Archive for December, 2010

The Old Switcheroo

December 31, 2010

Thursday December 30th, 2010 – Belize City, Belize

The old switcheroo. Today I signed off one ship and got right back on another, and it’s all starting to blend together and look the same. I don’t know what day it is, what port it is or what ship I’m on – and I don’t even drink. Keeping track of everything is impossible.

Belize is different from other places like Grand Cayman or Cozumel in that ships can’t pull right up to a dock. The water is very shallow so they have to drop anchor out a ways and we take tender boats back and forth. It’s about a fifteen minute ride depending on the person operating the tender boat, and they come in various sizes and can ride quite rough.

Today the guy had ants in his pants and had his boat on full blast the whole way over to Belize and I thought we were going to flip the damn thing over. It wasn’t a big boat at all, and the way he had it cranked up I thought for sure we were all going to perish violently.

Getting back and forth to work shouldn’t involve fear and the administering of last rites. We must have made it in what seemed like world record time, and I was glad to have the chance to be able to walk away in one piece. The ‘captain’ had a couple of gold teeth and some long dreadlocks, and nobody ever asked to see his license or operating credentials.

I got off that tender boat and had to go to the customs office and drop off my paperwork and then get right back on another one to get to my new ship which was anchored not that far from the one I got off. There were also other cruise ships from other lines there, and it looked like a used ship lot. I arrived on my new ship, signed in and headed for my cabin.

As soon as I opened the door I knew I had just been here a couple of weeks ago. There’s a desk with an office chair that’s as uncomfortable as I’ve ever sat in. Also, there are a set of bunk beds and I can’t sit up in the bottom without smashing my coconut hard on top.

Also, the cable TV setup is slightly different on this ship. Here I happen to get the CNN Headline News Channel and TCM and it makes a huge difference. Sometimes it feels like I lose track with home, and having CNN keeps me informed. Plus, they have one hot babe after another from Robin Meade to Susan Hendricks to Virginia Cha to make it palatable.

If I’m going to have to hear about death and destruction, I’d rather hear it from a red hot mama than some Wolf Blitzer wannabe in a cheap suit. Those women are spectacular and I wonder where they find them all? There have to be SOME ugly ones in anchor school.

We didn’t have any shows tonight, and I was kind of surprised. Tomorrow will be a big night for New Year’s Eve, and then we work the following night also. I’m working with a guy named Hal ‘Chickie’ Spear I met years ago in L.A. at the Gene Perret Round Table.

Hal is a long time veteran and has written on staff for Arsenio Hall, Howie Mandel and a whole lot more. He’s a comedy lifer, and we hit it off great. I’ll learn from him and it’s good to reconnect. He’s been on the ships for a few years now. This will be a good week.

Seafood Heaven

December 30, 2010

Wednesday December 29th, 2010 – Roatan, Honduras

Quite often I’ll work way harder on my days off than I do when I’m actually working. I did exactly that today, but still found time to have some fun in the sun. The weather here in Honduras is picture perfect, and with everyone stuck in snow back home, I savored it.

Nothing stimulates high quality creative thinking like a brisk walk in the sunshine while  my skull bakes the kinks and glitches out of my schemes. The blood pumps and the sweat flows, and I’m free to let my imagination wander to Uranus and beyond. It‘s invigorating.

Today was the first time I did any wandering at this port. There’s a fantastic beach here, even though I’m not a huge beach person. It’s stunning to look at from above, and there’s a ski lift sky glider type ride that ship employees get to ride for free so that‘s what I did.

It couldn’t have been a better day to do it. The scenery was spectacular, and I sat back to relax and let the ideas flow. I’ve got all kinds of irons in all kinds of fires, but the biggest thing I need is organization. If I don’t get myself a plan of action, none of it will ever fly.

That’s not good or bad, it just is. I’ve spent years farting around with all kinds of things that have been all over the board. If I keep doing what I’ve been doing, I’ll eventually run out of gas and not have gone anywhere. Journeys don’t go in circles, but that’s what I did.

I have a heaping helping of life’s hard earned experience on my plate, and I can use that as currency to advance myself to where I want to go. I’m actually not all that far from that place, and it’s very exciting. I’ve got all the ingredients, now I have to let the cake bake.

Some things I’ve done off and on and half ass, and I’ve seen results. If I can reboot a bit and make some relatively minor adjustments, I think my quality of life will skyrocket in a very short period of time. I’m excited about 2011, because I’m hoping for some breaks.

One thing I caught a break with was someone telling me about a seafood restaurant here called Gio’s. WOW. I can’t remember having a better meal for a better price anywhere on the planet at anytime. This is where most of the seafood shipped to the States is caught.

The meal I had today was world class. I had a giant crab, two lobster tails and shrimp, all for about $30. They served Coke in the glass bottles and the dining room was a deck right out over the Gulf of Mexico. A more perfect setting could not be imagined. It was stellar.

The salad dressing was homemade, fresh and delicious, and there was an exotic looking deeply tanned sexpot with an amazing pair of fresh ripe massive mangoes that were trying to escape from her halter top sitting right across from me. I would have paid to see those.

The cab ride there and back was $20, but it was very educational. We passed all parts of town, from the gold coast to the gutter and I got to see how both sides live. It was typical of the countries I’ve seen in the region and once again it reminded me how good I have it.

