk loudly and try to figure out where they want to sit, and often the talk is directed at me. Someone will ask me if it’s ok to sit at a particular table like I’m the head usher, but again it’s not a matter of being rude. They don’t know what to do, so I have to handle it and move on.

Louis is a veteran of the ships and he says he just does his show and doesn’t even think about the kids in the crowd. That’s probably the smart way to go, but I want to find a way to make the best of it because I’ll be dealing with it frequently in the foreseeable future.

I’ve always had the power to adapt, and I’m choosing to make this whole experience on cruise ships improve my whole approach to comedy and turn me into a better performer. I think it already has to some degree. I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out yet, I don’t.

I do have a much better idea of where my act needs to go if I want to stay out here for a while, and it never hurts to have a skill which brings in money. Louis is very smart and he doesn’t allow himself to get trapped on ships only, and that’s something I won’t do either.

Sure, I’ll take work when it’s offered – especially in the next year or so so I can save up a war chest to fall back on and serve as a cushion in case everything blows up in my face. I also need to keep working during the day and have other projects develop so I can have other sources of income. The more sources I have, the less I’ll have to worry about any.

This week is a shot in the arm on many levels. The lack of stress is allowing me to just relax and enjoy life a little. Constantly having to be somewhere is unnecessary stress that takes away from letting me enjoy the good parts, like today. I had a blast with everything.

When I came back to my cabin I flicked through the channels and caught the tail end of The Tonight Show and saw another comic named Louis I respect – Louis CK. We crossed paths many years ago just like Louis Ramey and I did, but again for a million dollars cash I couldn’t tell you where or when it was. I do remember liking the guy, even back then.

In my opinion, I think he has a fabulous work ethic and has made the most of his ability as a comic. That’s all anyone can hope for, and I think the only true definition of success. I didn’t see him perform, only his face as the show was ending. I was happy for him and it made me grateful to be a comic this week. Damn the future, this week is turning out fine.

Instant Homeless

October 29, 2010

Thursday October 28th, 2010 – Miami, FL

No rest for the weary. After that monster day of travel from Honduras to Chicago, I only had one day in town before having to head right back out to sea. I had no time for goofing around, as I had to drop off dry cleaning, do a major load of laundry, get a haircut, pay off a few bills, check my P.O. box and then teach my class at Harper College from 7-9pm.

That’s a busy day for anybody, and by the time class was over I was ready to nod out for a few hours but I had more work to do at home. Emails are piling up, and I refuse to allow those to get out of control like they so often have in the past. I trimmed the list back down to where it was, and by then it was time to take a shower and head out to catch my plane.

Right as I was about to board I received a text from my roommate asking me to “read an  important email she‘d just sent.” Oh oh. What could that possibly be? It’s that bad feeling of  “wait ‘til your father comes home.” I had no way of getting to a computer, and I could only imagine what it might be. Was she sick? Was I being asked to leave? What was it?

I got to Miami and tried calling her from the airport, but she was still at work. We rarely if ever see each other, and that’s what’s made this whole arrangement work so well for so long. It’s going on two and a half years now, and I put my rent in an envelope and leave it on the kitchen table on the first of each month. It’s always there and never been late once.

When I got to the ship I was able to sign on line and get her email. It turns out she’ll be moving at the end of the month because she and her new husband found a house they feel will be ideal for their new situation, which is a Brady Bunch situation. He has a couple of kids and she has two daughters so they were starting to sniff around for a bigger house.

She said they didn’t expect to find such a perfect place so quickly, but they did. That’s how it goes, and I’m happy for them. She thought I’d be angry, but how could I be? This was a very good deal for both of us, and at the time I moved in she really needed the cash for her kids. They’re both super sweet and if I could be of help at a time of need I’m glad.

I figured my days were limited there anyway. It just felt like time to move on, and this is a great way to make it happen without causing any hard feelings in either direction. She’s got her new life and I don’t want to live in a basement like an insect the rest of mine. It’s time to have a different base of operations, clean the slate and start my life’s next chapter.

