Flea-ing The Scene

July 25, 2014

Sunday July 20th, 2014 – Wilmot, WI

There’s a flea market that’s now a lot farther than it used to be from where I lived, but if I have time on a Sunday I’ll still make the drive. It’s a ski hill in Wilmot, WI which is really close to the Illinois state line, and having a flea market in summer is a great way to make use of their space.

I discovered it last year, and even though it’s not that great I still go at least a couple of times a month to if nothing else get in an exercise walk. It’s always an enlightening education to soak in the human freak show at any flea market, and I look at my $1 admission as really cheap tuition.

My main goal is to scope out a product I think I can sell myself. I realize nothing is easy, but I sure don’t want to be doing what 99% of the vendors are doing. Most of them pack up some kind of truck or trailer with a random collection of useless crap I wouldn’t take for free. Why do that?

The grunt work alone of setting up and tearing down couldn’t begin to come close to any profit that may possibly be brought in. I can’t believe some of the flat out junk some people put out for sale. What are the chances someone will come along and need a left front fender for a ’67 Buick Wildcat or a pool table with a ripped felt? Wouldn’t it be a lot smarter to bring pictures instead?

If I would happen to be looking for a used pool table, I wouldn’t think to look at a flea market in Wilmot, WI – or anywhere else. But I see people week after week with displays that make my eyes tired just to look. It reminds me of my Grandfather and father, and I want to set it all ablaze.

My grandparents, father and uncle were all borderline hoarders. They had issues with throwing anything away. When they eventually died, everyone else had to clean up their messes. I vowed I never wanted to be like that, and I intend to keep my word. I am not going to put anyone through that kind of hell when I croak. I want all my possessions to fit into the back seat of a small car.

The reason I go to flea markets is not to buy something for .95 and hope I can sell it for $1.50. I want to see how and what the public buys – if anything. Times are getting tighter by the minute and not many of us have a pocket full of disposable income. I’ll bet all those vendors are hurting.

Collectibles as a whole are going through the floor. I’ve been wheeling and dealing sports stuff for years, mainly to give me something to do. That business is occupying the bottom of the toilet, along with stamps, coins and especially Beanie Babies. What a waste of time that stupid fad was.

Come to think of it, they’re all pretty stupid. Sports cards are basically pictures of sweaty men. That may be popular at a bath house somewhere, but as far as contributing to society it really has no lasting value. It’s kind of fun to collect, but when life gets hard who has time for any hobbies?

My only ‘hobby’ at the moment is trying to pay bills for another month and keep my aging car on the road. Trying to track down a three legged albino porcupine Beanie Baby is a luxury I just can’t indulge myself with right now. And if I could, I’d hunt for it on Ebay without the sweating.

Still, I enjoy walking in the fresh air and taking in the sights which are many. I have no idea of what I would ever sell, but maybe I’ll find a product. Whatever it is, it won’t be old pool tables.

Flea markets can be both entertaining and educational - but finding a real bargain is pretty rare. It's mostly junk.

Flea markets can be both entertaining and educational – but finding a real bargain is rare.

My Favorite Venue

July 23, 2014

Saturday July 19th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

Ahhh…nothing is as thoroughly refreshing as an oasis in the desert. Tonight I was booked for a pair of shows at my all time favorite performance venue which is The Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee. I love everything about the place, and I’d work there anytime.

The stage is enormous, the sound and lights are always perfect, and the hometown audience is primed. I can talk to them like nowhere else, because I grew up in Milwaukee and know exactly what buttons to push. I can use references I can’t use anywhere else, and it is total creative bliss.

Another reason I like working there is the friendly staff. Bob Rech is in charge, and everybody from him on down treats me like a big star. I treat them well too, but I do that everywhere. That’s how I think everyone should be, but it doesn’t always go down that way. I feel totally at home.

Tonight I wasn’t hired to do my “Schlitz Happened!” show about growing up in Milwaukee, so I kept it separate and just did my regular standup comedy show. I have enough material to divide it up, and I have always been one to switch things around depending on the individual audience.

I’m rarely if ever nervous before any show, but tonight I admit there was a knot in my stomach because my sister Tammy and her husband Jake came out to see the early show. I had a difficult time coming up with the last time Tammy saw me, and it has to be more than 25 years. Jake had never seen me perform ever, and I wanted to have a good show just so they’d have a good time.