The cab driver was my age, and was going to wait for me while I ate. I invited him in to share the meal, and there was plenty there for both of us and still some left over. He loved every bite, and we had a great conversation. He filled me in on a lot of the country’s facts.

Here’s a poor bastard my age driving a ratty cab to feed his five kids. He said I was his first fare of the day and I believe him. The economy has been hit pretty hard down around these parts, and business is down for everyone. I could tell the guy was grateful for work.

He told me his father sired thirty-two kids. Yeowza. THIRTY-TWO! Granted, it wasn’t all with one woman, but that’s a pretty lofty number. What did he do, play in the NBA? It blew my mind when he told me that, but he swore it’s true. He said his father died several years ago as did his mother. He’s out there slugging it out trying to feed his own family.

Buying the guy lunch was the least I could do. Actually, all I did was share the giant one I already had. That’s the way to live this life, and we both had a fabulous meal and I got a chance to learn about Honduras while I sat there soaking in all kinds of gorgeous scenery.

We both rode home in his cab stuffed, and I managed to make it back to the ship with a half hour to spare. I knew I was cutting it close, but this was worth it. I’d definitely return, but next time I’ll try to find others to bring along. It’s too special of a place to go alone.

This really has been a groundbreaking year. I worked cruise ships for the very first time and got to see a whole lot of sexy places I’d only heard about and others I hadn’t. I never heard of Roatan, Honduras before this year, and I’m usually pretty good with geography.

I checked my email when I got back to my cabin and was pleasantly surprised to learn I have more bookings into the new year. I hadn’t heard from the booker and had no idea if I would be asked back or not. I could have lived with getting torched, but it’s nice to have a chance to keep the money flowing into 2011. I’m thrilled to have a chance to come back.

Actually, I’ll be on some ships I haven’t done before. That’s always an adventure, but it doesn’t intimidate me at all at this point. At first, the whole thing was overwhelming, but now its just another ship. I know what to expect and I’ll go there and give them my best.

The money is much appreciated, but this is never going to be the end all, be all of what I do. I’m hoping we can work out a nice arrangement where I can pick out the weeks I want each year, and make it a win/win. Even if I do, I’m not going to let my land contacts fade.

In fact, I need to make more of them. Lots more. I am painfully lacking in the business side of show business and I’m going to do something about it. I could blame it on my ex business partner for a while, because he did my marketing. But that was long ago now.

Even he didn’t take it to the level it needed to be. I know I can improve tenfold on this and it’s got to be a huge part of my focus for 2011. I’m funny enough, now I have to sell myself for real money rather than work for two bit road twits. I’ve earned my stripes.

Showbiz Isn’t Easy

December 29, 2010

Tuesday December 28th, 2010 – Still Out There Somewhere

The longer I’m in this business, the less I know. Just when I think I’ve figured it all out, a night like tonight comes along and wipes everything clean. I feel like a worker ant after some kid smears the ant hill that took so much work to create from scratch. The only real choice is to keep working and start all over. Tonight I felt like a rookie starting all over.

Once again, there are rough waters out here in the Caribbean and we couldn’t stop at the port in Grand Cayman Island to pick up Marcus Anthony, the talented singer who does an outstanding Motown tribute show. It was nobody’s fault, but the passengers wanted to see a show. They missed the song and dance revue opening night, and now they missed this.

The cruise director is a very nice guy from Scotland named Wee Jimmy. He’s in an ugly situation because he’s got pissed off passengers who want entertainment. The dancers had the first night off because of the weather. Jimmy asked Thomas Brown and me if we’d do a comedy show in the big theater and of course we said yes, even though we had a choice.

Thomas has been around the ships for years, and he said technically doing the shows in the big room wasn’t in our contracted agreement. In the end, we’d each end up doing one extra show we weren’t going to be paid for, and by all rights we each could have refused.

Both of us are good guys, and try to help out in a pinch. Jimmy was in a pinch and I’ve been in situations like that myself so I wouldn’t think of turning him down. Thomas also said yes, just as we did a couple of weeks ago when this same situation came up. We did Jimmy a favor because the situation called for it, and deep down we knew it was right.

Jimmy was grateful and said he’d put us in his performance report as going above and beyond the call in a pinch. Hopefully that will get noticed by the office, but who knows? We did it because we’re professionals, and the situation called for it. Still, it wasn’t easy.

The audience for the first show was completely stiff. They weren’t expecting comedians and I had all I could do to milk whatever laughs I could out of them in twelve minutes. If I hadn’t been so experienced, I might have dropped the mike and walked off stage, but if I say I’m going to do something, I do try to make good on the promise. This was a struggle.

Some of these people had seen my welcome aboard show, and others had seen any one of the three shows I did last night in the comedy club. I had to skirt around my main bits and try to pull something out of thin air. That’s not the right way to do it and I know that. I felt like I was all over the place and I never felt like I got a good roll going. I hate that.

I want to give all audiences my very best, but this is completely different than comedy club work. In comedy clubs, I’ll rarely if ever have to do more than 45-50 minutes for the typical audience. Sometimes I’ll like them and go longer on my own, but that’s my call. If I want to give them more, I’ll read the situation and make the choice as I’m on stage. This is a different scenario altogether, and I’m still trying to find the way to nail it consistently.

One thing this experience is making me do is increase my material. It’s not just a matter of going on stage and talking about any subject at random. Far from it, even though most people would never guess. They think we just go up there and wing it from start to finish.

