Archive for December, 2012

Reno A-1-1

December 31, 2012

Sunday December 30th, 2012 – Reno, NV  

    My week in Reno comes to a close, and I’m bittersweet about it. I have a lot of great friends in town, and I had a lot of fun seeing and hearing from all of them. I even made a few new ones for when I come back – and I sincerely hope I do. For whatever reason, I mesh well with this place.

I often wonder how my life would have turned out had my radio job stuck in 1996. Bill Schulz is still here, and he’s a local media fixture. Maybe I could have had that status too, or maybe I’d have moved to the Bay Area since it’s so close. I’m sure at the very least I’d be working more of the comedy scene there, in addition to Sacramento and probably the Pacific Northwest as well.

The mountains are stunningly beautiful, and I have always done well comedy wise out this way. For whatever reason, it wasn’t meant to be and I folded up my tent and moved on after only nine short months. Or was it ten? It wasn’t a whole year, I do know that – but I still have friends here.

Bill Schulz is at the top of the list for many reasons, and it was great to see him again and be on his morning show. We also got together with a group to take in some football this afternoon, and even though our mutually beloved Packers lost a last second heartbreaker, we had fun anyway.

I hadn’t watched a game since the Packers were embarrassed by the Colts months ago, and I’ve spent those three hour chunks doing all kinds of other things. I wouldn’t have watched any of the game today if I hadn’t been invited. I went for the friendship, and that’s a good thing because the sting of a bitter defeat in the last second usually puts me in a foul mood. Today, I barely noticed.

I was having too much fun hanging out with Bill and the rest of our group. Rick D’Elia showed up, and he’s another one of my favorite people and comedians as is Dave Mencarelli. They aren’t Packer fans, so we hung out and talked about a lot of things from life to comedy to other sports.

One of my new friends this week is Mike Healey. His title at Catch A Rising Star is ‘Executive Host’ and he’s great at it. He takes the headliner to the radio show, and oversees things in general when needed at the club and he’s a super interesting guy. He’s a former marine and also a former highway patrolman and he’s got some riveting stories that kept me entertained the whole week.

Someone I didn’t get to see in person but called me tonight was Marty Beimer. Marty formerly worked with Bill Schulz doing mornings on the oldies station KODS when I was here. Marty is a curmudgeonly sour pussed, cynical complainer – and I mean that with nothing but love. I would have LOVED to have him as a partner, as we would have stirred up the monkeys and then some. When I lived here, he always went out of his way to be kind and I appreciated it then and still do.

Marty went through some excruciating back surgery a while back, and was in a coma for three months. He knows what pain is, and I completely respect him for his immense talent on the radio and what he’s been through with his health issues. He’s super intelligent and can make me laugh out loud, and not many people who aren’t full time comedians can do that consistently. Having a group of such spectacular friends in one town doesn’t happen often, and I loved this whole week.

To Pick Or Not To Pick?

December 30, 2012

Saturday December 29th, 2012 – Reno, NV

   There’s a part of me that absolutely loves the process of treasure hunting. Shows like American Pickers and Pawn Stars have made it hot with the masses, but I’ve been around it as long as I can remember. My grandfather loved to visit thrift stores constantly, and my father of all people had a great eye for junk and was an excellent picker himself. He scored regularly with antique deals.

 On my exercise walk today I discovered a really neat antique shop in downtown Reno. I wasn’t looking to buy anything, but the prices were so reasonable and the people were so nice that I did happen to pick up a couple of tiny items to give as gifts for some friends who are also collectors.

I found a patch from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for $5 that I’ll send off to my old friend Dave Wilson who lives in Indianapolis and is a huge race fan. Dave is a great guy and he booked me at his comedy club One Liners for years. The least I can do is send a small gift to say thanks.

I also ran across some clean old professional wrestling magazines from the California territory of the mid ‘70s. There were four of them, and they’ve got the great old blood soaked pictures of wrestlers from that era like Ray Stevens, Pat Patterson and even Andre the Giant. They’re really cool, and I picked up all four at $10 each. If I can’t at least break even, then I’m a flaming idiot.

Depending on who is asked, there are rather serious doubts as to whether I am an idiot anyway. It’s not gambling rent money, and it’s something I had never ever seen in all my travels. I looked them up on Ebay and there was another issue that I didn’t have that had an asking price of $25.