Like every thing else, the timing of this isn’t the greatest. They’ve made a commitment to be out by November 30th. I’ve only got about three days home in the whole month. My schedule is packed full of ship gigs which will let me pay rent in my next living space but how I’ll manage to find a way to clean everything out of where I am is still up in the air.

I’d been meaning to do a purge, and now I’ll have my chance. Look out Goodwill. Here comes a major donation of books, DVDs, clothing and everything else I haven’t touched in the past year. If I don’t use it – out it’s going to go. Another page in life is ready to turn.

The Long Way Home

October 27, 2010

Tuesday October 26th, 2010 – Roatan – San Pedro, Honduras/Miami, FL/Chicago, IL

These twelve to fourteen hour ‘off’ days are sure starting to rattle my cage. It’s harder to make it through these than the majority of my ‘work’ days, when my actual time working on stage in front of an audience is even on my busiest days at the most only 90 minutes.

Those days I can handle. Today’s days are like worldwide scavenger hunts. It’s a cross between days in the life of James Bond and Indiana Jones, with always a new unexpected twist around the corner to keep it interesting. It’s one giant mental and physical challenge, and one tiny miscue could leave me marooned in a foreign country without a way home.

Today’s adventure started in Roatan, Honduras. The first thing I’m going to do is look it up when I have a free minute, because before today I’d never even heard of it. I know it’s an island, as I had to take a rickety little puddle jumper propeller plane to San Pedro Sula, the capital of Honduras. Thankfully, I had the company of two very nice people to share.

One was the other comedian Will Marfori. He’s lives in Orlando, FL but grew up in the DC area. He’s half Filipino and half Irish I think he said, but whatever it is he was a great guy to work with onstage and off. Like most of the comics I’ve met out here so far at sea, he’s very generous about helping newbies like me learn the ropes. I totally appreciate that.

The other was a singer named Ron Joseph. He’s originally from New Orleans, but now lives in Houston with his wife and family. He’s another nice guy, and we became a multi racial traveling threesome. Ron is black, Will looks Asian and I’m Mr. Ragin‘ Caucasian.

I couldn’t have chosen two better travel partners, and we were off the ship by 9:30am to begin the journey home. We had to fill out all our paperwork, get our passports and find a taxi to take us to the airport. The cab cost us $10 each, but the driver didn’t have a receipt book so now we won’t get reimbursed. It was a minor glitch, but a hassle nonetheless.

The airport in Roatan looks like a flea market booth, and there was absolutely nowhere to hang out and wait the two hours for our flight to leave. The three of us literally stood in front of the ‘airport’ and shared road stories while a dog slept a few feet from us and three construction workers were fixing holes in the tin wall next to us. It sure wasn’t O’Hare.

As we were standing there a Honduran police officer came up to us and looked us over very closely. We nodded hello, and he shook each of our hands. Then he asked where we were going, and then he shook all three of our hands again. It was very odd, and we didn’t know why he’d do that, but nobody panicked and we just went on with our conversation.

Finally it was time to catch our flight and we had to go through the pain in the ass of the whole security process. Off with shoes and belts and empty pockets, and they ripped all of our bags apart like kids opening Christmas presents. Then they charged us each an airport tax of $2. I’d never heard of that before, but I’ve never been to Roatan before either. This is how it’s done. We heard our announcement that our plane would be leaving at ‘Gate 1’.

None of us looked very hard, but there wasn’t a ‘Gate 2’ anywhere in sight. ALL flights  from here would be leaving from Gate 1 until further notice, or another one was built. We had to walk quite a ways to get to our plane, which I thought was also pretty stupid, as the whole area was empty. I counted six planes total, including ours, but we walked very far.