Just last night I had a goof come up about two minutes before the show and say “In case you need any material, my brother-in-law owns a hardware store. He’s sitting with us and you can feel free to rip him a new one if you want. Here’s some dirt on his family too…”

Why would I or anyone else want to “rip someone a new one” just because he happened to own his own business? I waved the guy off, and I could see he was rather disappointed, but even if I wanted to I couldn’t just start ripping the guy off the top of my head. Nobody can do that. It takes time and effort to polish standup comedy material, and it always has.

The problem some comedians fall into, myself included, is that there’s no real schedule as to when new material should be written. If we polish something that works, why not do it as long as it keeps working? Vaudeville acts used to do the same act for 40 or 50 years.

As far as most club comics go, I have a TON of material. I like to switch things around, add and subtract and basically my act is always a work in progress. Then I get out here on the ships and find out I could use scads more polished material to haul out on nights like tonight when I don’t know who’s seen me and who hasn’t. I’ve got a lot more work to do.

These people don’t need complex cutting edge standup comedy material. They aren’t as demanding as a comedy club audience or say a talent booker for a TV show. These people are from all walks of life, just average folks. They want simple material about subjects the average person talks about – men vs. women, what’s on TV, celebrities, nothing too deep.

Writing simple jokes about common subjects that make the masses laugh is not close to being easy, especially making it last for thirty minutes. I’ve got a lot of work to do writing JOKES, but first I have to come up with subjects that the average person can relate to. It’s not that easy, especially with the wacked out life I’ve lived. I’ve got my hands quite full.

I need five to ten minute chunks of material about things that will appeal to the married crowd, as that’s mostly who comes on a cruise. I could use more stuff both kids and older people can relate to as well. After tonight, I feel like I’m going back to the drawing board.

This was a major challenge, and I don’t like the results I had tonight. I didn’t embarrass myself, but I know in my heart there’s room for improvement. And that’s onstage. I have a lot more weaknesses offstage, and that’s another area that needs major improvement for 2011. Like I said, just when I thought I’m figuring it all out, I realize I’m nowhere close.

It made me feel better to come back to my cabin and see Jerry Seinfeld as a guest on the David Letterman show. He did a standup segment and after all these years he’s still doing what I’m doing. He’s a lifer, as am I. I respect him for not resting on his laurels, he’s back out there working on new bits just like me as part of the craft. I’ve got improving to do.

Quarterbacks With Class

December 28, 2010

Monday December 27th, 2010 – Somewhere At Sea

One of the downsides of being on cruise ships is not getting to stay in touch with what’s going on back home. Internet is beyond slow and ridiculously expensive, and I only check important emails. Things that can wait, do. Television is limited too. There are only a few channels, most of them Spanish. There’s no ESPN, and that’s hell for sports fans like me.

There is a Spanish version, but I couldn’t care less about Venezuela’s chances in the big soccer game next week. We do get local stations from Denver of all places, and there is a Fox and CBS station so I can get NFL football on Sundays. That’s been a total life saver.

Fortunately, I’ve gotten to enjoy quite a few Green Bay Packer games this season. Last week I missed it because the Denver Broncos game was on, and I had to sit through that even though the team is terrible and they’re way out of the playoff run. I had no choice.

I love football and actually enjoyed the Broncos game because Tim Tebow got his shot to start a game at home. There’s something intangible about that guy that’s magnetic, and I find myself cheering for him to succeed. I know he’s a big God squad guy, but he keeps it under control and handles himself very well. He’s an underdog, but keeps overcoming.

Even though he broke all kinds of records in college, most people said he’d be horrible in the pros. Nobody thought he’d be drafted at all much less in the first round but he was. Then people said he’d never be a starter, and now he is. I was happy for his team’s win.

Normally, God squad athletes repulse me. They thank God when hey win, but who’s to blame when they lose or blow an important play? Something about Tim Tebow earns my total respect. I like the guy when he’s interviewed, and I thought he played a super game on Sunday and deserved to win. Those kind of stories are what sports and life are about.

Another one is Aaron Rodgers of my beloved Packers. That guy had it about as difficult as anyone in history coming out of college into the pros. First, he dropped like lead in the draft order and wasn’t drafted until late in the first round. He was projected to be up at the very top but it didn’t work out that way. He never bitched, and that showed a lot of class.

Then he got to Green Bay and had to play behind Brett Favre for a couple of seasons and that probably wasn’t a lot of fun either. When the whole Favre powder keg did explode, it could have gotten extremely ugly but it didn’t. Rodgers showed up and didn’t put himself in the line of fire and just went about his work. Now, he’s one of the top QBs in the NFL.

How can a fan not cheer for a guy like that? Favre had the fans by the tail, but he blew it with his selfishness. Hopefully Rodgers will keep doing what he’s doing, because the way I see it Favre is ancient history. He was great in his day, but it ended poorly. He’s history.

Aaron Rodgers is the man now, and I’m proud to cheer for him. He’s a great player and a classy person. Tim Tebow is too. Hopefully not all of the nice guys have to finish last.

Hanging With The Hangman

December 27, 2010

Sunday December 26th, 2010 – Tampa, FL

Holiday over, back to work. These cruise ship people don’t mess around. We’re back in port for a few hours while they clean the ship and bring on a new load of passengers, then it’s right back out to sea again. It’s like a giant NASCAR crew the way they do it so fast.