I was talking to one of the dealers at the shop, a very nice guy probably in his late 50s. He said he’s been wheeling and dealing for decades, and his specialty is pocket watches. He’d purchased a new old one from a walk in customer about an hour before I got there, and he told me he’d paid $50 for it. A pawn shop had offered the guy $25 apparently, but he wanted $50 firm so he bolted.

The guy at the antique shop showed it to me, and said it was worth probably $300 minimum as is, but quite a bit more with just a little cleaning and maintenance work. He said he expected he’d get about $450-$500 depending on how long he chose to sit on it and hold out for the best price.

I had a nice long talk with the guy, and compared notes on how the collectibles game is playing out in the tough economy. He said something that really resonated with me. “There’s a whole lot more junk than people in the world to go through it all. There will ALWAYS be deals around.”

Like anything, there’s work involved and it’s not easy but he seemed to think anyone with any kind of work ethic and drive could turn a fair profit by putting one’s effort in. He suggested there be a field of specialization, only because there’s too much out there to know about everything.

My quandary is, do I slice my time even more and wheel and deal part time to bring in an extra few bucks or blow it off and put every last ounce of energy into comedy? Nothing is ‘stable’, and I’ve had time issues in the past. But I need money and I love the hunt. I’ll have to think carefully.

This really got my mental wheels spinning though. I’m at the point in my life where I am either going to make my mark or fade into obscurity like everyone else in my family. I’m the single nut off our family tree that actually has a chance to do something noteworthy. As much as I love and respect my grandfather, he was a small time hustler. He admitted as much, and he regretted it.

On his death bed he told me a story about how he and a couple of friends of his could have had dibs on early McDonald’s franchises in the Milwaukee area. It would have been risky, and would have involved selling off some rental properties they all owned together. Gramps turned it down, but his buddies didn’t and they ended up doing extremely well. Gramps wouldn’t pull the trigger.

Gramps told me that was his biggest regret in retrospect, but at the time he said it was a matter of stability. He knew for a fact that people needed a place to live, but fast food wasn’t what it is today and he said he just didn’t see the potential of the big picture. He said he’d worked hard for that money, and just wasn’t willing to put it all on the line. It was everything he had in the world.

I can’t say I blame him, and it’s easy to look back on what could have been. I look back at how many things I’ve screwed up in my own life and I have no fingers to point at anyone else. I made more than my share of stupid decisions, but at the time with the information I had, they appeared to be correct. It’s a whole different perspective from the heat of battle than it is from hindsight.

Right now I’m in the heat of my biggest battle. I’ve given everything I’ve got inside me to both comedy and radio, and my results have been extremely disappointing. In hindsight, I should have chosen one or the other, but I didn’t. I kept getting radio opportunities, and then I’d get fired and go back to comedy. Just as that got going, another radio offer came along and it started all over.

It’s too late to go back now, but here I sit with lots of comedy and radio experience – just when both of those industries are sliding down the dumper at a lightning pace. Radio jobs are harder to find than Amish video games, and it’s a struggle to keep myself booked every week in comedy.

It’s a different world than it was twenty years ago, and I’m twenty years older. Nobody thinks of that being a factor, but it always is. Everyone ages, and our needs evolve as it happens. I don’t have the same needs or wants I did twenty years ago. Being a major star was never on my agenda mainly because I was too busy trying to survive month to month. I thought it would all work out.

How wrong and naïve that was. Nothing just ‘works out’ in life. We have to plan in detail, and then follow up and work that plan. IF and only if we do that, then we can hope for luck to put us in the elite class we may dream of being in. I didn’t do the right things it took to get myself there. I did what I had to do to survive, and that’s exactly what I’m doing now – but not anything more.

Am I a small time hustler like my grandfather and father? Unfortunately, I’d have to say yes to that very difficult and humbling question. I aspired to much more, but never achieved it. Now, do I continue to pursue the long shot that gets longer by the day, or change plans and begin to wheel and deal collectibles because I enjoy it and could probably do ok. I really don’t have the answer.