I hadn’t been on a propeller plane in many years, and it felt like I was in a remake of the movie Casablanca or something. There were maybe a dozen of us total on the plane and it was about 100 degrees inside as we waited for the pilot to start the engines and head over to San Pedro Sula. It was maybe a 45 minute flight, but I was still glad when we landed.

San Pedro Sula’s airport wasn’t a whole lot busier. It looked like the stereotypical place drug lords would fly their planes from, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was named after a famous gangster. There were some gorgeous women everywhere though, and the three of us were rubbernecking as soon as we got into what they tried to pass off as the terminal.

It was about the size of your average dollar store, but the exchange rate between dollars and Honduran money was 19-1. I bought a delicious piping hot combo plate of tacos and flautas for only $3.50, with a drink. That was the cheapest most delicious meal I’ve ever gotten in an airport anywhere. That’s one of the reasons to keep coming on these trips.

The wait for our next flight was only an hour and a half, so we had time to eat and relax a little, and then it was time for another dose of security. How many bombs do they think we can acquire in the airport, as that’s the only place we were since our previous flight?

Still, off with the belts, shoes, watches, and through our luggage they went…again. I had my mouthwash, shampoo and toothpaste confiscated by of course the ugliest female we’d seen since we got into the country and then she scolded me for five minutes in Spanish.

I faced the ground and said nothing. I didn’t want to spend a night in Honduras with her on either side of the cell bars. I took my confiscation like a man, and moved on. I thought it would be wise to use the bathroom before getting on the plane, but it was all the way on the other side of the airport. By the time I got back I almost missed my boarding time.

Then, they checked our bags AGAIN. It’s ridiculous, but I’m sure there are probably all kinds of criminals hauling drugs in and out of this place. Now I just wanted to make it on the plane, which I did. Barely. Then it was another two hour flight to make it to Miami.

Guess what the first thing on the agenda in Miami was? Security? Nope. Passport check and U.S. Customs…THEN another time through security to catch my connecting flight to Chicago. How many times do they have to look at my funky grundies and computer bag?

In my opinion, too many.  But they did. It took way too long, and I had to take the tram to my gate which got me there right around boarding time. Then it was back to Chicago at 10:30pm where thankfully Jim McHugh was kind enough to pick me up. That sure is a lot of work to do to get home from work, and then I get to fly out Thursday and do it again!

Hurricane Season’s Greetings

October 26, 2010

Monday October 25th, 2010 – Cozumel, Mexico

There’s a big old mess o’ trouble brewing at sea, but for once it’s got nothing to do with me. It’s hurricane season here in the Caribbean and one named Richard is apparently on a path to do major damage  right where we’re sailing. The weather’s been nasty for much of the day, and we’ve already altered the original route this cruise was supposed to follow.

I have no idea how this will affect my flight home tomorrow, and I’m concerned I won’t be able to make it home to teach my comedy class at Harper College on Wednesday. It’s a scary situation, and a part of the cruise game I hadn’t planned for along with lost luggage.

The ship docked in Cozumel, Mexico for a few hours today but I wasn’t able to get off because I didn’t get a crew identification card and the place I was supposed to get one had closed for the day. I wanted to go out and get some supplies like shaving cream and soap, but that will have to wait until whenever we stop again. Nobody knows when that may be.

I talked to the other comedian Will Marfori, and he said he thinks we’ll be ok to fly out tomorrow, but it won’t be from our original destination of Belize. Instead, it’s going to be Honduras – but only if the weather holds out. This is all hearsay, and right now I haven’t a clue as to what’s really going to happen. Lucky for me, my cabin is near the ship’s office.

From all I’ve heard, the best place to be in a hurricane is a cruise ship because it has the ability to outrun the worst part of the storm and stay in a safe zone. Personally, I’ve never once heard of a cruise ship disaster in real life other than the Titanic, and that was 1912.

Chances are, I’ll fly out tomorrow and spend most of the day getting back to Chicago to teach my class on Wednesday, then it’s back out early Thursday to Miami to return to one of the other ships I’ve already done, The Destiny. I know what to expect when I get there, so that makes it a lot easier. The staff is very friendly and I had some pretty decent shows.