I have the option of getting off the ship or not while it’s being cleaned, and today I took advantage of it. There’s a fantastic aquarium right across the street and admission is half price for cruise ship employees. I’d been meaning to check it out and today was the day.

What a fantastic attraction. I’d have gotten a bargain at full price. There were all kinds of tanks filled with odd sea creatures and shows featuring interesting facts about animals of all kinds. Places like this are what makes life on the road worthwhile. I’m glad I went.

I also had a chance to hang out for a couple of hours and watch some football with my old professional wrestler friend from Milwaukee Mike Moran, aka The Texas Hangman. I’ve known Mike forever, and he moved to Tampa about ten years ago. I hadn’t seen him in a while, and it worked out he was available today. It was great to catch up with him.

It’s funny how he came up with his wrestling name. He’d never been to Texas in his life but he didn’t think ‘Wisconsin Hangman’ sounded mean enough. Rhode Island Hangman would sound almost sissified. If one is to be called a Hangman, Texas is the ideal home.

Across the street from the aquarium and right next to where the ship docks is a complex with some movie theatres, shops, bars and restaurants. There’s a Hooters there and what’s better on a Sunday afternoon than a plate of wings, NFL football and chicks in hot pants?

Mike’s doing really well down here and still wrestles once in a while for fun. He has his own appraisal business and is always busy. He’s fit and tan and in great shape. We agreed both of us needed to leave Milwaukee, and we’re glad we did. But – it’ll always be home.

It’s funny how those home roots grow so deep – especially in Milwaukee. We could live away from it for years and years, but in two seconds we’re right back again, talking about things we did years ago. That’s why I think the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show will have such a devoted following. Milwaukee has an undeniable identity, warts and all, and we lived it.

We were two wide eyed punk kids from Milwaukee with enormous dreams, and both of us went out and chased them. Maybe we didn’t become huge stars, but we sure did better than 99.999% of anyone else who didn’t have the guts to try. Mike has slugged it out like I have, and I totally respect him. Both of us hung in there when times got the toughest.

Now we’re getting older, and it was fun to look back at our lives. We’re both a lot more mature, as age adds perspective. We’ve survived and more, even when most others didn’t think we had a shot. We proved everyone wrong, and that’s a super feeling of satisfaction. Hanging with Hangman is always a treat. The time passed too quickly, just like our lives.

Cruise Ship Christmas

December 26, 2010

Saturday December 25th, 2010 – Somewhere At Sea

Christmas Day. Off. It’s always a day off, just a matter of where I spend it. I don’t think I’ve ever had a gig on Christmas Day, and the more I think about it last night was the very first time I’d ever worked on a Christmas Eve. If I had my way, I’d work every holiday.

Actually, tonight I did get asked to be part of the ‘Liar’s Club’ panel on the ship. That’s a fun game where four panelists give a definition to an obscure funny sounding word, and the audience has to vote on who’s definition is the right one. They use it as a filler before the bingo, and they get random staffers to participate. I did it a while back and it was fun.

That’s about as close to a gig as I got, but it was nice to get out and mingle a little. I had all kinds of people who saw my shows tell me how much they enjoyed it and who doesn’t enjoy hearing that over and over again? It made me feel like my life wasn’t a total waste.

This Christmas experience has been one of my least toxic ever. It doesn’t even feel like it’s Christmas with the sunshine and warm weather, and that’s totally fine with me. I took some time to sit and bake in the sun today and think in detail about every little nugget that happened to float to the top of my brain. Warts and all, I tried to deal with every subject.

Some things did sting a little, but not nearly as much as they have in the past. I’m trying to distance myself from all that, and it seems to finally be working. Some things I’ll never be able to fix, and that’s just how it is I guess. My siblings have blown me off, and I can’t do anything about it. I’ve said I was sorry many times, and I meant it. What else can I do?

The situation with Bob and Tom came up too. Apparently, they’re still mad at me for an incident years ago that I still am unsure of why it set them off that much. I tried to make it right there also, but they blew me off as well. After several sincere apologies, I give up.

A few other situations are just ugly memories. My former business partner’s embezzling stunt just makes me scratch my head at this point. Why would he do that? Why would any person do that? I’m not the only one who’s been ripped off, and the amount wasn’t nearly as high as some others. It was a painful lesson, and I lost someone I thought was a friend.

As corny as it sounds, I really did try to send love to everyone with whom I’ve ever had any kind of clash, run in or disagreement. That includes my dead father, my mother who’s been out of my life since I was a baby, my siblings, club owners and bookers who’ve not been ethical and anyone else I could think of. It‘s wasn‘t easy, but I tried my very best.

I just don’t want to keep that rotting energy in my world anymore. I doubt if any of the people I thought of thought of me today, but that’s ok. It wasn’t about them. It was about giving myself a chance to heal and making a clean slate for the new year so I can keep on growing. This has been an amazing year for that, and I want to build on it. I’ll be a dented can for life, but it doesn’t mean I can’t strive to be the best I can. I’ve had enough misery and darkness for this or any other lifetime. I want to end my life on a high note and WIN.

What would that entail? In my mind, I would get my own life together so I could have a chance to help others do the same. I would be physically fit and financially rock solid and a social butterfly with all kinds of good people in my circle of contacts. I’d also always be working on improving my craft and involved in exciting and fulfilling creative projects.

