Archive for November, 2010

Less Of A Mess

November 21, 2010

Friday November 19th, 2010 – Cozumel, Mexico

I knew I was getting old and out of shape, but not quite this bad. I’m in major pain, and lots of it. My entire body feels like one big collective bruise, and all I want to do is rot in a tub of Ben Gay for a week until I feel better. At least it’s the good pain though, the kind that signifies the fact I did some actual work. I over did it actually, but at least it’s done.

I really learned my lesson from this experience, and the car wreck with it. I am not even close to living at a level of preparation for any incoming opportunities. My life was mixed up in piles of randomly strewn junk, and the worst case scenario happened and I was in an unfavorable position. I had too much clutter in my life and none of it was in useful order.

That has to stop immediately. I think most people can live with a lot less than they think they can when it comes to physical possessions, and I’m going to set out to prove it right starting now. I never want to be in that position of having to move on short notice and not knowing what was where or why it was there in the first place. I’m on a mission to shrink.

My grandfather, grandmother and father died and each one of them left a gigantic mess for everyone else to clean up. All that did was piss everyone off who had to clean through it, and I don’t want that to be me. When I croak, I want people to say “What? That’s IT?”

A few clothes, a precious few books, some personal trinkets and my computer files. I’m fine with that, and couldn’t be happier to not leave anyone a mess to clean up. We’re all a temporary guest here anyway, and nobody really owns anything. We just use it for a time.

Life is temporary, at least at this level and that’s clearer to me now than ever. I have yet another period of bonus time given to me for whatever reason and I’m going to go for the gusto and make it the very best I possibly can. I should really be dead many times over at this point, but I’m not. Maybe there’s a reason, and maybe it’s just plain old dumb luck.

Whatever the case I’m choosing to keep learning and growing and improving on things I know I need to. If we’re here to learn, this has been an amazing life for me because I’m learning new things on a daily basis. I’m making good decisions that aren’t necessarily an easy one, and that’s something I’m delighted to be able to say. I didn’t take the easy road.

My shows tonight were through the roof once more. I’m on the Carnival Legend and for some reason, the people here really get what I do. I’ve worked here before, and it was fun then. I’m glad I’m back, and actually have quite a bit of work coming up in a few weeks.

If the company wants to make me a regular on this ship, I’m totally fine with it. I feel as if I fit here better than the other ships I’ve worked, and I can feel the people laughing hard here. They get it like the best club crowds, and if ships were all like this I’d never want to leave. I’m getting better at figuring out the audiences as well, but it’s still no guarantee of having every show go well. Sometimes they don’t, but not this week. Everything was the best of all worlds, and I’m going to settle in and let the next chapter of life reveal itself.

My Annual Death Dodge

November 21, 2010

Thursday November 18th, 2010 – Chicago, IL/Belize City, Belize

If there’s a one person operation with a more hectic schedule than mine, I’d sure like to meet that person and compare notes. I’m stretched about as far as I can go, and I’d hire an assistant in a second if I knew who to ask. Right now, I don’t have time to think about it.

I’m still amazed I didn’t die in that car wreck early this morning. How many times have I been in this situation before? Too many to count, but more than thrice. It’s always in the wee hours in an oddball location, but that’s where my life’s path quite often takes me.

What I can’t figure out is why it keeps happening. Am I supposed to learn some crucial life lesson I keep missing? If so, I hope I get it soon so I can stop having to deal with this on such a regular basis. This is three in the last two years, and they’re not even my fault.

Still, it’s borderline miraculous I’ve been able to walk away from each of them without a single scratch. Nothing. I had some sore ribs from the last one but that was an especially nasty direct hit to the rear end from the other car going about 60 miles an hour. No biggie to have some sore ribs. I’m lucky I had any ribs left at all. That one really dodged a bullet.

This one did too though. I was driving down Highway 12 in Wauconda, IL and that’s an empty stretch of road. I know it well because it’s on the way to Jerry Agar’s house so I’ve driven that way quite often. There were very few cars out at 4am, and I was beat from my two day moving marathon. All I wanted to do was get to Jim McHugh’s house by 4:45.

I was passing through one of the few traffic signals which was a solid green when I saw headlights coming pretty fast from my right side. It caught me by surprise but sure enough the vehicle came right through the red light and I swerved out of instinct to avoid a crash.

My car fish tailed out of control and slid into the ditch and kept sliding into some brush and trees like a pinball machine. I was totally calm for some reason like I’ve always been during each one of these incidents over the years. It’s like I’m about to check out and I’ve made my peace with the universe. There was no panic, I was just observing all the action.