Tonight was my three show night on the Triumph. The early one was flat out weird, and I wish I would have recorded it just to have it on file. About halfway through of what was a very good show, I heard a voice in the darkness start giving me Ric Flair’s “WHOOO” sound. It was kind of funny the first couple of times, and I was able to riff lines off of it.

Then, it wouldn’t stop. “WHOOOO, WHOOO, WHOOOOOOOOO.” Then silence for a minute or two. Then it would start again. The problem was, I couldn’t tell who was the one doing it. It could have been a person with mental illness issues or some other kind of disability, and making fun of that would be certain trouble. I had to just work around it.

As it turned out, it was just a drunk woman who wouldn’t shut up and the club manager had stepped out for a moment to attend to some other business so he hadn’t seen how the whole thing developed. Eventually she got bounced and the show went on, but this was a kook for the ages. I’m sure glad I didn’t slam her though. That would have been a mistake from the start. Still, this was the best week I’ve had on the ships. Now I hope I get home.

Purple Payback

October 25, 2010

Sunday October 24th, 2010 – Somewhere At Sea

Life is firing on all cylinders for a day, and I’m doing all I can to savor every single iota for future reference. I’m sure I’ll be back nestled away in my customary ringside cesspool seat, but not today. I wish I could bottle a magic day like this and spritz a little on my face every morning to get the feeling of it ingrained in me so I’d continue it the rest of the day.

Everything went right today, and I could feel it as soon as I got up. My cabin this cruise is about a 30 foot walk from the staff mess hall and it’s unbelievably convenient. I awoke at 7:35, but wasn’t sure if it was morning or evening and for a minute I panicked horribly.

Missing a show is not what I need to do and I didn’t. I went to have a nice breakfast and learned there were a few more American channels available than I first thought and I’d be able to catch the Packers/Vikings game tonight. This was my two show night and it fell in perfectly with the schedule of the game. This was the big grudge match, and I enjoyed it.

I know it means nothing in the giant scheme of life, but getting to watch old #4 step in a steaming pile of #2 was nothing short of pure pigskin paradise. It was like watching a bad guy wrestler get his comeuppance, and from an entertainment standpoint, it couldn’t have been played out any better, with the possible exception of having him carted off the field.

Brett Favre is like an ex wife who just won’t go away. I don’t want to look at him or his scraggly beard anymore, and at least the Packers sacked him this time. Last time it looked like they laid down and let him do whatever he wanted. It was nice to see him take a little punishment out there and limp off the field. I know it shouldn’t matter, but I loved it all.

Then, both shows on the ship tonight were very strong. I had no problem mixing up any of my material, and I didn’t repeat anything from last night’s ‘Welcome Aboard’ show at any time. I felt like I was in command the whole time and the audiences were there for the show. That always helps, and sometimes I don’t feel like that’s true out here on the boats.

I’m starting to feel at least a little more at home here, mainly because the staff and crew of this ship are extremely nice people. They weren’t mean on the other ships I was on, but I feel a bond with these guys for whatever reason. If it’s like this all the time, I’ll be fine.

But it isn’t, and I know that. I could just as easily have three horrific shows tomorrow as not, but even if I do I’ll be fine with it. I know why I’m here, and I’ll use each of the three shows tomorrow to keep shaping my ship persona. I’m throwing in new lines every show and really working on my act for the first time in a long time. It’ll make me a better comic in the long run, and that’s what I’m interested in. I’m not just phoning all these shows in.

There’s still a lot of work to do no matter where I am. The ‘Schlitz Happened’ show has great potential, but it’s hard to promote from a cabin on a cruise ship. I can work on some content, and I will. This week I’ve been working on comedy class lessons for the sessions at Harper College. It might get tough again, but at least one day at sea was picture perfect.