The energy around me would be positive and approachable to others who wanted to get involved and together we’d become greater than the sum of the parts. Sometimes I’ve felt exactly like that, but other times it’s been a total failure and I’ve felt like sucking a bullet.

The downs are way down, and I’ll admit a lot of it stems from the past. Would it be nice to hear from my sister, brother and half brother? I used to really think so, but now I’m not so sure. The expiration date has passed, and any kind of family bond there may have been is now amputated. If they came back into my life now, I wouldn’t know how to rebuild it.

It is what it is, and I know I’m not the only one to face this kind of ugliness. That’s why I write about it so freely. Everyone can’t relate to it, and I’m glad – but those who can are right there with me. Hopefully I can encourage some other dented cans to keep slugging.

I don’t care what anyone says, I still feel like I’m on the wrong planet. This is a blip on the cosmic radar, and soon enough we’ll all pass through. I’ll be damned if I’ll let a small group of halfwits ruin my journey. For every Bob and Tom who hate me I’ve got a whole lot more that think I’m a good person. Those are the ones I need to focus on all the time.

There are no guarantees there will be a happy ending, but that doesn’t mean I can’t start writing one. This is my prime time to do whatever I’m going to do on this planet and I’ve decided I’m not going to waste my time chasing the approval of those who can’t stand me or don’t see eye to eye with my ideas. I’m going to prune my life’s hedges and move on.

Out of six BILLION people on the planet and more than three hundred MILLION in the nation I live, how can I have time to worry about anyone who isn’t with me? Piss on them all, I’ve got a life to live. My siblings had their chance. So did Bob and Tom. So did John Yoder. I sweated for that guy over twenty years, and then his clueless kid fires me. Uh uh.

I don’t accept that kind of treatment, because I don’t give it out. I’m better than that and I’m going to prove it. Shortcuts don’t interest me, I want to work for what I get. It’s what true success is all about. If nothing else, my path in life sure hasn’t been uninteresting.

If it took venturing out on cruise ships this year to open my eyes, then so be it. It’s been very difficult, but it’s also been rewarding because I know I’ve made progress. Getting to spend Christmas in the sunshine was a nice perk, and I’ve enjoyed every last second of it.

If I’m lucky enough to be blessed with more Christmases, I want to spend them helping others. I have a friend who plays Santa in hospices, and needs an elf. He said it’s a brutal gig at times, but it cheers people up who really need it and I’m totally in. Life is about the gifts we give that aren’t wrapped, and not just at Christmas. I’m finally starting to learn.

The Greatest Gift

December 25, 2010

Friday December 24th, 2010 – Cozumel, MX

For a born and raised in Milwaukee card carrying cheese head, the greatest gift of all at Christmas is being able to walk around outside in the sunshine wearing only a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. That’s exactly what I did today and it put me in a bulletproof mindset.

I got up early and got off the ship to explore more of Cozumel, MX which is starting to become a home away from home in the last few months because I’ve been here so much. Every time I leave the ship I try to walk in a different direction so I can get a feel of what this place is all about. Today I felt like walking, and I chose to take an extra long route.

It was about 80 degrees with a cloudless sunny sky, the perfect Christmas climate in my opinion. If Jesus was born in Bethlehem, that’s probably how the weather was anyway so that makes it more authentic. The only thing white about this Christmas was my skin, but I didn’t mind in the least. Being outside enjoying the sunshine was the ultimate present.

I managed to get myself lost for a while in the absolute worst part of the ghetto, at least I hope it was the worst. I’ve seen poverty before, but this was right up there with anything I’ve ever seen. Or would that be down there? Whatever the case, it wasn’t the tourist area.

I walked through blocks and blocks of pieced together ramshackle hovels I wouldn’t use to store my lawnmower, if indeed I had one, much less live in with a family. I saw people staring at me as I walked past, knowing I wasn’t one of them. I was an out of place gringo wandering through their world, but I’d be gone in a minute. They had to stay a lot longer.

I couldn’t imagine having to live in such squalor. I’ve had to live in less than desirable circumstances most of my life, but nothing even close to this. The more I was around all these hell holes the more grateful I was for what I have. I’m doing quite well, thank you.

What’s really amazing is just a few blocks away is the downtown area where there are a lot of bars, restaurants and resorts where people from all over come to blow all their extra money on wine, women and song. But just a few blocks away, families are mired in filth.

In my mind, that’s why I want to be rich. I’d love to help as many as I can have at least a little bit better life, but maybe that’s not my place. I just hate to see so many people not have what I think is a proper lifestyle. Packed like rats into rickety shacks sure isn’t it.

I bet I walked close to ten miles today, and I’ve got a nice plump blister on my right big toe to prove it. I walked off any frustrations I may have had about Christmases in the past, and it gave me both a positive vibe and made me feel insignificant, like a blip on a radar.

This life is over all too quickly, and it’s up to us to seek our own happiness. We’re all a bunch of idiots wandering through this place with no real direction, and as a collective we haven’t done much to improve ourselves over thousands of years. Poverty should have no place in this world, but it’s alive and well and stronger than ever. That’s not right to me.

But what can I do about it? I have enough trouble keeping my own head above water. In a perfect world, I’d have figured that out a long time ago and could help some of the other people who really need it. I’ve spent my entire life chasing my little show business dream, but still haven’t made any significant progress. I’m a paycheck away from poverty myself.