We went out for dinner before the show, and met up with my cousin Wendy and her childhood friend Mary Jo. Tammy and Wendy had never met, and I was a nervous host there too because I wanted it to go well. The last thing I needed would be any family tension, but there wasn’t a bit.

Wendy is a super sweetheart, and has supported me for years. She and Tammy were fine, and we had a relaxing meal before they went to gamble for a while before the show. Caryn Ruby was the opening act, and she joined us for dinner. I didn’t expect any problems from her, and didn’t have any. All of us got along, and it went exactly how it was supposed to go. I was SO relieved.

The early show audience wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great either. Summer shows are always light, and the 7pm starting time can be a factor too. I was still able to get them going, but I have had much better audiences. Tammy and Jake thought it was great, and so did Wendy. That’s the main concern I had, and I’m always ultra hard on myself and set high standards. I want to please.

Of course the second show was a whole lot better, but that’s how it usually goes. When there’s anybody that need to be impressed, the show rarely delivers – at least in my mind. When it’s just another show with nobody I know in the crowd, that’s when it rocks. Those people were laughers and we all had a blast. When that room is rocking, there isn’t any place like it. I adore that space.

If it were up to me, I would work there 52 weeks a year. I would perform “Schlitz Happened!” and build my legend like Danny Gans did at his theatre in The Mirage in Las Vegas. It doesn’t even have to be in the Northern Lights Theatre, even though I fit perfectly there. A smaller room would be fine, as long as the hot audiences keep showing up. I was born to work there. Literally.

I can't think of a more ideal venue for standup comedy than Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee. It's my favorite stage of all time.

I can’t think of a more ideal venue for standup comedy than Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee. It’s my favorite venue. http://www.paysbig.com

An Extended Mess

July 23, 2014

Friday July 18th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

My life is an extended mess, and I don’t know how to fix it. It’s not messy like a lot of people, and in fact my mess is pretty boring. There are no drug or alcohol addictions or cheating on my pregnant wife with a secretary. But it’s still there. A mess is a mess, and they’re a bitch to clean.

I am flopping around desperately like a fish in a boat, with a giant hook in my mouth. My eyes are bugged out and I’m suffocating – with water just inches away. If someone would remove the hook and toss me back in the water, I would have a chance to start over. I would like that chance.

The hook in my mouth is being an entertainer. I have given up everything else in order to attain a skill level most never come close to, but it has put me in an unstable financial position. I can no longer earn a living like I have all of my adult life and my eyes are bugging out. I’m suffocating.

But water is just inches away. All it would take to turn my life around is one phone call with an extended run of bookings somewhere. It could be comedy clubs, casinos, cruise ships colleges or I could write for a TV show. I could also do radio. It’s not like I’m a total zero. I have a skill set.

The skill set I have is very specialized, and those that are at the top end of the scale are hauling in enormous bank. I don’t need that right now quite honestly. I’d be thrilled with medium money on a steady basis, but entertainment is a feast or famine game. I am smack dab amidst a famine.

There are few if any entertainers that don’t experience this at some point, but many have a nest egg put away to fall back on during the lean times. I had one started, and a nice one at that. Then I had a “worst case scenario” pop up in 2011 and health problems cleaned out every last nickel.

This was after getting blasted out of a radio gig in 2004 that would have paid great money and offered full insurance benefits so the crisis in 2011 wouldn’t have been nearly as devastating as it was. But it was. And ever since then I have been watching everything I have worked so hard for for so long dry up in front of my eyes. I know I’m not the only one suffering, but it’s still a mess.

How does one manage to clean up a life mess? It usually takes a while for one to develop, and it can’t be taken away in one fell swoop – even though that’s what most of us expect. It’s like the dieter that took a lifetime to put on that extra 100 pounds, but expects to take it all off in a week.

It’s not realistic, and in fact it’s dangerous to even try. There has to be a slow steady battle plan in place, and it’s neither pleasant nor easy. But that’s what it takes to achieve desired results, and it gets harder as one gets older because so many other things pop up and become obstacles also.
I’ve got so many problems right now I have no idea where to start. I do a little something every day on as many as I can, but then I look at how high the mountain is and I lose hope. What’s the solution? I sure wish I knew. A steady income would make things a lot easier, but how to get it?