A Delightful Catch

December 28, 2012

Friday December 28th, 2012 – Reno, NV

   Now that I’ve survived the hassles of actually getting here, this is an easy gig. Most casino gigs are, and I love the perks that come with them most other bookings don’t have. The hotel situation is usually far superior, and meals are often comped. That’s the case here, and it makes life easier.

My room is on the 32nd floor, away from the elevator and maid station so it’s very quiet. I’m an exceptionally sound sleeper and always have been, but comedians are usually relegated back into the bowels of the hotel in the noisiest room possible and it’s nice to not have to worry about that.

The food deal is a winner too. They give us comp tickets for a delicious buffet that’s exactly in between my room and the club, and once I get off the elevator it’s about a 30 second walk. It’s a self contained complex and I don’t have to step outside one time all week if I don’t feel like it.

The audiences are transient in gigs like this – much like the audiences on cruise ships. I’m very familiar with how to work audiences like this, and my experience does me well. I have worked in 99% of the places the people are from, so I know how to personalize it and they always love that.

Another perk here is how nice the staff is. They’re competent too, and that makes for a week of comedic bliss. Half of the staff works for the Silver Legacy Casino and the other half are paid by Catch A Rising Star. Most of them have been here for years, and they all seem to get along great.

I felt a warmth when I walked in the door on the first night, and it’s continued each night since. There’s always a feeling out period when a new headliner works at a club for the first time, and it happens on both sides. The staff watches to see how the comic treats them and the comic that has experience can usually sense pretty quickly the kind of week it will be by the vibe from the staff.

Another perk this week is the house emcee Gary Rafanelli. He’s a veteran lounge entertainer of the highest order, and that’s no insult by any means. He’s a fantastic musician, and warms up the crowd with a few songs on the piano. He really gets them going, and it sets the mood splendidly.

He’s an outstanding entertainer, and it gets the crowd focused on the stage. He’s also part of an ABBA tribute band, and apparently they do very well. He’s been great to work with, as is my old friend Dave Mencarelli who got me in here in the first place. All around, this is a wonderful gig.

Again, the problem remains how to keep getting them every single week. Gary was saying how it’s the same for musicians, as the amount of lounge work has gone way down as well. He’s great at what he does, and he’s been in the Reno market since 1976 so I’m sure he gets the gravy gigs.

It’s a big numbers game. For what I’m doing, the number of venues is shrinking by the minute while the number of those who can do the job is increasing. I know I am lucky to be booked this week, but I’m also very qualified to do the job. Now I need to keep getting into more venues like this in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and anywhere else there’s live entertainment. This was worth my effort, even though the travel back and forth is a constant pain. Unemployment hurts even more.

The Silver Legacy - a fantastic hotel and casino.

The Silver Legacy – a fantastic hotel and casino.

Catch A Rising Star  - Reno's BEST comedy club!

Catch A Rising Star – Reno’s BEST comedy club!

Gary Rafanelli - what a talent!

Gary Rafanelli – what a talent!

Wrestling With Radio

December 28, 2012

Thursday December 27th, 2012 – Reno, NV

   Doing radio and sometimes television interviews to promote shows while in a town is a crucial part of being a professional comedian and an entertainer in general. When I was a kid, I watched AWA professional wrestling and became mesmerized by the interviews with characters like Mad Dog Vachon, Nick Bockwinkel and Milwaukee’s hometown hero Da Crusher. I lived for all of it.

Those colorful interviews were what whetted the fans’ appetite to go see live shows, and I was hip to that concept at an early age. I loved watching the interviews more than the actual wrestling itself – which I later found out wasn’t wrestling at all. It was all a big show, but when I found that out I enjoyed it even more. It was world class entertainment, and that was good enough for me.

I’ve done hundreds if not thousands of local, regional and even national radio interviews in my time, not to mention more than my share of TV also. I always try to be animated and entertaining as much as possible but still get in as many plugs for the show as I can. There’s an art to doing it.

I happen to enjoy the challenge of adapting to whatever on air situation I’m in, but a whole lot of comedians I know can’t stand it. It’s a chore to them, and they go in the studio with an attitude and that usually guarantees failure before they ever start. They don’t realize how important it is.

Granted, some interviewers can be downright horrible. Even in bigger markets, talentless radio pinheads who think they’re funny either continuously step on punch lines or feel the need to try and top everything the comedian says. I’ve seen it all, and can pretty much handle any situation.