Random Seat Karma

October 24, 2010

Saturday October 23rd, 2010 – New Orleans, LA

Maybe my fortunes are changing for the better after all. My ‘seat karma’ on airplanes or buses has been horrendous over the years. Usually if there’s only one unwashed odiferous funky foreigner on board, there’s only one place he or she will end up – right next to me.

I’ve gotten the morbidly obese, vomiting toddlers, fossilized humanoids from Paleozoic times and of course it’s always on the longest and most unbearable trips. On planes, I’m a magnet for the middle seat, usually between two totally opposite but equally undesirables.

I couldn’t miss the full moon last night as I walked from my car to the house and hoped it wouldn’t carry over until today. It didn’t. I managed to wake up on time for once and be at Jim McHugh’s house right when I said I would. He was up this time and everything we planned came off without a hitch. We made it to the airport and even security was easy.

I knew I had a middle seat I and got on first waiting to see what hand fate would deal on  this particular day. I’ve long given up hoping for the hot women, as that just doesn’t work in my world. Well, not until today. I had THE piping hottest blonde I’ve seen in my entire life come out of nowhere and plop down next to me. I asked her to double check her seat.

She said it was hers alright and I couldn’t believe it. No rings, either. She smelled like a combination of heaven and the Garden of Eden and I quickly reexamined my doubts as to whether there is a supreme being or not. She was so smoking hot I couldn’t concentrate.

Thirty seconds later some guy with a Cleveland Browns throwback jersey started down the aisle, and was particularly loud and a bit obnoxious sounding. He ended up being my flank mate in the window seat, and I thought it would be Heaven and Hell side by side.

Turns out it was exactly the opposite. The guy was really cool his family owns a sports bar in the Dayton, OH area and he was going to New Orleans to see the Browns play the Saints tomorrow. We talked sports the whole way, and it was really fun. Then, to make it almost a Penthouse letter, the hot blondie joined in and turns out was a huge sports fan.

This just doesn’t happen to Mr. Lucky. Maybe I was in the wrong seat, but whatever it was for this one day I enjoyed every minute of this flight. The woman turned out to be an attorney on business in town for a day. I gave her my card and whether it’s already in the New Orleans airport trash or not, sitting next to her and talking sports was pure ecstasy.

The sports guy was great too. He knew I knew my stuff, as did he, and that’s when it’s fun talking sports with a fan of another team. It made the flight go by in a flash, and he’s booked comedy shows in the past so maybe I’ll even get work out of it. I‘d love that too.

Then, on the ship I did the ‘Welcome Aboard’ show and really nailed it. I felt at home up there and didn’t use up any of my best material like I did last week. I’m getting better and I was prepared when I got on stage. So far, so great. Let’s see how this week goes.

Catching A 22

October 23, 2010

Friday October 22nd, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

One more day of freedom before heading back to the high seas. I’m trying to get myself into the mental groove of all that goes with it, but I’m still not there yet. If they called and told me I’d been bumped forever it wouldn’t break my heart in the least, just my wallet.

That’s exactly why I need to keep doing it. It doesn’t hurt to stockpile some cash for the immediate and distant futures, but the real reason is it will make me mentally tougher at a time when I can really use it. Mental toughness to me is thinking clearly in tight situations and reacting correctly. I’ve had to do that quite a bit so far, and I’m sure it will continue.

The whole lifestyle of the ships is quite different than what I’m used to, and nobody can pick everything up in a new situation in the first few times. It takes conditioning, and that takes time. I’m taking a few shots now, and paying my dues just like I had to do when my club life was getting going. That lifestyle was a lot different than what I was used to then.

There are a lot of similarities actually. The money from the clubs was better than what I was making working dead end sales clerk jobs, but I was gone all the time and had to get used to life away from Milwaukee. Ten hour car rides and cheap motels became part of a whole new lifestyle that was quite overwhelming at the time, much like ship life is now.