I’m working on getting a resume out to ‘normal’ jobs, but I can’t lie. My heart isn’t in it. I need stability, but I sure don’t want to do it this way. Landing another radio gig that lasts several years would be ideal, but who is passing those out these days? Nobody. Back to cleaning up my mess.

Sometimes I feel like a fish sitting at the bottom of the boat - with water just inches away.

Sometimes I feel like a fish sitting at the bottom of the boat – with water just inches away.

Scrabble Babble

July 22, 2014

Thursday July 17th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I think I am finally ready for old age – that or a long prison term. I have found the activity that is going to keep my brain occupied for the rest of my days on this out of control little planet. I’m hooked for life, and if there’s a rehab program I don’t want to participate. “It” is online Scrabble.

I have loved words and word games since my earliest memory. My grandfather would work on the daily crossword puzzle in the newspaper, and as I got older I would help – or at least make an effort. I didn’t solve many clues at first, but in time I got better and learned to enjoy the process.

Gramps never played Scrabble, but I had an uncle that introduced me to it at a young age albeit under unusual circumstances. My wacky aunt would always want to play, and she was a piece of work to say the least. She eventually caused us to bend the rules, and allow for trading of letters.

I’m sure that’s not the first time additional homemade rules have been implemented to a board game, but even that didn’t help my Aunt Charlene. She would always find a way to get into a big argument with my uncle, and it put everybody on edge. Still, I grew to adore the game anyway.

I had never heard of a Scrabble club before I moved to Lansing, MI in 1990 to take my first job in radio, but I was fascinated with the idea. The club met on Saturday mornings, with most of the members being women quite a bit older than me. I was 26 then, and they saw me as fresh meat.

They would bring assorted home baked goodies to share with the group, and many would bring craft projects to knit or crochet during the games. On the surface they didn’t look like a school of bloodthirsty sharks, but then I’d sit down and get shredded flesh handed to me week after week.

Wow, were they cold blooded. They would beat me like Ike Turner beat Tina, and never break a sweat. They’d keep on knitting and crocheting, and the grandmotherly smile would never leave their face for a second. Try as I might, I don’t think I ever won even one game. They crushed me.

I only went a few times, but I had a fresh respect for how much I needed to learn and how good someone could get at a game I thought I was already good at. They were on a level I hadn’t even conceived of, but it also made me want to improve. I have played whenever I could since then.

I can’t believe it took me this long to discover there was an entire online community of players, but I have now become one of them. I am hooked. It’s only been a couple of months, but I can’t see myself ever getting sick of playing. I do it whenever it’s convenient, and I don’t have to play an entire game if I don’t want to. But if I do, I can play as many games as I want at a single time.

Just like with the Scrabble club in Lansing, at first I was finding myself getting torched with an alarming degree of regularity. It was discouraging, but I knew I’d get better if I hung in there and that’s what I’ve done. Now I’m starting to win games regularly, and I can feel myself improving.

My two most regular opponents have been Bill Gorgo and Kristie Dickinson. They are terrific players that consistently kicked me around for weeks, but now I’m starting to win a few and they don’t like it. It’s a super challenge, and I’m never bored. I have found my passion for the future.

Anybody want to play Scrabble? I'm hooked for life.

Anybody want to play Scrabble? I’m hooked.

Bus Dreams

July 21, 2014

Wednesday July 16th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

One of a large laundry list of assorted oddities in my life I have never been able to figure out is a recurring dream I have had for decades. I have told it in detail to several dream interpreters that I have run across both on the radio and in private, but nobody has given me a definitive answer.

In my dream, I am walking through an unidentified city. It is almost always at night, and I find an abandoned city bus parked with the motor running and lights on. I get on the bus, sit myself in the driver’s seat and proceed to start driving along a route that somehow I already know by heart.

I stop and pick passengers up, and nobody ever questions anything. I will exchange banter with many of the people that get on, and even answer questions they have about directions. It’s a very realistic experience, and I can totally feel that big bus steering wheel in my hands as I’m driving.