What’s important to always remember is that even one three to five minute slot on the radio or television gives an act more exposure than if they’d appear at the club or venue they’re plugging every single night for a year. It’s smart business to take advantage of every appearance possible.

I’ve been lucky enough to be on both sides of the microphone in comedy and radio so I’ve seen countless examples of how a variety of others handle themselves. Only a few really put an effort into it, and I try to be one of them. I don’t want to waste even a second of air time if I can help it.

This morning I had a fantastic opportunity to be on the air with my old friend Bill Schulz. Bill started working for the company the same week I did in 1996. We’re both from Milwaukee, and it was funny that we’d never met each other in person until we got to Reno. He got hired to work at the oldies station, and I was at the country station in the same cluster. We grew to be friends.

As luck would have it, my station changed formats and I got blown out the door but Bill ended up staying and becoming a local radio fixture. He’s now on ‘Alice’ at www.alice965.com and he and his partner Connie rule the roost around these parts. Good for Bill, as he’s a fantastic person.

Bill was there through my infamous bank robbery ordeal, and asked if I would tell the story on air. That’s always a show stopper, and anywhere I’ve told it people come to the club and ask me questions about it, so I know it works. It’s my radio secret weapon, and it hasn’t failed me yet.

Crusherbill schultz

Breathing Easier

December 27, 2012

Wednesday December 26th, 2012 – Reno, NV

   I always breathe a little easier on December 26th, knowing another Christmas is finally OVER. Some years are better than others, but for some reason this one was a nasty bastard. I would love nothing more than to ‘get over it’ or ‘turn the frown upside down’ like a lot of well meaning but completely clueless people like to say, but it’s just not that easy. If it were, I would have done it.

It’s like Superman being bound and gagged and lowered into an Olympic sized swimming pool full of kryptonite, and then people wondering why he can’t get out. Everyone has their weakness, and this is mine. It’s also a big hurdle for most dented cans. Family pain haunts us for a lifetime.

I wish I could ‘fix it’, but it’s beyond my capability. I’m too busy out there slugging it out on a daily basis trying to keep the bills paid. Who’s got extra money to see a doctor and get some help when every penny I’m making is going to pay rent, keep my car running, feed myself and get my IRS debt shrunk down? I couldn’t support a family right now if I wanted to – but I really want to.

Had life worked like it looked like it was going to, I’d be sitting pretty working at The Loop in Chicago doing the morning show with my good friends Spike Manton and Max Bumgardner. We would be making a great living, and having a blast doing it. I’d be known around Chicago and an absolute champion for charitable causes across the board. It was right in our grasp, and then not.

I still can’t figure out why it went down like it did – but it did and the last several years haven’t been a shadow of what they could have been. An opportunity like that doesn’t come often, and it came at a time when we were all ready for it. We would have been great in that role, but it’s out of our hands now and that’s another reason the holidays stink. We were fired on December 17th.

My whole life would have been better on so many levels, but it isn’t and here I sit by myself in Reno trying to pay bills for another week. It’s hard as hell not to be bitter or depressed about the way things worked out, but I’m trying my best to hang in there and keep fighting. It’s a struggle.

I realize I’m not the only one in a rough spot, but sometimes that doesn’t help. My own issues seem insurmountable, and I feel like I’m Superman in that pool of kryptonite. Once I get out I’m confident I’ll be able to get my super powers back, but while I’m down it feels like it’s hopeless.

This week in Reno at Catch A Rising Star will be fun. The first show tonight was solid and the club is beautiful. The staff is all friendly, and they’ve been working there for years so they have a grip on how to do things correctly. I could tell in the first two minutes I was going to like it here, and I have no doubt shows will go well all week. Tonight’s show was a great way to kick it off.

Working in places like this every week for decent pay would help relieve a lot of pressure and make life a lot more relaxed. If I knew I was booked out for a year or even six months, I’d have a little breathing room and be able to get caught up and get my head together. I can ace the shows, it’s having to hunt down the bookings every week that’s the hassle. For this week, I’ll be alright. Christmas is over, and so is my dream gig at The Loop. It’s time to get myself back in a groove.