The panic set in when I discovered I’d lived through it. I absolutely HAD to make sure I made it to the airport in time to catch my flight, even if I had to call a cab. I got out to see the damage and saw I took out the whole rear end. The trunk was full of one final moving load but much of that was strewn about in the woods. I wouldn’t have time to retrieve it.

The car was still running and amazingly it was still functional. This should be a great ad for Toyota, and if they want to make me their designated spokes-wrecker, I’ll gladly do it. I’ve already walked away from wrecking three in two years, what more do I have to do?

I was stuck in that ditch pretty good, but years of winter driving have taught me how to rock a car back and forth to get momentum going so that’s what I did. After a few stabs at it I was able to get it out of the gully and onto the side road and I was on my way again.

My tail lights were torn off, and I can’t believe I didn’t get stopped by anyone until I got to Jim’s house. I thought for sure I’d have to get a tow and go through all that hassle, but I didn’t. It was empty the rest of the way and I pulled up to Jim’s house a few minutes early even. Needless to say, he was as shocked as I was when I told him about what happened.

This ruined the whole reason why I brought the car over in the first place. Jim is a really great friend, but it’s also a win/win because sometimes he’s short a car and can use mine to run errands if he needs to. That won’t happen this time, and now it’s just a big hassle.

I didn’t have time to worry about that as I had to get to my flight. I flew from O’Hare to Houston, and then on to Belize City, Belize. I had middle seats on both flights and it’s not as easy to sleep in those, so basically I stayed awake even though I was beyond exhausted.

I’d never been to Belize City before but it makes Gary, IN look like Beverly Hills. It’s a long cab ride to the ship from the airport and as we got into the city I saw how lucky I am, even though I’m living like a bug in America. I’ll take my lifestyle over theirs every time.

After the cab ride I had to take a ferry boat to the ship. That’s usually not a problem but on a day like this when everything was going in every direction, I just wanted to get there and get some sleep. I could feel my whole body ache from the move, and my stress level was rising the longer I went without sleep. Everyone has limits, and I reached mine today.

We finally arrived and I checked in with the ship and discovered we had shows tonight. In the past, they’ve usually not made us work on a travel day. Not today. I was scheduled for two shows, and funny was the last thing on my mind after these last few hectic days.

My show was at 8:30 but I went down for the 7:30 show to introduce myself and let the manager know I was there. Also, I didn’t trust myself to not fall asleep and miss my show entirely. I took a long hot shower to try and wake up a little and then showed up at work.

The other comic this week is a guy named Happy Cole. What a great name. He’s one of the top acts in the company from what I’ve heard, and I can see why from seeing his show tonight. The guy is velvety smooth, and has crafted some well written material concerning life on the ship. He’s a veteran and a pro and I respect his position. He‘s totally earned it.

Plus, he’s a big sports fan. That’s always a big green light with me. If someone can talk sports, we’ll usually get along fine. When I worked with Tim Allen years ago, that’s what kept us talking for most of the night back stage. It removes all barriers, and two true fans of sports can usually find something to talk about all night. Happy and I will get along.

Unfortunately, tonight wasn’t the night I was looking to hang with anyone. I was out of gas and ready to sleep for a week, but I had to do my shows. Ugh. That’s how the luck of the draw came out this time, so I didn’t complain. I went up and had a very good show at 8:30, but the 10:30 was a red hot killer – probably the best set I’ve done on a ship to date. I had no idea why it went so well, and the people had no idea how truly exhausted I was.

Stressed With The Best

November 19, 2010

Wednesday November 17th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

Nothing adds stress and pressure to life quite like having a strict time deadline added to an already unpleasant task. I felt the gun to my head all day as I cleared all of my worldly belongings out of where I’ve lived the last two and a half years. The more boxes I moved, the more that seemed to appear. It felt like Jesus’s loaves and fishes miracle in reverse.

Nobody realizes just how much junk is accumulated until moving time. I knew I’d let a few things add up, but not like this. It seemed as though I was a one man Sanford and Son junk removal service as I packed every trinket, bauble and ‘collectible’ I had to my name.

Thankfully I was able to move the bulk of my sports cards out recently or this probably would have been my last day on Earth. I couldn’t have handled lifting all those big heavy boxes up the stairs, into the car, out of the car and into the storage shed like I did with all the others I did today. I never like to ask anyone to help me move because it’s unpleasant.

I don’t like to do it, so why should I expose my friends to that torture? I always figured it was my stuff, and I should be responsible for moving it. This time was worse, as I really wasn’t prepared or packed with any kind of order. I had a time limit drop out of nowhere and had to be out in two days. Even if people did show up, I wouldn’t have been ready.