It’s never a school bus or Greyhound, and it’s never out in the sticks. It’s always a city bus in a city environment with big buildings around me and lots of traffic. I know exactly how to operate everything, and I consciously check my mirrors and use turn signals. It’s a detailed experience.

The funny thing is, I have never driven anything close to a bus in my life. I did own a hearse a long time ago, but I didn’t drive it very much. It was basically a gimmick I used to advertise my comedy. I had “Die Laughing with Comedian Dobie Maxwell” painted on the side, and I parked it in a friend’s driveway that lived on a busy street. It was more of a billboard than anything else.

I only wish I could have as vividly detailed dreams about being a special guest at the Playboy mansion, but that has never happened even once. These bus dreams have been going on for most of my adult life, and I’ll be dipped in diesel fuel if I can figure out why. But it’s not unpleasant.

I did happen to ride the city bus quite a bit while growing up in Milwaukee, but there’s no way it should have buried itself that deeply into my psyche that I still have such vivid dreams about it today. I have never charted how often this dream occurs, but I’d say a couple of times each year.

Last night it happened again, and I have to admit I enjoyed it. I wasn’t naked behind the wheel or anything like that, and once again I knew exactly what I was doing and where I was going on my route. If I had that kind of confidence and vision in real life, I would be a superstar by now.

The only other recurring dream I still have is about trying to be a baseball pitcher. I show up at a tryout camp somewhere, and try to act like I belong there. I get on the mound and start to throw and before long there are scouts standing around asking me questions. Again, everything is vivid.

Once in a while the procedure will take place at an actual stadium although I can rarely identify which. Sometimes it’s Wrigley Field. Other times it’s Comiskey Park or the old County Stadium in Milwaukee. Most times it’s just your random run of the mill stadium, but it’s always packed.

Between innings I get to go out there and show everybody what I have left in the tank. I give it all I have, and then they ask me to join them in the broadcast booth. Again, I have no idea why it happens, but it’s never unpleasant. Where’s Sigmund Freud when you need him? I need answers.

If my life dreams matched my bus dreams, I'd be a huge success.

If my life dreams could match my bus dreams, I would be a smashing success.

Milwaukee Mingling

July 19, 2014

Wednesday July 15th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

I took a trip home to Milwaukee today, and it turned into a mini whirlwind tour. With the price of gas where it is I think we all have to plan our trips these days. I squeezed as much into a single day as I could, and it was productive. I challenge anyone to pack as much into one day as I did.

My first stop was Miss Katie’s Diner to see my friend Lynn Miner. Lynn is one of my biggest supporters, and an outstanding human being. He’s a magician among many other things, and he’s looking to do that full time after a hugely successful career as a grant seeker all over the world.

I can help Lynn with adding jokes to his act, but he helps me even more. He’s got a lifetime of experience in making business plans, and is mentoring me in what I’m doing. It’s a win/win for all parties, and I always look forward to meeting up with him. We complement each other well.

After lunch I stopped at the Milwaukee County Courthouse and then City Hall to check out the job openings of all things. I always said I’d never move back to Milwaukee, but if I had a reason to – like a decent job – I totally would. The former demons that used to haunt me are now dead.

I hated going back to Milwaukee because of so many bad memories. Now that I’ve gotten back in touch with my siblings, it has healed a lot of those wounds. None of them happen to live there anymore, but that’s where we were born and raised. Milwaukee will always be part of our DNA.

I don’t know if I’ll get a job or not, but it won’t hurt to sniff around and see what’s available. If I could land a nice gig with benefits, I can still do my “Schlitz Happened!” show around the state and continue performing and teaching comedy classes for Zanies in Chicago so life would be ok.

Since I was downtown already, I decided to take a lap through the Milwaukee Public Museum. It had been years since I did that, but I had some time so I decided to make the investment. I had no idea ticket prices have skyrocketed to $15, but by the time I got to the window it was too late.

I hadn’t planned on spending $15, but it really is an outstanding museum so I bit the bullet and I’m glad I did. There were a lot of exhibits I still remember from my childhood along with many new things I had never seen before. I enjoyed every minute of it, and it was interesting to observe all the kids that were there on class field trips just like I went on when I was that age. It was fun.