Plowing Through

December 26, 2012

Tuesday December 25th, 2012 – Reno, NV

   It was a wonderful Christmas, mainly because I slept through most of it. I’ve hit it hard most of this whole year, and having one day to just sit around and do nothing was quite refreshing. I’m in a really nice room at the Silver Legacy Hotel, and everything I need is in short walking distance.

That includes walking itself. There’s a convenient hamster trail system that connects where I’m staying with both Circus Circus and The Eldorado and I can get my walking in without having to go outside if I don’t want to. There’s a lot to look at, and I was surprised to find packed houses at the restaurants. What was even more of a surprise was seeing how many families were with kids.

I guess I didn’t picture the casino experience as somewhere to bring children, but they were out in full force all day and night. There is a large Asian customer base for whatever reason, and I’ve never seen that either. I don’t have a problem with Asian people, I just don’t recall there being as many when I lived here as there were today. I felt like I was walking around in Tokyo or Beijing.

I know the Bay Area has a large Asian population, and they must come to Reno for the holiday season apparently. Families were asking me left and right to take pictures of them, and of course I said yes every time. It didn’t bother me to take the pictures, but it did bother me that there were so many families together and most of them looked like they were having fun and enjoying life.

That’s how I always thought it should be, and the older I get the more I realize I never had that and likely never will. It takes a lifetime to build that, and mine has been amputated from an early age and it’s just not going to happen. I have a few cousins I’m very fond of, but they know what I’m talking about because they’re fighting it too. We’re all trying hard to salvage decent lives.

People who aren’t dented cans have no idea how painful this time of year is. I wish I wouldn’t be able to understand it myself, but I totally do. Others mean well by saying “Hey, come on over to our house for Christmas,” but that just makes it worse. It reinforces all that we are missing and depresses the hell out of me. I totally get why there are so many suicides at or near the holidays.

The feeling of sadness and isolation can be overwhelming, and it’s not just something anybody can go out and fix with a few simple steps. It’s ingrained, and just when our inner scab begins to heal the whole process rolls around again and the bleeding starts all over. I wish it weren’t true.

I’d love to have a loving wife and kids of my own to dote over, but I don’t think that will ever happen on this cosmic plane. It’s just not in the cards, and the more I wish for it the less likely it seems like it will ever happen. I don’t feel lovable, and I don’t feel loved. I never felt it as a kid, and it feels like the stump has crusted over. Comedy is fun, but doesn’t soothe this kind of pain.

So what the hell do I do? Damned if I know. I gave my life to be a comedian, and I’ve become a very good one – even if I’m not rich or famous. That doesn’t mean I can’t go into any comedy venue in North America and kick major ass. I’ll do it in Reno this week, and the audiences won’t have a clue that I’d give it all up to have a loving family around me. That’s what life is all about.

An Awful Awful Christmas

December 26, 2012

Monday December 24th, 2012 – Chicago, IL/Reno, NV

   I was prepared for my trip from Chicago to Reno on Christmas Eve to be difficult, but I did not expect the stress filled ulcer causing nightmare it became. I had all I could handle and then some to maintain my composure, but I managed to not punch anybody so I’ll consider that a victory.

It started off rather smoothly, as I pulled up to Jim McHugh’s house exactly at 5:15am as I said I would. Jim is a great friend, and has always been willing to get up at any hour to help me get to an airport if I need to and I couldn’t be more grateful. He knows I’d do it for him, and I owe him about a dozen favors for all the times he’s done it for me. It’s an honor to have friends like that.

Jim dropped me off at the train station, and I bought my ticket and hurried down a big flight of stairs just in time to miss my train. Another one came in about ten minutes, so it didn’t make me late but that was the start of things to come. From then on the stress-o-meter cranked up to a 10.

I made my transfer in downtown Chicago and arrived at Midway Airport at 7am sharp for my 8:35 flight to Las Vegas. I thought I was golden until I saw the line of people waiting to check in at the gate. It looked like the welfare line on double cheese day, and I knew I was in for trouble.

We were directed into the deepest bowels of the airport to wait in the longest line I’d ever seen this side of Six Flags or Disneyland. People were in foul moods as many were missing scheduled flights, and the tension level was on red alert. I was hoping a riot wouldn’t break out, but I would bet not as much as the security guards were. They earned every last penny of their pay and more.

