Still Stinging

Monday April 23rd, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL/Milwaukee, WI

   The bitter sting of the overabundance of chairs without buttocks occupying them at Shank Hall in Milwaukee last night still hasn’t gone away, and I doubt it ever totally will. It bothers me a lot, even though I know it shouldn’t. The worst part is, I didn’t do any of it for me. It was for others.

I really felt I owed it to Cardell to let him have his night. He and my father both were born and died in the same year, as did Saddam Hussein of all people. Now there’s an unlikely trio. One of these things is not like the other. Saddam and my father spent their lives polluting the world with their mildewed karma, spewing tainted selfish energy. But both of them died with little suffering.

Then a Cardell comes along and lifts up everyone in his path, but gets dementia and spends his last days in a rickety old nursing home in the heart of the ghetto. That’s not right, even if I’m not the one making the rules – and I’m not. Why do the biggest bastards in life always bail out at the end unscathed, but a good guy like Cardell suffers like a dog and doesn’t get the credit he’s due?

If anyone earned respect and the right to have a tribute years after his passing, it was C. Cardell Willis. He was a true mensch. But after six months of solid work, all I could manage to rustle up were 80 people who would show up in his honor. All they had to do was sit and enjoy a comedy show, which I don’t find to be all that difficult. I don’t see why the joint wasn’t packed in tight.

I’m especially disappointed that the young comics in town didn’t show up for this. Jason Evans was very kind to help spread the word with his website and I’m grateful for his support. He’s a student of the game, and is trying to also be a performer himself. He couldn’t have been any nicer and more supportive, but as for the rest – they totally blew the evening off.

I’ve done some favors for quite a few of them, and tried to be the supportive mentor figure that Cardell was to our generation of comedians. His favorite phrase was always ‘Pay it forward’ and that’s what I’ve always tried to do. I was hungry to learn, and also hungry to help. I don’t get that feeling from many others, and I think it stinks. I don’t make the rules, but I still think it’s wrong.

But what does it matter what I think? Not much. No. Not true. Not a damn thing. All anybody can do is their best, and I’m trying to do exactly that. My faults are glaring and many, but at least I have a heart and some passion about what I’m doing. Or I thought I did. Now I’m just drifting.

I got a call today from Mark Gumbinger asking if I wanted a free ticket to the Brewers game at Miller Park. I didn’t really want to go, but I said yes hoping it would help me forget my troubles for a couple of hours. It didn’t work. It was fun to hang with the guys, but I wrestled with all this.

What the hell am I going to do with myself now? I spent months getting that show put together because I felt it was the right thing to do. I did it exactly how I’d want it done for me if someone were going to remember me after I’m gone. I gave it all I had, but it feels like it was a tank job.

But if one of the Kardashian’s boobs happens to wander out of her bikini, there’d be reports on the hour from every radio station and TV network in North America. They’d call in Geraldo, Dr. Phil and CNN, and Nancy Grace would talk about it for weeks. How did I end up on this planet?


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