After that I was able to squeeze in a couple of thrift stores, but didn’t find any ancient artifacts I could resell for huge profits. If VHS tapes ever come back, I know where to load up. Other than that, it was a bunch of junk I wouldn’t take for free. Still, it’s fun to hunt and I enjoyed the stops.

I was listening to my friend Steve ‘The Homer’ True on AM 540 ESPN Radio and he was on a live remote broadcast at a Pick n’ Save grocery store. He was trying to get donations for the local Hunger Task Force and was flipping coins to donate $100. If a listener won, Homer had to donate.

If Homer won, the listener donated. Homer has always supported anything I ever did, and I was glad to stop and flip the coin. I lost of course, but that’s the legend of Mr. Lucky. I received a big plug on the air, and donated to a worthy cause. Milwaukee will always be home, so why fight it?

Milwaukee will always be my hometown, so I might as well embrace it.

Milwaukee will always be my hometown – warts and all, so I might as well embrace it.

No Complaints

July 19, 2014

Tuesday July 15th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I am by nature a complainer. I think most comedians are to some degree, and that’s a large part of why many of us are attracted to the concept of comedy in the first place. Our minds tend to go that way anyway, so why not pick apart life in general and point out the flaws and absurdities?

It’s hilarious when done right, and I became skilled at it early. I used to pick apart school lunch every day in grade school, just because I thought it was funny. It was funny, at least to the kids in my class. I used to get them rolling to the point they almost choked on the food, and that’s about the best compliment I could ever imagine. Killing a kid would have made me a comedy legend.

Then one day out of the blue one of the lunch ladies got in my face and said she was sick of my smart mouth and told me to shut it once and for all. She said how hard they worked every day on a limited budget to feed us, and then I’d walk in and get all the kids laughing. She said it hurt all the kitchen employees, and they dreaded seeing me enter into the cafeteria. I felt like a giant ass.

I didn’t realize that my bitching had hurt those ladies, and that day I walked in the kitchen and said I was sorry to each and every one of them. I told them I was only trying to get the other kids to laugh, and I didn’t realize that I was hurting their feelings. I don’t know if they believed me at the time, but I absolutely meant it. I still do. From that day forward I never made another joke.

Granted, I’ve done jokes about school lunch on stage but that was decades later and in another state. The chances of any of those ladies being at my show would be astronomical. My luck they would be having a convention or reunion in the town I was playing, and I’d infuriate them again.

I often use this very forum to tee off on something or someone that grinds my gonads, and I’m sure I’ve turned people off with that too. I would love to paint a perpetually sunny picture of the world, but from my vantage point I just don’t see it. There are circumstances that befuddle me.

A big one I am painfully reminded of every day is my roommate Sheri. What a horrible hand she has been dealt off the bottom of life’s deck, and it sickens me to see all the pain and suffering she is enduring. She is out of the hospital after her stroke on New Year’s Eve, but her life is hell.

I am delighted that we were able to pull off a benefit comedy show for her, and I see the direct result of it every day. She has a chair lift that takes her up and down some stairs, and our event is what paid for it. Most of us don’t need to think twice about going up or down any single flight of stairs, but Sheri can’t do that by herself anymore. It’s a major deal for her just to get out of bed.

She has nurses that come over on most days and help her do the simplest things, and she has to take all kinds of medication that is very expensive. She’s on disability, and some of her medicine comes out of that. My rent money really helps her, and I do all I can to help her in any way I can.

It’s extremely sad all around, and sometimes I look at her situation and wonder why somebody so nice has to suffer such a cruel fate. Sheri is a kind soul and would never hurt a baby flea. I’ve known her twenty years, and feel an obligation to help. Yet through all this mess I’ve yet to hear Sheri complain even once. I’d bet few of us could take it so well. It’s time to shut my yap. Again.

It's easy to complain about just about anything. That's a habit I need to break.

It’s easy to complain about just about anything. That’s a habit I need to break yesterday.

Social Intercourse

July 15, 2014

Monday July 14th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I have been feeling more than pretty good of late, and attempting to relax and enjoy the charms of summer. It’s been unbelievably slow on the business side, but jam packed with friends calling and asking to get together. My greatest resource has always been my long list of amazing friends, and that list gets longer and sweeter with time. If I did nothing else in life, I met some nice folks.