I eventually learned to master the road life and at times even come to really enjoy it. At the very least I learned to tolerate it enough to keep doing it for years, and it was valuable to have to fall back on when my various radio excursions turned to manure. The comedy life turned out to be ‘stable’, at least for me. That shows you where my life is – shaky.

That’s why it’s so important to stay out there and rake in come decent money. I’ve been one to always do things that are fun, and in many ways I don’t regret that at all, but this is not one of those times. Fudge and ice cream taste great, but sometimes we need medicine.

Having a wad of cash to fall back on will change my whole life for the better. I had a bit of a taste of it when I was at the Loop, and it was wonderful. I wasn’t a miser, and shared a lot of it whenever I could. Still, I had a nice little nest egg socked away and that made a huge difference knowing if I got fired I’d be set for a while. When it happened, I was ok.

There’s always a chance I could be fired from the ships too, but in the very near future it won’t matter in the least. I’ll have had a chance to not only sock a significant wad of cash away, I’ll have used my down time on the ships wisely and have all kinds of other things I can work on marketing. I can write movie scripts, books, jokes or anything else I want.

I need to do exactly that, and I have been. Last week was pretty good in that department. I spent some time organizing and going over next year’s projects and didn’t just waste my time farting around doing nothing as is so easy to do. I took some time each day to read a little, write a little, plan a little and explore a little, which also was good exercise. I didn’t eat like a pig and tried to do it all in moderation. It was fine for a week. Now it’s another.

Besides needing more mental toughness, I also need to conquer my trust issues. I have a very difficult time trusting anyone, and even though there are many examples to back me up of why I shouldn’t, it’s also the exact reason why I need to. It’s the only way to win on a large scale. One man bands don’t make the big time. Even Elvis had Colonel Parker.

Unfortunately, by most accounts Colonel Parker screwed Elvis in many ways. He could have been huge in Europe but apparently the Colonel was an illegal immigrant and didn’t want it to be an issue so he never had Elvis tour over there. Plus, he probably took a much higher commission than what was justified, but Elvis trusted him and they stayed a team.

My own trust issues are a lot deeper than that. If my own mother would abandon me as a five month old baby, how can I trust some Hollywood huckster type to take care of me in my career? I can’t, and I don’t. The few times I have opened up I’ve been torched like a moth in a bug zapper, and it still hurts. Again, that’s exactly why I need to do it correctly.

I know everyone out there is not trying to screw me over. There are partnerships that are very successful, and in a perfect world I’d love to be in several actually. I’ll need several, as I’m interested in different things and no one person can help me in all. I need a team.

One thing I really need is organization and personal management. That’s why I went up to Milwaukee today to meet with Donna Gurda. Donna handled the business affairs of my other friend Tom Green, who was also another Pisces and needed help in the areas I do.

Tom was a fantastic entertainer, but like many he wasn’t interested in the business part as much as he could have been. I’m totally like that, but Donna is absolutely outstanding when it comes to organization and keeping a cool business head. She and Tom were very good as a team, and then Tom unfortunately became ill and passed away. What a shame.

Donna enjoys the business part and we’ve always had a professional relationship so we discussed what we could do as a team to try things out a little. If there’s one person I have as much faith as I can in it’s her. She never ripped Tom off and I know she wouldn’t do it to me either. She’s credible and organized, and neither one of us need this for our living.

This is the correct way to build trust, much like building a credit rating. My own credit is beyond a nightmare, but that’s another story. If I earn enough money, I’ll be able to get that back to a working level too. It all boils down to money, and I need a team go get it.

Donna would be great to work with. I’m already working with Richard Halasz, another comedian who’s promoting some shows. He’s proven himself honest to a fault, and he’s also a hard worker. My friend Shelley has been wonderful with helping with my website. She’s another who’s been in my corner, and there are others I‘m looking at. It’s growing.

Today is October 22nd, and according to numerology principles, it’s a ‘master number’ day. ‘11’ and ‘22’ are master numbers, and whether or not it’s totally true it can’t hurt to be putting all these plans together on a master number day. Now it’s back out to the sea.