This has been one of the most grueling tasks I can ever remember having to do. I got up at 5am yesterday and worked solid until 1:30am this morning. Then I was back up at 4:30 because I couldn’t sleep worrying I wouldn’t be out on time. I drove to the Country Inn in Gurnee, IL to check my email, as I needed to get my airline information for my next trip.

It was one stressful thing after the other as I ran around doing errands between filling up my storage unit, which could have been packed a lot more efficiently had I had some time to do it. It was very symbolic of life in a way, having to rush through with limited options and make due. If circumstances were different, results would be different. But they’re not.

I could feel my energy and whatever exuberance I had at the start drain out of me as my legs and back began to throb with soreness every time I lifted a halfway heavy box. It was the ultimate workout that lasted TWO FULL DAYS. Let’s see Richard Simmons or Billy Blanks match that one. I should come out with a new video “Sweatin’ To The Deadline”.

Finally, after full day and a half of busting my ass physically like I can’t remember ever doing, my friend Shelly came over with a pickup truck I never knew her and her husband had. I never like to bother people, but Shelly is the greatest. Like me, she’s a helper and it shows. Sometimes that’s a bad thing because people take advantage, but that’s how it is.

I never want to take advantage of anyone, but especially people like Shelly. She showed up with the truck and we packed the little bit of furniture I do have, which consists of one table and a small cabinet with drawers to keep important papers, and moved it to the shed. We piled as much other stuff as we could around it and that’s where it will sit for a while.

Shelly also handles my website and co-hosts The Mothership Connection radio show on WLIP. Now that I’m gone for a few months, she and the rest of the panel have kept going and I couldn’t be happier about it. That show is fun and deserves to be on the air, but I’m not able to turn down the money from the ships so Shelly helps keep that going as well.

I’m totally grateful for all she’s done and all anyone else has done too, but something in my deep down psyche still has trouble trusting anyone. I don’t think Shelly is going to do anything to screw me over, but it’s happened so often in the past I can’t help but worry.

Today there was no time for worry or anything else but getting everything out of where I was staying. The other people were already out and this was my last chance. To make it even more of a challenge, I had a class to teach at Harper College by 7pm. That was THE last thing I wanted to do, but I made the commitment and wasn’t going to back out of it.

I also found a new situation to live which was a lot like my old one. The sister in law of the woman I originally made the deal with to rent from also has a house with a furnished basement not far away. She offered the same deal with the same rent, and I had to take it.

Do I want to live in basements the rest of my life? Of course not, but like where I was it isn’t horrible at all and there are a lot of upsides. I won’t have a lease, just like I didn’t all the time I stayed where I was. Yes, it ended a little inconveniently but nobody is angry at each other. We’re still friends and we helped each other out along the way. That’s good.

This situation should be very similar, and if it isn’t I can move out at any time. My rent will help her out and it’s a win/win. My future is so uncertain that it wouldn’t have been a smart thing to sign a lease anywhere, and I’m glad I didn’t have to. This is fine for now.

I can guarantee one thing though, the next time I move it will NOT be the stressful two day marathon of torture this one was. I will begin purging myself of any and all physical possessions as soon as I get the chance. My mind set has changed dramatically, and I am not interested in acquiring physical possessions. This planet isn’t my true home anyway.

I don’t know where that is, but I know I don’t need to be hauling most of the junk that’s in the storage area there. I’m going to weed out as much as I can, and travel light the rest of my life. If I really want a book or movie or CD, chances are I can find it pretty easily.

The class went very well at Harper College, but after that I still had work to do. I had a couple more loads to haul to the new place, and I was on a strict time schedule now. My flight was leaving at 5:30am and I couldn’t miss it for anything. Well I could, but I didn’t want to. If I missed the flight due to my error I’d likely be fired. I don’t want to find out.

On my way to the airport, some goofus ran a red light way out in the suburbs and I did not see it coming until it was too late. I swerved to miss him and slid into the ditch next to the highway and tore up the entire back end of my car which was filled with one final load of my stuff. I managed to get myself out, but now I’m going to need a car. Again.

Two Days Or Else

November 19, 2010

Tuesday November 16th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

Just once it would be refreshing to finally get something in reality the exact way I had it first pictured in my mind’s eye. There always seems to be a glitch or a catch, and I’m sick of it. However, those are the situations that can make the funniest of brutally cruel jokes.

It’s like the guy who wants to lose 20 pounds, then gets his left leg cut off in a combine. Pounds gone, but not how he pictured. Another one is the guy with the shriveled arm who goes to Jesus and says “Lord, make my arm like the other.” And the other one shrivels up.