I like having deep thought sessions once in a while, but it can sure take the wind out of one’s sail in a hurry. I’m just a dung beetle, pushing my wet sloppy ball of poo across the desert and hoping every day that the predatory lizards don’t catch and eat me for lunch.

We’ll all be gone soon enough, so the best answer is to make the most of whatever time we have on this beautiful planet filled with so much insanity and an ample supply of rock headed morons to perpetuate it. I don’t want to be part of the problem, I want to solve it.

That’s very difficult, considering my limited resources. I’ve been plugging along for an entire lifetime, and it’s only now that I feel like I’m beginning to get a clue as to what the hell this experience could be about. It took so long to get to this point, I hope I have some energy left to do something with whatever little specks of knowledge I’ve accumulated.

The main thing is to keep moving and making progress. That’s one thing I’ve managed to do throughout my life, mostly by necessity. Had I not gotten fired in radio, I may have still been doing that. All I ever wanted was to be a star in my home town, and I probably would have been satisfied with that. Instead, I was forced to step out of my comfort zone.

I’m still out of it. What the hell am I doing with my life? I sure feel like I’m stumbling and bumbling through it, trying to make heads or tails of it all. I’m thrown from one new situation to the next, seemingly by random happenstance. I can’t find any steady rhythm.

Is this the reason I’m here, to bounce around like a ping pong ball in a lottery machine? Is there any reason any of us are here? These are the kind of thoughts that bake into one’s head on a long walk in the sun on Christmas Eve in Cozumel, MX. I have no answers.

The shows have been a pleasant surprise this week. I had heard Christmas week wasn’t a good week to be on cruise ships, but that’s not the case here. The ship is packed and the audiences were very good for all five shows. I really enjoyed them, and they were friendly and there to laugh. Whatever I’d heard was wrong, and I’m glad. This was a killer week.

The other comedian and I hit it off really well also. His name is Phil Tag and he’s from New York originally but now lives in Florida like so many people do. He’s my age, and a really fun guy to hang with. He’s done a couple of Tonight Shows and our styles are kind of similar in that we both work fast and pound audiences hard. I really enjoyed his shows.

That makes a lot of difference. Time goes a lot faster when there’s someone to hang out with, and we stayed after our shows and swapped stories during the staff Christmas party. I have some good ones, but so does he, and we made each other laugh until the wee hours of the morning. Good weather plus good people plus good shows equals good Christmas.

Belize Navidad

December 24, 2010

Thursday December 23rd, 2010 – Chicago, IL/Houston, TX/Belize City, Belize

Pulling an all nighter isn’t nearly as easy as it used to be. I used to be able to do a show, drive like a maniac all night to do radio the next morning in a town far away, then stay up all day and do the show the following night. And I managed to do it without any cocaine.

Those days are long gone, but I did one today for old times sake because I had to. I had a lot of things to make sure were caught up before I left since I’ll be gone two whole weeks without a trip home this time. I wanted to grab a nap but the phone kept ringing and I kept discovering other things I had to get done so I ended up putting in a full day’s hard work.

Marc Schultz and his wife Audrey drove me to the airport, but I’d never ask them to get up at 3am. Jim McHugh does it, but he’s more used to doing stuff like that because he’s a fellow comic. Sometimes we have to get up at all kinds of odd hours to make travel work, and that’s the kind of stuff they pay us for. The actual gigs are only a small part of it all.

Marc and Audrey dropped me off at about 1:15am, but I wasn’t able to check in until 3 at the very earliest. There’s a Starbucks on the lower level by the baggage claim, and even though I’m not a coffee person I went down there because there are tables and chairs there to set up my computer and get some work done.  I bought a juice and went right to work.

About 2am one of the scariest looking humans I’ve ever seen wandered up to where the clerk was standing and just stared at her for a few seconds. Then he walked away and she glanced at me with a look of ‘Please help me.’ I was the only one who saw it all transpire but if he would have done anything crazy I don’t know how much help I could have been.

I debated whether to see if I could find any security people when he wandered back over again, this time talking to himself in a heated conversation peppered with filthy language and sound effects of what sounded like a kid playing with imaginary guns. I didn’t know what I should do, but I knew it wasn’t right to leave that clerk stranded there by herself.

I wasn’t sure if she had a phone or emergency button to push or any means of protection at all. My guess was she didn’t, and after about three or four passes by the guy I really felt uncomfortable. I’ve learned not to look people like that in the eye whenever possible, as it can set off any number of mental minefields. I pretended to stay working, but I couldn’t.

The guy was obviously mentally ill, but he was also dressed in the odd combination of a mercenary and a bum. His boots weren’t tied and it looked like he had a military jacket of some sort on. I tried not to gawk too long or hard, but at 2am in the airport where most of the others were sound asleep, I realized immediately that nobody is really safe anywhere.

The guy could have pulled out a gun or a bomb or a knife or any one of a million things. That Starbucks clerk would have had no defense, and I really didn’t either. I only had my computer and carry on bag with me. At best, I could have squirted shaving cream right in his eye. I’m sure that would have saved the day. This was an extremely scary situation.

The cops showed up maybe ten minutes later, and hauled him off with a struggle. When they started asking him questions he became irate, and looked over at me with two of the most evil looking eyes I’ve seen in quite a while. There was a whole lot of ugliness going on inside that head, and I have to believe a few more minutes would have triggered it all.