To have friends one must be a friend, and that’s where I’m having some issues. I don’t have all the time I’d like to hang out and visit, and that bothers me. I’ve always been one to hang out with someone because I like that person, not for what they can do for me. Unfortunately, that’s not the smart way to do things in a business sense. Social climbing is necessary, at least on some level.

I have always had a hard time hiding my disdain for someone I don’t care for. I realize nobody likes everybody, and there are more than a few that don’t like me either. I have no problem with that, except when those people are friendly to my face but then stab me in the back when I leave.

Why be two faced? Just stay away, and we’ll both be better off. I don’t have time for all of the good friends I have now, so why would I waste even one second with somebody that doesn’t like me? It makes perfect sense to me, but that’s not how business operates. I need to mingle more.

I think we all tend to stay with who is familiar in many areas of our lives, but branching out is absolutely essential in today’s world. Making new contacts can be a job in itself, but maintaining them is even harder. There are only so many lunches in one’s life, and how many times have we all said “Let’s get together soon,” but never do. Even if intentions are sincere, it’s just not easy.

I have been going over my master list of contacts, and I am WAY overdue to get in touch with a lot of people I really like. It could be a phone call or email, but I’d much rather meet up face to face if possible – even though they’re scattered all over the country and beyond. It’s a huge list.

We all have lives to live and I get that, but this year has been extra hard on losing many people I knew but hadn’t contacted in a long time. John Pinette is a prime example. It’s not like we were thick as thieves, but we knew each other well enough that whenever we crossed paths it was fun to see each other. We worked together enough times where we’d built up some positive history.

I’ve got literally hundreds of comedians like that scattered all over the planet, not to mention a ton of friends I made in radio, professional wrestling, trading sports cards and just going through life in general. It’s important to me to stay in contact with as many as I can, even though I can’t come close to keeping current with everyone. Who can? If someone else can do it, major kudos.

I just don’t have enough time, and it’s getting worse. I get up early, work all day, stay up a lot later than I probably should, drop off to sleep and then start it all over again. I make a hell of an effort if I say so myself, but I still fall painfully short. I’m going to have to rearrange yet again.

Idiots and/or scumbags have zero place in my life. Baseball gives three strikes, but I don’t have that kind of patience at this point. I’ll give one strike, and then you’re out. There are far too many good people I want to hang with. I don’t wish the losers harm – I just wish them away from me.

Friendship

Keys To Happiness

July 14, 2014

Sunday July 13th, 2014 – Lake Villa, IL/Wauconda, IL

If any inconvenience of modern life as we know it comes as close to being as exasperating as losing one’s keys, wallet or cell phone, I have yet to discover it. What a major hassle that is, and I have had it happen so many times I lost count years ago. It’s a constant battle – at least for me.

Those three things are the easiest to lose, but the most difficult to replace. Try as I might to get better, I am always setting one of those three down somewhere and then forgetting where that is. Then I have to retrace my steps and grope at straws trying to remember where I may have left it.

I am constantly patting myself down before I leave most places checking all pockets for “Keys, wallet, phone…keys, wallet phone” – over and over and over again. I look like I’m performing a German folk dance wherever I go the way I slap at myself checking for those three crucial items.

I have tried to drill it into my skull like a mantra. “Keys, wallet, phone…keys, wallet, phone. Phone, wallet, keys…phone, wallet, keys…wallet, phone, keys…wallet, phone, keys.” You get the idea. There aren’t that many possible combinations, but whatever it takes I’m willing to do.

I have successfully managed to lose all three more than once, but strangely enough never all at the same time. I have tried to protect myself at least a little by having extra car ignition and post office box keys made which I keep in my wallet. I also have about a half a dozen plastic thingies from various grocery stores and gas stations that go on my key ring to identify it when it’s lost.

Wouldn’t you know it, a couple of days ago I happened to lose my keys – again. I discovered it on my way out the door in a hurry, but I didn’t think much of it as I was carrying my trusty spare car key in my wallet. I figured I must have left it in a pair of pants or something, and would find it later. Where I’m living there’s no need for any house keys, as I use an automatic garage door.