There is a cruelty aspect to this world that can be funny as hell…but only if it isn’t you who stands in that path of destruction. I remember how my father used to dish out verbal abuse that could be absolutely hilarious when it was aimed at someone else, but when the wheel of insults came full circle (and it always did) it wasn’t nearly as funny anymore.

I’ve been saying for months how I intend to “purge my life of a good portion of worldly possessions and live more efficiently” and I really meant it. I’ve done it before and it feels really good to both clean out clutter and donate merchandise to a charity who can use it to help those who really need it. What I didn’t intend, was to have to get it done in two days.

That’s where I am though, like it or not. I had zero choice in the matter. I need to be out of my living quarters by tomorrow evening as I’m leaving for Belize and two solid weeks working on cruise ships. The people I rented from are already out, only my stuff remains.

I dragged myself out of bed at 5am on the dot to hopefully squeeze every single second  out of every single minute I could, as I was on the tightest time schedule I’ve been on in a long time. I absolutely HAVE to be out by tomorrow, no excuses. This is the part of being an adult kids can never understand. Everyone has to shut up and do stuff, at least at times.

Today was my time. I found a storage unit in Antioch, IL, 6.1 miles away on a map, but a whole lot farther in time because Highway 83 is under major construction. I got stuck at least four times in a one lane only nightmare, but what else could I do but wait it all out?

I packed the storage spot with as much as I could humanly fit in it, but none of it was in any kind of real order. I had boxes and boxes of books, and more boxes and boxes of a lot of other junk that will eventually be out of my life forever. Some was valuable, at least to me, but a lot was just pure old fashioned junk that needs to be taken away and destroyed.

No time for sorting though. Not today. I needed to get it all out of the house and into the storage bin and I’ll worry about it later. Actually, I won’t worry at all. If it burns or rots or even gets stolen, my life won’t end. Still, this is my stuff and I want to sort it when I can.

Even if I give away most of the books, I want to make sure the right people get them. It wouldn’t feel right to just toss it all out and start over, even though looking at the piles of unorganized junk laying everywhere that sounds like a really good idea. That or a big fire.

Airport Agony

November 17, 2010

Monday November 15th, 2010 – Miami, FL/Chicago, IL

Welcome to the downside of traveling for a living. I couldn’t catch a break today with a magnet or a fishing hook, and today was a day I could have really used one. For whatever reason, nothing went the way it was supposed to and I had to waste a whole day waiting.

Flights from Miami to Chicago must have been at a premium today, because I couldn’t  get on an earlier one than the one I had a ticket for at 7:25pm. I don’t usually get one that late when I’m already in Miami, and they let us off the ship by 11am. That’s a long wait.

All I did today was wait, and anyone who knows me knows all too well that patience is just not one of the outstanding virtues in my repertoire. Quite the opposite. It’s a big time torture that someday may cause a massive stroke and I’ll die in a self made puddle of goo.

Halfway through today, I wished for my own death, but it didn’t come. There must be a few more sins from past lives I still need to burn off the karma for, so all I could do was a whole lot of nothing. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I had to do it in the Miami airport, a place I’m not fond of at all. English is a second language there, and the layout is horrible.

It was difficult enough to even get there in the first place. Usually there’s a crew shuttle that takes us there for a low price. Not today, and I have no idea why. I ended up taking a cab driven by some militant Haitian who wanted to start a revolution in America himself.

When I got to the airport, I was too early to check in for my flight so I had to wait in the check in area for three full hours with nothing to do, and nobody to talk to. Ugh. I tried to get some sleep but those chairs are hard enough to sit in for three hours much less sleep.

Finally, I was able to check in and I had to go through my favorite hobby – security. The crew was especially amped up today and were digging through luggage like kids looking for Easter eggs on the White House lawn. I shut my mouth and took my turn in the game.

Putting my luggage and clothing back together killed a few minutes, so that was a good thing, but now I had five hours to kill before my flight. I went to the gate and tried to get a spot on an earlier flight but was greeted with an icy cold rude rejection in broken English, which I thought was funny coming from someone who works for AMERICAN Airlines.

I tried reading, working, doing a crossword puzzle, sleeping, but nothing made the time go any faster. I had to wait, and that was it. Then, to cap the whole day off with a big dose of stress, they changed the gate number for the flight and I had to rush at top speed all the way across the airport to barely make my flight. This may be funny soon, but not today.

Then, we ended up sitting on the runway for over an hour and nobody told us why. That put everyone in a bad mood, not just me. People were missing connecting flights and they weren’t thrilled about it, and the flight attendants had that stress to deal with. This all puts me in a wonderful mood as I now have to move everything I own over the next two days.