Where was TSA when we needed them? THIS is the kind of maniac we need to protect people from, but he walked right into O’Hare at 2am without a second look. He could’ve had a bazooka and blown that Starbucks clerk and me away in less than five seconds. But I have to get my lower colon probed with a cattle prod because I just might be a terrorist.

By the time it all quieted down, I sure wasn’t able to get any sleep. I stayed up until my check-in time and had an even bigger disdain for airport security as they once again were talking down to everyone as they rudely barked out instructions to take belts and shoes off before going through the scanner. I clenched my teeth and got it over with one more time.

The flight to Houston was a lot better this time because I didn’t have to squeeze next to any freakishly large mammals, and when I got there the connecting gate was the next one over. That never happens. Usually I’m running through the airport like O.J. Simpson used to, barely getting to my plane as it’s about to leave. Today I walked from gate K1 to K2.

The flight to Belize was packed, but I nodded out before we took off and woke up right as the plane landed. Now THAT’S a good flight. Perfect timing. I could have easily been talking in my sleep, snoring, farting or any combination of the three but that wasn’t any of my concern. I was able to get some much needed sleep and I got off the plane refreshed.

What felt even better was the blast of pure tropical sunshine on my pale Caucasian puss as I walked down the stairs to the gate. The Belize airport doesn’t have gates like the ones in the States and we have to walk to the terminal from the plane. Today it felt like heaven, as it was about 10 degrees in Chicago when I left. THIS is the way to spend a Christmas.

Customs went pretty smoothly today, even though there was a long line. Some days are a nightmre all the way through, but today turned out to be a good one for a change. There were no major hassles or glitches, and if I knew how to keep this kind of a vibe I’d do it.

I’m back on the Carnival Legend this week, the last ship I was on two weeks ago. I got the same cabin I was in then, and when I walked in the door I was thrilled to see my keys sitting on the shelf I’d left them. I couldn’t believe it, and threw them in the air in ecstasy.

It doesn’t mean I won’t lose them, my phone or wallet again, but at least this time I did catch a break and I’m grateful. I’m going to leave them where they are, because that’s the place I left them last time. I just forgot to pick them up when I left. I’ll do better this time.

All of this puts me in a really good mood, and I haven’t even stepped on stage yet. I’ve heard Christmas week shows can be rough on ships. We’ll see. I’m going to do my best at all times, and whoever shows up will get my best effort. What more can anyone ask for?

Living Arrangements

December 24, 2010

Wednesday December 22nd, 2010 – Fox Lake, IL

My last day in America before two solid weeks at sea. I hope I can handle it, but it’s too late to back out now. I made a commitment and I’ll do it. It will be the longest continuous time run I’ve spent on a ship. That coupled with Christmas could send me over the edge.

I don’t think it will, though. I’m in a very good mental space this year and everything is feeling upbeat. Some years are better than others, but this one won’t be a problem. Maybe it’s due to me being so busy. Whatever it is, it isn’t the torture fest it’s been in the past so I’m not going to complain. I’ve got two weeks of sunshine to bake away any depression.

I finally nailed down a place to live, so that’s a relief. It’s exactly what I said I wouldn’t do, but the little voice in my head said to accept the offer so I did. Every time I’ve had the smarts to listen to that voice, it’s been the right choice. It’s when I start trying to outthink it where the trouble occurs. I don’t want to tempt the fates, so I didn‘t fight my instinct.

I’ve got an almost identical situation to what I had before. It’s another basement, but it’s the sister-in-law of the person I just moved from. I’ve known her even longer than I knew the previous one and her house is only about ten minutes away from where I lived before.

Rent is the same, and the deal is the same – no lease and I can leave when I want. That’s the part that attracted me most. I don’t want to sign any leases if I don’t have to, I’ve had a lot of trouble with them over the years. My timing is so horrible, usually when I get one signed something comes up and I have to get out of it a month later. It’s been a big hassle.

This will be a stop gap situation until I can see where life is headed in the new year. I’m still drifting a bit, and that’s embarrassing this far into the game but it’s still true. If I were to get an apartment I’d have to furnish it, and then if I moved I’d either have to leave it or take it with me, and neither one of those options thrill me. This situation avoids all that.

It’s a very nice place with cable TV, internet, a bed and a bathroom. That’s about all I’ll need for the next few months, as I’m sure I’ll be on the road much of that time anyway. It will allow me to sort out the things I didn’t get to before I moved last time, and I’ll pare it all down by way more than half before I head out again. In the interim, this is a good deal.

I really do like living in Lake County, IL. It’s halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago and it has a small town feel I never thought I’d like, but it’s growing on me. I’ve got a lot of friends between cities and it cuts travel time in half to both places. Plus, I’ve made new friends since I moved to Lake County and I could see myself living there for many years.

My flight to Houston leaves at 5am from O’Hare and Marc Schultz and his wife Audrey were kind enough to offer their services to drive me to the airport and let me park my car in their driveway for two weeks. That saves me a ton of cash, and it’s much appreciated. I usually get dropped off by Jim McHugh, but he’s filling in for me at a gig in Dubuque, IA that I backed out from. I didn’t want to risk missing my flight. That would be a disaster.