Maggot Brain

October 22, 2010

Thursday October 21st, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

The more things I have going, the more it makes me get behind on everything else. I’ve been out on the road and the ships, then teaching classes both at Zanies Comedy Club and Harper College, then up in Milwaukee doing the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show at a couple of venues. That’s all been fun, but now I have laundry to do, calls to return and mail to send.

The old ‘for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction’ adage is true. For every week I’m gone on the road or boats, more dirty laundry piles up. For every class I teach, it takes time away from me making booking calls or just plain hanging out with my friends.

And who the hell has time for daily exercise and diet planning? And don’t even think of having a relationship. How can anyone squeeze everything into one single life? Now I can see why celebrities have such a hard time with keeping their marriage together. It’s rough.

I’m not even close to being a celebrity, though my schedule sure feels like it. I have all kinds of commitments and  places to be, and  I admit I’m the reason for it. I like all kinds of different things so I have all kinds of activities to coincide with them. The result is that my free time is limited, so when I do get some I tend to just let everything else sit and rot.

That’s pretty much what I did today. I had a mountain of  paperwork to sort, and I really didn’t do much of anything other than sit around and listen to music and relax. To me, it’s a day in heaven. I had no place to be other than a dinner date later with a total sweetheart.

I haven’t had a day to really listen to music in a long time, and I loved every single song I played. I have some headphones that sound great and just laid back and let it rip. I enjoy a pretty wide variety of music but today I picked out my very favorite songs of all time.

If I had to pick just one song I could listen to for the rest of eternity, it would have to be the Funkadelic classic “Maggot Brain”. It’s an amazing piece of music, and if you haven’t heard it I can’t really describe it in words. It’s a heavy rock guitar solo that sends chills up my spine every time I hear it. I can’t think of another song I’ve ever heard that’s similar.

Supposedly, George Clinton told master guitarist Eddie Hazel to play a guitar solo as if his mother had just died, and it’s just oozing with emotion and passion and an energy that cut through to the soul of a white boy from Milwaukee. That song just talks to me, even if I’m not sure what it’s saying exactly. I feel the emotion, and I never get sick of hearing it.

There are about a dozen different recordings of it that I know of, a few tried by imitators that fall extremely short. The one I love most is a live version that’s smoking hot and just melts into my psyche whenever I hear it. It’s my #1 favorite song ever, without a doubt.

Supposedly it’s made to be listened to on drugs, but I’ve enjoyed it just fine sober all of these years. I sure enjoyed it again today, and the dinner date was wonderful. I do have to get to some of my piled up work, but for one day I relaxed and enjoyed a little bit of life.

Classes For The Masses

October 21, 2010

Wednesday October 20th, 2010 – Palatine, IL

I know it’s too good to last, but the weather around Chicago today was nothing short of spectacular. It was as pleasant here as any of the cruise ship ports I’ve been to, but I know that’s got to change but quick. I can’t guarantee there won’t be snow by tomorrow night.

I’ll deal with that when I have to. For today, it was enough to just hang out and squeeze every last bit of joy I could out of each individual ray of sunshine I saw. My friend Marc Schultz asked if I wanted to have lunch with him and Chicago ventriloquist Chuck Field.

Chuck is the one who introduced Marc and me years ago and he’s a wonderful person, even though Marc and I tease him constantly about being a ventriloquist. He’s been doing it since he was a kid, and still does it because he enjoys it. What’s wrong with that? Not a thing, and even though he’s in the box business with his brother he still performs often.

Marc Schultz is a person who started out as a booker connection but is now a friend that I see quite often. I met Marc through Chuck Field, another friend who crossed paths when he took my comedy class at Zanies in Vernon Hills, IL many years ago. THAT’S why I’m so passionate about teaching classes – it attracts all kinds of fantastic people into my life.