Shaking About Moving

November 15, 2010

Sunday November 14th, 2010 – Somewhere At Sea

The second to last thing I wanted to have to do this week after receiving rectal surgery without anesthesia from a blind witch doctor with boney knuckles and a bad hangnail is having to move. I’ve learned to loathe moving, only because I’ve had to do it so much.

I lost count of how many times I’ve moved about six times ago, even though I’m really not interested in knowing the exact number. Suffice to say it’s been a crap load, and that’s way too much. Stability as I get older would be great, but I have no way to predict if that will ever happen. Life keeps dealing cards and I keep playing them the best way I can.

The mistake I keep making is allowing myself to keep acquiring physical clutter, which is always becomes a hassle when it comes time to move again. Most of it is books, which are very heavy when they’re put into boxes. One or two at a time are fine, but then I get a back log and it’s a major deal to move everything. That’s where I am now, and I dread it.

Even if I end up getting rid of most of them, I’m still going to have to haul them away a box at a time. Do I put them into storage and fool myself into believing I’ll read them all, or do I take them to the used book store where I’ll get pennies on the dollar for a return?

Most of them I got cheap enough or even given to me, but that’s not the point. I like to be able to have a choice of what to read, and on a given day I may want to look through a book I haven’t seen in a while. Too bad I guess, I’ll have to pick the ones I really want to keep and let the rest go. I haven’t even sorted through them all yet, but now it’s that time.

The cosmos isn’t aligning to help me very much either. I get in very late tomorrow, and that blows any chance of getting a head start on anything. I won’t get home until midnight by the time I get my car back from Marc Schultz’s house and I’ll be beat when I do get in.

Tuesday I’ll go through everything I have and decide what I’m going to keep. I’ll get rid of the rest, however I’m going to do it. I’ll donate some to Goodwill, throw some out, any friends that want to come over will be able to pick through what they might want and then I’ll find a storage place. I’ll pile all of what I’m keeping in the garage, and move it on out.

Wednesday I’ll rent a small truck or van, and decide where it all goes. Hopefully I’ll get it all done without throwing my back out or popping a hamstring, and then I have the final comedy class session to teach at Harper College. I really enjoyed the class, but it’s hard to squeeze into my schedule with the ships. I don’t want to give anyone less than my best.

Once again, everything in life is up in the air even farther than usual. Whatever kind of order or system my life may have had living where I was is now over. I need to settle into another place and do it all over again. I wish I had more time to work it out, but I don’t.

Maybe this time I’ll learn my lesson and finally not keep saving so much junk. At least I got rid of my sports cards earlier this year. That would have made this a bigger nightmare.

A Shrinking Universe

November 14, 2010

Saturday November 13th, 2010 – Cozumel, Mexico

My world is shrinking, and I like it. I’m finally starting to enjoy the benefits of life on a cruise ship, and it’s about time. I’ve taken my lumps for months, but for some reason this was the day I finally started to feel comfortable with the lifestyle. I’m no longer a rookie.

Seeing friendly faces and being back to familiar places helps a lot. This week I’m on the Carnival Destiny, and I was just here two weeks ago and it went well. I happen to like the staff here a whole lot, even though I don’t dislike any of the others. I just feel like this one and I hit it off particularly well. The comedy club manager James and I have met before.

We worked a few months ago on the Carnival Legend, another ship I really like, and I’ll be back there again very soon too. James is a distinguished Brit who does a splendiferous job hosting the shows and just sets a positive tone all around. I love working with the guy, and we were both pleasantly surprised to cross paths again out here on a brand new ship.

That was two weeks ago. Now it’s like we’re old time sea vets. I’m also working with a really super comedian named Will Marfori. We’ve also worked together before and had a very good week hanging out. He also has a Late Late Show with Craig Fergsuon credit to his name and is very smart and funny on stage and off. I was glad to see him again also.

We had a night off from performing and our port today was Cozumel, Mexico. I’ve now been to Cozumel at least a half dozen times, and am getting to know my way around quite well. Before this year, I couldn’t have found it on a map. I’d heard of it, but just barely.

Now I feel like it’s just another town. I even find myself saying “Gracias senor” without thinking twice. For a cheese head from Milwaukee, that’s a big step. I suppose I could try to get by with “Ya hey dere,” but it would probably take a lot longer to get what I want.

Will and I had a blast hanging out today. We took a cab downtown and ate a spectacular authentic Mexican lunch at a place he knew of. The name escapes me, but I will definitely be back again. We had Azteca soup which I’d never had before, and I had a lobster kabob which I would have committed at least a misdemeanor to sample. It was world class grub.