I wasn’t in full blown panic mode as I had a two day cushion to get to Reno, but it wasn’t how I’d planned to spend my Monday morning. That line was NOT moving, and I truly thought I had no chance of making my flight until a woman from the airline walked through the line and asked if anyone had a small enough bag that didn’t have to be checked. Only a few of us raised hands.

We were told to follow her to another part of the airport and stand in another line. I had a small glimmer of hope I’d make it, but then I saw the security line and it went away. That’s always the killer, and it was moving extra slow today. I gritted my teeth, shut my mouth and got in the line.

Miraculously, I managed to get through the line with about five minutes to spare from the time my flight was to take off, and I ran to the gate and was the last one to get on the plane. My heart was beating like a drum solo, but I made it. Still, the feeling of not knowing is one of pure stress.

I made it to my seat in the very back of the plane and was of course destined to the middle seat between Hoss Cartwright’s love child who was about 6’6” and 350 lbs of blubber – half of which was oozing over into my seat – and a lady from Canada who wanted to hear my full life history.

To add even more tension, I wore a Packers jacket and sweatshirt and Moose had a Bears shirt  on. I sensed his disgust as I sat down, and the lady had to immediately ask if I was a Packer fan. I told her I grew up there and had no choice. I didn’t want to get into a war of words with Hoss Jr.

I hoped to get some sleep, but I just couldn’t manage to nod out. There was far too little room, and the lady refused to be quiet long enough for me to try. I never mentioned to her that I was a comedian, and I’m glad I didn’t. She’d have been telling stale knock knock jokes all the way to Las Vegas and I’d have had to choke her at some point. It was hard enough to endure as it was.

I was as polite as humanly possible, but this was not a day I felt like getting into a conversation with anyone – especially an exuberant Canuck who loves Christmas more than anything and isn’t afraid to tell strangers on a plane. I didn’t want to be mean, but I did want to hear ‘Silent Night’.

My flight to Reno from Las Vegas wasn’t much better. I was between an old man who smelled like a cross between moth balls and the unwashed pair of his own and a woman who could easily have been a stunt double for Weezy from The Jeffersons. At least it was only one hour, not three.

Dave Mencarelli picked me up at the airport, and I’m thrilled he did. That was very nice of him to do that, as he totally didn’t have to. He took me to the Silver Legacy Hotel and I checked into a beautiful room on the 32nd floor. I was sound asleep in what seemed like sixty seconds or less.

I woke up from my nap and realized it was Christmas Eve, and that put me in a reflective mood for the rest of the night. The icy fact hit me that no matter what happens in my comedy pursuit, it will never ever fill this hole in my soul that comes from not having a family. They’re not related.

Most if not all entertainers think hitting the big time in show business will make up for all their deficiencies in other areas, and it’s just not true. Somewhere in my twisted logic process I’m sure I believed that same thing, in fact I know I did. I thought hitting it big would erase all the hurtful memories of childhood and make those people love and accept me. Nothing could be more false.

I’m very proud of how far I’ve come as both a comedian and a person, but Christmas is always a harsh reminder that I’ve never had the support of a loving family to carry me through the times I really need it – and it’s not a pleasant feeling. I feel all alone, like I’m drifting through space.

Yes, the feeling of being on stage when it’s going well is nothing less than intoxicating, but it’s not worth a damn thing if there’s no immediate family to share it with. Enduring a travel day like today doesn’t pay back enough to keep going through them. Anyone I may have needed to prove anything to is dead, and it accomplished nothing. I have proved to myself everything I need to.

I walked around the streets of downtown Reno, and saw some poor bastard playing a guitar all by himself. He looked weathered and frazzled, and his story can’t be a happy one either. I’m sure if he had some place to go on Christmas Eve, he’d have been there. I wasn’t alone in being alone.

There’s a small casino called The Nugget that has a diner in the back that features a big greasy hamburger called ‘The Awful Awful’ – as in ‘awfully big’ and ‘awfully good’. I haven’t had one since I lived here, so I ordered one and looked around at all the others who had no destination for Christmas Eve. They looked sadder than I was, and I was pretty sad. I’ve made others laugh for a lifetime, but on a lonely Christmas Eve in Reno who brightens my spirits? Who the hell knows?The NuggetAwful Awful

Too Tight Travel

December 24, 2012

Sunday December 23rd, 2012 – Kenosha, WI

   I’m going to have my hands full and then some schedule wise this next week or so, and I’m not thrilled about it. The constant nerve wracking pressure of having to get somewhere on a deadline puts me on edge, but that’s part of being an entertainer. If I don’t get to the gig, I don’t get paid.