That’s why I guard the classes the way I do, and am so defensive about those who try to swoop down and make a quick buck by strip mining money and leaving. I resent that very much and I don’t hide it. People like Chuck Field started out as students, but we’ve had a great friendship for going on probably 15 years now. We’ve been able to help each other.

Chuck happens to be Jewish, and quite often there are stereotypes about lots of different types of people – especially Jews in show business. Unfortunately, most are negative and I see no need to drag that up. Chuck is none of those things, and constantly makes it a point to go out of his way to help others before himself. He’s a rock solid person, Jewish or not.

That’s another thing that’s been so great about teaching all these years – I’ve been able to cross paths with just about every kind of person there is. I’ve had young and old, Jew and gentile, gay and straight, male and female, black and white and everything in the middle.

I’ve gotten WAY more out of the classes than I’ve given, and that’s what makes me try to give so much of myself during each session. I don’t want to cheat anyone else just as I wouldn’t want to be cheated if I were taking my own class. It’s the golden rule in motion.

Tonight I started teaching at Harper College in Palatine, IL. It’s part of their continuing education department headed up by a guy named Scott Cashman who radiates on the ball competence upon meeting him. I knew immediately I wanted to be a member of his team.

Scott is putting together a lot of new programs and classes and is a free thinker with an open mind. I can spot it right away because people like him are so rare in any position of authority. Hopefully, his superiors will back off and let him follow his vision. He’s sharp.

Scott really wants this class to work, and I could see he was in my corner by showing up to greet me personally and make sure I had everything under control in my classroom. It’s not often the top dog goes that far out of his way and I totally appreciated it. I felt wanted.

As of last week, we only had four signups. Tonight we had six people show up, and it’s going to be a fun class. Every one of the students is at least over 35, with most being over 40. They’re probably not going to be full time comedians, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun and I can’t teach them something or at least let them live out a lifetime fantasy.

Classes are scheduled from 7-9pm and the time absolutely flew by tonight. I couldn’t be any more excited about this possibility, even though it’s going to be a difficult match with the cruise ship schedule. I told the ships I needed to teach this class, and the booker there is also a sweetheart and she bent the schedule to fit my needs. I hope that will continue.

In the long run, cruise ships aren’t going to make me happy or fulfill anything a whole lot more than a financial foundation. That cab ride in the Bahamas yesterday really gave me the willies, and if I never go back there again I won’t be upset. It’s an income gig.

Classes are much more than that. Not only is it a chance to help others hopefully live a life long dream, it also keeps my head at the very basest level of comedy and keeps me in the game at all times. It makes me think about it 24-7 and ignites any cooled passion that may linger in the bowels of my soul. Seeing students want to learn reinvigorates me too.

Community colleges are a wonderful place to teach classes, and attracts a whole section of the public that would never come to Zanies to take a class there. I started teaching back in 1994 at Cardinal Stritch College in Milwaukee way before I had any idea what to do or how to structure a class. I had a teaching partner who wasn’t a comic and it ended ugly as partnerships can, but all these years later I’m going strong and that person has moved on.

I didn’t have any bad feelings for her personally, but I totally did on a professional level for the simple reason she was not a working comedian. She was many things that I wasn’t including an outstanding mother and cook. She could have taught classes on both of those subjects and been successful, I just didn’t think she was qualified to teach a comedy class.

That’s all in the past now. She’s out of the comedy business and I hope she’s happy and in a good space. Indirectly I have her to thank because she ignited my teaching spark back then and now all these years later I’ve worked it into a red hot class that really kicks ass.

If this project never gets beyond this level, it’s still been a booming success. People like Chuck Field and Scott Cashman and countless others have enriched my life and continue to do so. The classes themselves keep my focus on comedy and my fundamentals in tune.

There are a lot of positives going on in my life right now, and I’m grateful for every one of them. Tonight’s class really re-lit my inner passion for teaching. I really love it and this is a whole new venue to develop. The vibe was very positive all around and I’m excited.