Then, we walked our meals off and eventually stopped at a cantina with multiple TVs to watch some college football. We took our seats at the bar and I couldn’t help noticing the green and gold decoration motif behind it. It was a Packer bar! I knew we’d chosen well.

The whole day’s experience was really fun. The weather was perfect, with a little bit of cloud cover to keep the sun from being too hot. It wasn’t crowded either, and we felt like we had the town to ourselves. In a way we did, and we both enjoyed our day off of work.

There’s an upside and downside to everything, and I’m not saying I won’t experience a lot more negatives, but for at least a day it felt like I knew what I was doing, where I was going, and who I was going there with. We had great food and perfect weather as well.

I’m glad I was able to last at least this long out here so I’d have a few positive stories to tell. The negative ones are probably funnier to those who hear them, but for me I can now have a couple of positive memories to balance this whole experience out in my psyche.

Losing my luggage for a week was a real pisser. That whole experience made me think very seriously about quitting, but today’s experience made me glad I didn’t. At least at the end of everything, I’ll be able to look back and say I stayed with comedy and gave my all.

If you’d have told me even a year ago I’d be hanging out in Cozumel, Mexico for a day and feeling comfortable about it, I’d have thought you were crazy. It sounds like an exotic far away place I’d never have a reason to go to, but now I look forward to returning soon.

My world has always been shrinking, all the way back to childhood. I remember hearing my grandparents tell me I wasn’t supposed to ride my bike any farther than our side of the block. That was all I needed to hear. I couldn’t wait to ride around the block just to see all the adventurous things that were out there. It was only houses, but I had to see for myself.

Then, I was only allowed to stay on our block. Sorry. Couldn’t do that either. It kept on growing through my whole life. I took a city bus to school in sixth grade, and I remember being told to “Only take the route you know.” Were they kidding? I couldn’t do that, even if I wanted to. There’s just something in me that has always needed to go out and explore.

When I started doing comedy in Milwaukee, it wasn’t long before I had to check out the scene in Chicago. It was only 90 miles away, but to me seemed like a new world. I didn’t have a reliable car (what’s new) so I remember hitch hiking at times, taking a bus several others, and however else I could get myself down there. I had to get out and experience it.

Then, I started going on the road as a comedian and I always made it a point to take gigs as far away from Milwaukee as I could get. I wanted to see the country, and that I did. It’s been a lifetime obsession, but in recent years I’ve found myself losing that burning desire to have to always be gone. Traveling also takes a toll. It’s WORK, and requires energy.

I made it a point to see as much of North America as humanly possible, but it took a full quarter century to do it. There are scant few places in the lower 48 United States that I’ve not seen with my own eyes, and it’s been both an adventure and an education. I know that most people never get the chance to do what I did, mainly because they didn’t choose to.

I’d love to visit every nation on Earth if I could, just to see it all with my own eyes. I’ve still got the spark of that little kid on the bike that wasn’t supposed to leave my block. If I get the chance to see the world, I know I’ll take it. Today was Cozumel. So far, so good.

Eventually, I want cities and states to become nations and continents. After that, planets and galaxies would be fantastic. If there is life after death, I hope this is my last stop here on Earth. I’ll see as much of it as I can on this trip, but I want to get out there and soak up the real hotspots. Alpha Centauri? Zeta Reticuli? I hope the mother ship has a seat for me.

Comedy Chiropractice

November 9, 2010

Monday November 8th, 2010 – Headed back to Charleston, SC

Almost done with this cruise, and I’m delighted to be going home tomorrow. I’ll have a single day to sort through every worldly trinket and bauble I own and decide what to keep and what to toss, then it’s back out on Thursday for another week on another ship leaving from another port town, working with an entirely new staff. This is a big endurance test.

I’ll put in another week like this, then it’s back for two days, then I’m really going to be out there for an extended stretch of a couple of weeks with no days home. I didn’t look at my schedule, but I know it’s jammed. I’ll have to either live with it or jump off the ship.

I think I’ll be ok. Even though I had a little bout with homesickness yesterday, this was a pretty good week. Like last week, the shows were good and the other comic was nice to work with. Those are both big, but the highlight by far is all the quality work I finished.

This was without a doubt the most productive week to date off stage. I worked for hours on several of my projects, but the best was the restructure of my entire comedy show. I’ve been meaning to attack it for years, but this week I totally did. I plowed through hundreds of pages of unorganized jumbled up notes and pared them down to a workable 135 pages.

Then, I went through those and extracted the cream of the crop best ideas and jokes and organized them into ten topic categories in a workable order so I can start adding it to the mix of what I’m doing now. I’ve NEVER been this organized in my life as far as comedy goes, and I can already feel it was worth it even this far. This will help me exponentially.