I’m working in Reno this week at Catch A Rising Star in the Silver Legacy hotel. I’m happy to be working there, as I’ll bet I have been trying to get in there for at least ten years. I had a contact with the former booker there, but we just never hooked up on a week that worked for both of us.

Dave Mencarelli is a comedian who also manages the club. He was just starting out when I had a radio job there in 1996, and apparently I was nice to him. I’m glad I was, since he’s been trying to get me in there since he got the gig. That’s how it works, and I’m very grateful for his efforts.

This was the week the booker offered, and I have little choice but to take it. I know I’ll rock the room, and that’s not bragging. I lived in Reno and am comfortable there, and I’m at the tippy top of my game comedy wise. All I needed was a push to get me in there, and Dave did that for me.

The difficult part is going to be getting there and back on a busy holiday week. I have to do my Mothership Connection radio show tonight from 8pm to midnight, and then get to the airport for an 8am flight to Reno. Unfortunately, I’m flying out of Midway Airport instead of Milwaukee or O’Hare. Midway is the least convenient airport from where I live, but that’s how it worked out.

To make it even more tenuous, I picked up a fallout at Zanies in Rosemont, IL for New Year’s Eve. Rosemont is close to O’Hare Field, and if my flight was out of there I’d be golden. But it’s not. So I’m going to be cutting it close because the earliest return flight I could get was at 4pm.

Do I park my car at Midway and incur the expense or take my friend Jim McHugh’s kind offer and park at his house in Hoffman Estates, IL and take a train to downtown Chicago and make the transfer to another one which gets me to Midway for $2.50? That sounds good in theory, but Jim is going to be working New Year’s Eve and won’t be able to pick me up from the train station.

This is a one man sequel to Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but I’ve got to work it all out for a chance to keep working. I’ve also got to do it as cheaply as possible so I make at least some kind of a profit or it’s not even worth going in the first place. It’s a lot of effort with a minimal payoff, not to mention there are all kinds of unforeseen pitfalls that could jump up and bite me in the ass.

Weather could be an issue at some point, and that could delay either my flight or my trip to get from the airport to my car or Zanies. I’ll have minimal time to shower, shave and get ready to do shows on New Year’s Eve, which can be hectic enough as it is. This is not the option I’d choose.

Too bad I don’t have any say in the matter. This is how it’s working this time, and I’m going to shut my mouth and do my best to be where I need to be when they call my name. If I don’t, I will not get paid. If I do, I will have earned every penny I get. This showbiz thing can wear a guy out.

Auto Focus

December 24, 2012

Saturday December 22nd, 2012 – Waukegan, IL

   I sincerely try to help people whenever I can, and today I had the opportunity. Ben Bergman is a young comedian from Kentucky who now lives in Chicago. I like Ben and we’ve done a couple of road swings together, and he needed a car after his Chevy Cavalier gave up the ghost recently.

Ben heard me talk of how I’ve been going to the Waukegan Auto Auction for years to buy road cruisers, and he asked if I wouldn’t mind tagging along with him to show him the ropes. I’m glad he did, as I absolutely LOVE doing that. For whatever reason, going to the auction is a passion.

I love looking over the cars and spotting the cherries. I’ve done it enough times where I have a pretty good idea which ones are worth bidding on, and even how much they’ll go for. I haven’t a clue how that information can be useful, other than helping people like Ben score a sweet deal.

We met up at the auction at 8:30am, and went through the lot trying to find cars he might want to bid on. We found about six out of the 100 plus vehicles on the lot, but that’s about average. It boils down to a numbers game, and after that it becomes a poker game when the bidding starts.

I enjoy the adventure of it all, and even though there’s risk involved it’s still fun to look over a lot full of cars and see which ones might be desirable. It’s a lot like a sports draft, and those who do their homework often come away with remarkable bargains. Ben handled himself very well.