Pedro Bell Artwork

December 22, 2010

Monday December 20th, 2010 – Fox Lake, WI

Unexpected good news today. I’m back in touch with Pedro Bell, the legendary artist of Funkadelic album cover fame I hired to do the artwork for my latest CD. We’d lost touch for a while after an assistant of his ripped him off, but he said he’d be back in touch when he could and make things right. I never doubted he would, and he did. It’s perfect timing.

His new associate is totally professional, and we’re on the same page. I’d never gotten a finished colorized version of the work I paid for, and that’s the first thing he corrected. I’d only had a low resolution black and white version to send him, but he colorized it quickly and got it back to me. I was impressed with how fast he did it and can tell we’ll be fine.

I’d eventually like to get some color prints signed by Pedro and sell them on my site. He has a large following from his work on all the Funkadelic and George Clinton solo album covers, and his style is so unique that it’s recognizable at a glance. I don’t know anything about art, but I know I’m lucky to have a chance to hire Pedro to work with me so I did.

My current CD is mostly black and white, but it does stand out. I only did a first run of 1000, so that’s not the end of the world. I’ll give most of them away as promo pieces and sell the rest, then I’ll use the money to have the colorized version reprinted for the second run. Those will really jump out and catch people’s eye just as the Funkadelic albums did.

Pedro called me on the phone this afternoon and he seemed to be in much better spirits than he was last time we spoke. It’s none of my business, but I heard he’d been feeling ill. I told him I’d love to hire him again to do another project, and he said he was up for it.

I absolutely can’t pass up this opportunity. Even if it means nothing to anybody else but me, I’m going to find a way to make it work. I’ve got a supply of cash at the moment so it won’t kill me, and it will be tax deductible as part of the expense of a product I can resell.

The last project he did was based on the Funkadelic album called “Hardcore Jollies” It’s visually striking, and I saw it on a list of the top 50 rock album covers of all time. I hadn’t known it was on that list, I just liked it and thought “Hard Luck Jollies” would fit together perfectly with my Mr. Lucky persona even if someone had no idea who Funkadelic was.

Pedro and I agreed that this next one will be based on the George Clinton solo album of 1986 called “R&B Skeletons In The Closet”. I like the design and it turns out it was voted top album cover of the year when it came out. I have no idea who voted it that, but Pedro said it was one of his most popular works. I guess I have better taste in art than I thought.

I chose it because I thought it stood out, and it does. We’ll call it “Comedy Skeletons In The Closet” and that will allow me to put anything I want on it. I’ve got some old out take recordings of shows from my first CD and other stuff that’s never seen the light of day. It won’t be a problem to cut and paste and come up with enough material to fill a CD. I may also put on some bonus features, like Sixty Second Soapbox bits from my time in radio.

It doesn’t really matter what‘s on it. I’ll find something to fill it up. What matters is I’ll have another product to sell, and it will come in a quality package. It’ll have eye appeal to strangers, and that’s important as far as marketing goes. It may help sell a few units if I’m able to get it in stores, or help people decide to check it out if I can get in more libraries.

My friend Rick Piccolo said he’s been watching the CD he gave to his local library get checked out and said it’s apparently been in demand. That’s a great way to acquire a core group of fans, and eventually the goal is to get them to come see me live. I’m not upset if they don’t pay for the CD up front. It’s a sampler to turn them on to my style of comedy.

This is all marketing, and I should have been doing it years ago. Maybe I wasn’t able to pull it off then, but I totally am ready for it now. I have the ability and experience, and I’ll develop my own fans thank you. Depending on some low rent booker or worse yet his kid to make my living is total insanity. Nobody can promote me better than me, and it’s time.

Frank Zappa cranked out tons of product, and it came from necessity. He had to make a living, and that’s where I am now. Do I have enough new material for a CD right now? In my old way of thinking, no. Now, I’ve got TONS of material just waiting to be divided up and put on a CD release. I’m finally starting to see things from a marketing perspective.

Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx both had several album releases which helped spread the legend and create a fan base. From what I heard they got ripped off with royalties from all those recordings, but if I’m smart I don’t have to have it happen to me. I can be in charge.

As a kid I remember really enjoying new Funkadelic albums not only for the music, but for Pedro’s intricate artwork on the covers. He’d have eye candy to enjoy on the front and back covers and on the inside foldout too. Granted, albums were a lot bigger than a CD to look at, but CD art is still attractive. I want to create quality products in a quality package.

There’s a whole new world of marketing I need to take advantage of, and it’s not only a matter of releasing audio recordings. They are an important part of the mix though, so I’m going to crank out as many as I can ala Frank Zappa and try to build my legend with fans.

It’s all part of the game, and I’m fine with playing it. I used to think being funny alone was enough, but that’s SO wrong. The rest is marketing and showmanship, and I have an eye for what works in that department because I’m a student of the game. George Clinton did too, and that’s why he knew packaging was so important. He’s a master showman.

I want to be a master showman too. I spent a quarter of a century polishing up the stage part of my show, now it’s time to distribute it to more than just 40 people at a time in an out of the way booze joint in some itty bitty town. That’s not the way to spend one’s days.

I’m thrilled to be back in touch with Pedro, and I never doubted it would happen when it was the right time. Now it’s up to me to make the most of it. I’ve got the money so it’s an investment for the future. Plus, it’s cool because I’m such a big fan. Good enough for me.