I’m also thrilled about planting the seeds for the three five minute television appearance sets. I know I wasn’t ready when I did my Craig Ferguson shot, and one appearance does not a career make. I’ll develop these sets and be ultra ready when a chance comes my way again. I heard Jerry Seinfeld did his Tonight Show debut set 80 times, and I can see why.

A set for television should be baby’s butt smooth and razor sharp. I have a chance to get more than one set ready to go, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I know one set is a big enough challenge, but I’m required to do different sets on the ships so I can work with two at a time and have another as an alternate. Before long, I know I’ll get them polished.

Things like this take a lot of the boredom out of this whole grind. I was feeling a bit off yesterday, but putting in six solid work hours today and looking at all I’ve managed to get done this week really reinvigorated me before I went on stage. I had fun, and didn’t worry if the audience liked me or not. I’ve got a bigger picture in my sights that they can’t see.

The first two shows tonight were really fun. The room was full, and they laughed where the were supposed to. They actually laughed so hard, I wasn’t able to get to quite a few of the bits I was intending to get to and that always makes it easier. I closed exactly on time, and that always makes the club manager happy. The late show was light, but it’s the final night of the cruise and people are tired. I get that. So did the manager. Time to go home.

I Miss Milwaukee?

November 8, 2010

Sunday November 7th, 2010 – Nassau, Bahamas

I am SO ready to go home. I know I should be loving every minute of being in a tropical  climate just when it’s starting to get cold back home, but that isn’t the point. In the past, it was all of what my life was about – pleasing myself. Everything was about me, and trying to find myself. I didn’t see that then, but it’s crystal clear now. Comedy was my identity.

All I cared about was getting on stage and hearing those laughs. I wanted to see any new place I could, thinking maybe it might be better than where I came from. I was attempting to fill a major hole I didn’t realize was there until years later. No matter how many places I could have seen or achievements in comedy I could have made, it wouldn’t have helped.

The dents in my can weren’t able to be pounded out by the things I was chasing, and it’s a common mistake almost all entertainers make. They think fame and fortune or whatever their definition of success is will heal the hurts in the deepest part of their souls. Not true.

I can really feel myself growing and improving as a person in the last few years, and my needs and wants are changing completely. Yes, I want to be financially set but not for the same reasons as I used to. I used to joke about sticking it to those I can’t stand, and it was fun to think about it but now I couldn’t care less about the people I don’t like. Who cares?

There aren’t all that many of them anyway. Those few wank poles aren’t worth my time or energy to even mention their names. What I do want more than ever is to give to others that can really use it. I can’t cure hunger or poverty on a large scale, but if I can do a bit of good for those in my immediate circle – THAT’S what life is all about. It’s not about me.

I know that’s corny and sappy and I don’t deny I’m a cornball. But I’m dead on serious when I say I feel like a total loser because of how little I’ve contributed to the good of the lives of others. I feel like I’ve tried to do good things, but looking back at the uneven path I’ve left as I’ve stumbled through life it embarrasses me to see how little I’ve done at all.

I’ve been so busy trying to struggle through one problem after another, I haven’t had the time to build a life for myself. It’s just been an existence, and I can feel whatever little bit of a thrill there might have been from that wear off quickly. I’ve seen a lot of places and it was a lot of fun to do it in my 20s when I could enjoy it. Now, I sit here drifting. Literally.

I’m on a ship drifting through the Caribbean, holed up in a tiny cabin like a zoo animal. I’m getting paid for shows at night, and working on my future during the day. That’s nice, but today I just hit a wall. I got off the ship in Nassau, Bahamas and Just June and I went sight seeing around town. She’s been here before and was a knowledgeable tour guide.

There’s a spectacular resort called The Atlantis where there’s a comedy club that’s been around for twenty years. I had no idea it was even there, so that further proves how out of touch I am. We walked around and had a delicious lunch of conch salad and conch fritters and a fried fish that came with the head still attached, but it was delicious beyond words.

Moments like this are what the road is all about. I’ve had countless delicious meals like this in countless places all across North America, and I’m grateful for every bite of every one of them. BUT, there comes a time when that doesn’t make up for other missing parts.

So many comedians try to patch that hole with drugs and alcohol. I sure am glad I never went down that path. I’d really be miserable. Unfortunately, comedy isn’t it either. It’s my craft and has allowed me to see a lot of places, but it’s not the end all and be all anymore.

I never thought I’d say that, but it’s totally true. It doesn’t mean I don’t still love to be a comedian, because I do. I just know now that whatever I was seeking for so many years of looking for it wasn’t ever going to be found doing what I was doing. I was chasing wind.