He’d looked over the vehicle list at the website www.waukeganautoauction.com and marked a few prospects he wanted to look at. I’d done the same, and he made some good choices. One that neither of us had marked was a 1997 Nissan Sentra that had 112,000 miles on it. It was a sweetie, and I could tell by looking at it this was the belle of the ball. I’ve had that feeling several times.

Ben liked it too, and we decided that would be our target. He bid on a couple of other very nice Hondas, but even though he won the bidding it was below the seller’s reserve amount. He would have had to negotiate a price, but there was still a possibility he would have gotten a killer deal.

We decided to wait until the Nissan came through, and he ended up getting it for $1550. There was another guy bidding with him and it probably shouldn’t have gotten that high, but it was the sweetest car on the lot and even at that price he made a fantastic buy. I loved watching him get to bid on the car, as I know how exciting that is. I felt like a dad watching his son buy his first car.

Ben thanked me several times, but I didn’t mind helping at all. I was happy he was able to steal it away from the other bidder, and I think it will last him a long time. Then I got into my own car which also happens to be a Nissan Sentra, and discovered my driver’s door wouldn’t close. Some goofy glitch with the latch happened and I had to drive with my left arm holding the door shut.

The automatic seatbelt kept clicking on an off, and it was a scene right out of a movie. I wasn’t laughing then, but it’s hilarious now. The ‘free’ car from my friend Richard keeps on costing me by the week. I had to pay $45 for a mechanic to take the door cover off and oil all the parts. Ugh.

Nissanauctions

No Apocalypse For You

December 23, 2012

Friday December 21st, 2012 – St. Charles, IL

   Well, no apocalypse today. I wonder if anyone else is disappointed. A good old fashioned end of the world as we know it life vaporizing cosmic explosion would have been the ideal way for a pathetic planet filled with ignorance, imbeciles and insanity to go out and wipe the slate clean.

Now we’re really doomed. The sky high pile of problems we already have will continue to get higher and fester, and millions worldwide will continue to suffer slowly and painfully. A gigantic blast from the cosmos would have been the most humane way to euthanize a bunch of monkeys.

I wish I had more faith in our planet and those who inhabit it, but I totally don’t. There are just too many idiots per capita for my liking, and I can’t believe I asked to be born here. According to many, we all choose our circumstances before we’re born, and then have to live out our destiny.

The first time I heard that theory, I laughed out loud. I couldn’t imagine anyone choosing a life of unpleasant struggle like so many of us get, but apparently there are reasons for it. We need the experiences we go through to learn important lessons, and apparently those lessons are crucial.

Depending on the source, many people believe there absolutely is reincarnation and all of this is part of a bigger picture. I’ve read so much and heard so many opinions that I don’t know what to believe at this point. All I can say for certain is that I don’t know – and it’s all anyone can say.

Why the world is the way it is is beyond anyone’s comprehension, but I for one am not a fan of how it’s being run on a high level. The human animal is a flawed beast in my opinion, and I have no idea how we’ve survived as long as we have as a species. We continue to mangle all we touch and quite frankly it doesn’t look good for the future. A clean ending would have been a blessing.

But alas, it didn’t happen. We’re left here to our own primal urges, and basically all we are are a bunch of monkeys throwing poo. We claim to be sophisticated, but then we let petty little tripe get in the way and continue to cause and perpetuate wars that destroy this beautiful planet we’ve been given to live on. We’re like a bunch of six year olds fighting over crayons, and I’m over it.

I don’t claim to be perfect, and never have. I don’t think I’m any better than the rest of the idiot brigade, and that’s pretty disappointing as well. I aspire to such greatness in my mind, but in real life I’m just another one of the monkeys trying to find one more banana. It’s not what I pictured.

That being said, life goes on. Good or bad, right or wrong, we’re still here. For how long could be anyone’s guess, but for the moment we’ve still got air in our lungs. What will we do with it? I for one want to make the best of whatever time I have left, and I look upon now on as bonus time for everyone on the planet. I can only control my part of it, but I intend to put forth a good effort.

Tonight I had two solid shows at Zanies Comedy Club in St. Charles, IL. Both audiences were great laughers, and I reached back and gave them every last drop of what I had to give. I enjoyed every minute of it, and if I have to remain on this planet a while longer I’ll do what gives me joy.