A couple of days went by, and I had no idea where those keys were. I scoured every inch of my room, my car, the garage and everywhere else I could think of. I had no idea where I might have left them, and I tried to retrace my steps in my head and remember the last place I still had them.

It occurred to me that at least two of the plastic thingies on the key ring were no longer good as Dominick’s grocery store closed all their stores recently and Jewel no longer has a discount card program. I couldn’t remember the other cards I had, but I knew there were a few. I just hoped the person that found them would drop them into a mailbox and I’d have a chance to get them back.

I had a late breakfast this morning with my friend Mike Land in Lake, Villa, IL. He lives close by, and attends church on Sunday mornings. I have my post office box in Lake Villa, so I need to go there at least once a week and get my mail. We’ve been making Sunday breakfasts a tradition. I was distracted the entire meal as I tried to recall where I left those damn keys. I was stumped.

On the way home I passed a Chinese restaurant I stopped at to pick up lunch for my roommate last week in Wauconda, IL and may have left them there. I crossed my fingers, toes and one eye as I walked in to ask. BINGO! There they were!! The feeling of sheer joy shot through my veins like heroin, and I promised myself I’ll never lose them again. Until next time. I’m still an idiot.

Keys are some of the easiest things to lose - but most difficult to replace.

A set of keys are some of the easiest things to lose – and also the most difficult to replace.

Just Cos

July 13, 2014

Saturday July 12th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Today is Bill Cosby’s 77th birthday, and I challenge anybody to name a 20th century entertainer that has touched more people in a positive way. I sure can’t, and if there is one not only does my hat go off to that person, I will include my head along with it. Bill Cosby stands alone at the top.

My grandfather took me to see him when I was about 14. I will admit I wasn’t thrilled about it at first, mainly because I was a 14 year old know it all punk and didn’t think it would be any fun to have to sit through something like that. Looking back, I clearly see what a flaming idiot I was.

I remember getting to the Performing Arts Center in Milwaukee with Gramps early and finding our seats. All that was on the stage was a microphone in a stand, and I remember experiencing an immediate sense of disappointment. I don’t know what I had expected, but it was more than that.

To make it worse, there was an opening act we had to sit through. It was a piano player named Walt Michaels. I don’t know why I remember his name all these years later, but I do. He wasn’t bad, and in fact he was unbelievably good – but I was 14 and knew everything about everything.

Then Bill Cosby came out and within ten minutes both Gramps and I were bent over clutching our sides with laughter. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since. He proceeded to pound it out for an hour and a half, and by the time the show ended the entire audience could not breathe.

I was a fan from that day on, and I’ve never stopped. Especially since I’ve done comedy – or at least a reasonable facsimile of it – for so many years, my respect for what he has accomplished is enormous. His place in the all time annals of standup comedy is in stone, but he’s not done yet.

And that’s not counting what he accomplished in television. Fat Albert was a staple of the ‘70s on Saturday mornings, and I watched it regularly as did millions of kids of my generation. After that he only came out with the biggest sitcom of the ‘80s. Most mortal entertainer types would be thrilled to be able to lay claim to any one of those things. Bill Cosby is more than a mere mortal.

Sure, he had a few movies that flamed out. So what? Most of us never get even ONE chance to star in a movie and he got several. People make jokes about “Leonard Part 6” and “Ghost Dad”, but who wouldn’t love to be made fun of like that? If those are his worst problems, he’ll be fine.

I have been unbelievably fortunate to have met more than a few legendary comedians in person from George Carlin to Richard Pryor to Bill Hicks and others, but Bill Cosby is one I would still love to meet. I don’t know what I’d say other than how much I love his work, but that’s enough.

I wouldn’t consider myself a peer, as he’s pretty much in a class by himself. I’m a lifelong fan though, along with millions of others white and black, old and young, Northern and Southern and just about any other kind of difference. Bill Cosby has made more people laugh than anyone else.

Can anyone think of a higher honor than that? There isn’t one. If he’s a dented can he sure does hide it well, but it wouldn’t surprise me. We all are to some degree, but people like Bill Cosby do us all a favor and make the ride a little more pleasant. What an amazing contribution he’s made.

Bill Cosby is still going strong at 77. What a career he has had. Wow.

Bill Cosby is still going strong at 77. What a truly legendary career he has had. Wow.