So what is important? Family and friends. Period. Relationships with quality people in a situation where both parties grow in a positive way. Yes, we all need money and material things to survive, but the true thing in life that really makes it worth living is to belong to a family of some sort. It doesn’t have to be a blood family, although I think it would help.

I saw a bunch of people from the boat walking around Nassau today in clumps, cameras in hand taking pictures of each other next to interesting sights. I could feel their closeness, and it made me wish I could have that. Whatever went wrong in my own family is an ugly mess, and at this point it seems so pointless and unnecessary. But, it’s still where it sits.

It would be really great to patch things up with my siblings, but the harder I’ve tried the worse that’s gone. I can’t say I’m sorry any more, and I meant it. Now it’s on them, and it doesn’t seem to mean anything like it does to me. I can’t control how others feel about the same things I do, but it blows my mind how insane this all is. Why is life such a mystery?

None of this has anything to do with comedy, but then it totally does. I hope people like Richard Pryor and Rodney Dangerfield and Sam Kinison found happiness before they all passed away. They were dented cans too, and their comedy reached the masses a lot more than mine has. They were all smart and I’m sure had a lot of the same thoughts I do now.

I think it’s much more important to work on the inner self as life goes on. I don’t care if I never play the Hollywood game, that won’t insure happiness. I want to have a place I’m able to call home, surrounded with people who might even (gasp) love me. That’s so odd to say, because I don’t think I even know what love is. I sure haven’t felt it from a family.

This is the cruel part of being a dented can. It’s like an engine trying to run without any oil. Love is the oil that makes the engine of life run smoothly, and my dipstick shows I’m several quarts low. No matter how good that fish tasted today, this isn’t where I’ll find it.

It sounds even odder, but I really want to go home to Milwaukee and make a real entity out of the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ play and be a part of the community. It will always be my home town, and running from that won’t prove anything. I want to help others, but I also want to help myself. I want a family and be able to spend quality time being with them.

Three Seeds Planted

November 7, 2010

Saturday November 6th, 2010 – Freeport, Bahamas

Why it’s taken this long for me to even start doing smart things is beyond me. But I am. Has it been a case of outright flaming stupidity? Overt laziness? Preoccupation with many trivial distractions? Maybe it’s a combination of all that, but I’m finally getting it in gear.

Today was extremely productive. I went through my entire compilation of notes for new material ideas and extracted the ideas I like best and divided them into three potential five minute sets for future television appearances. As I did it, I knew it had been long overdue.

Some of the ideas are self contained jokes ready to start polishing, and others are topics I want to delve into further and shape into jokes. I hand picked the ingredients I wanted to use, and it’s up to me to flesh it all out into three workable sets. I know I can achieve that.

It becomes a matter of memorization and having the confidence to trot it out on stage on a nightly basis. In a perfect world, I’d open with one of the sets every show to establish an identity of being Mr. Lucky, which I really don’t do as well as I could. I should be able to pull off a whole headline set from start to finish and leave zero doubt as to my identity.

In the old days, comedians would start from scratch and develop a forty-five minute set of material until they thought it was finished, then they’d record it. The recording was the finished product, then they’d retire that material and start all over from zilch. It’s kind of similar to what I’m doing, but on a much smaller scale. I‘m not going to totally start over.

Maybe I’ll do that eventually, but for now I’ll do it one step at a time. If I can have three five minute chunks of television ready material available in the next six months to a year, I’ll be ahead of almost everyone else working. Most people aren’t working on one set for television. I’ll have three. I have to switch material anyway, so why not have a purpose?

The other comedian I’m working with is a lady who bills herself as ‘Just June’. What an amazing lady she is. I’d heard her name forever, and like me she’s been on the road since the mid ’80s boom years. She’s got a unique style and audiences absolutely LOVE her.

She’s barely five feet tall and maybe 100 lbs, but she casts a huge shadow on that stage. I haven’t seen a charismatic performer like that in a long time. She’s new to the ships as a performer, but she said she was a cruiser for years and has found her home. Good for her.

We hit it off immediately, probably because both of us don‘t tolerate B.S. at all. I could feel it when I met her and she told me she liked me right away too. Some comedians have apparently spoken ill of June’s style, because it’s not traditional. It isn’t, but her ability to get an audience to fall in love with her is what makes her great. She’s earned her stripes.

We hung out for a late breakfast and ended up talking comedy for about four hours until it was time for lunch. We’re about as polar opposite as two people can get, but we’re both lifer comedians so that’s what brought us together. I bet we‘ll be friends for a long time.