Posts Tagged ‘Cadillac’

The Cost Of Doing Business

March 3, 2013

Thursday February 28th, 2013 – Chicago, IL/Fox Lake, IL

   Ah, the good old “cost of doing business”. That’s the money that never really gets replaced, but always ends up finding a way to drain the wallet of the self employed entrepreneur. It’s always a chunk of change that comes due out of the blue, and no matter what anyone tries to do to weasel out there are only four words that are ever able to solve said problem – “Pay at the window.”

I’m talking about a legion of unfun expenses like licenses, taxes, insurances and other non sexy necessities that end up eating the majority of anyone’s profits. If I didn’t have to physically get to my gigs and could still get people to pay me I’d be sitting pretty right about now. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. If I don’t show up, I don’t get paid – and it’s expensive to get there.

I remember reading a proverb years ago that said “An empty stable stays clean – but there is no income from an empty stable.” I don’t know why I’ve been able to remember that for years while important information flies through my brain like mosquitoes through a key hole, but I totally do.

These were the kinds of thoughts that were bouncing around in my head early this morning as I sat in my car waiting for the tow truck to pick me up after my show at Zanies in Chicago. I didn’t have anything to do but sit there with my education, wondering how in all of life I ended up here.

Times like this are ideal for reflecting, even if the reflections aren’t always flattering. I’ve been struggling my entire life to catch a break in show business, and I might have caught one had I not been distracted by so many flaming darts that flew out of nowhere. Those tend to redirect focus.

I did what I did, and I am where I am, and tonight I wanted to be anywhere else. The tow truck finally showed up about 12:30am, and of course my AAA account expires at the end of February each year so that was $85 I’d love to be able to use for something else out the door immediately.

The tow truck driver was very pleasant actually, and he was fascinated by the fact that I was a comedian. I wouldn’t have told him my occupation, but he immediately noticed my ‘URANUS 2’ license plate and started asking questions. It always gets attention – even when I don’t want it.

He said he’d been driving a tow truck fifteen years and never encountered anyone even close to having celebrity status, so to him I was a big star. We talked about a lot of things on the way and that made the drive go faster, but it was still after 2am when he dropped me off at the fix it place.

I gave the guy a copy of my CD and DVD and his eyes popped out of his head like he’d won a new Cadillac. I don’t think he was faking, but even if he was it made me feel good after the long night I’d been through. At least SOMEONE treated me like I was important, and I was grateful.

I made the right call and it ended up being the alternator. With parts and labor, installed it cost $267 out the door and it’s running great again – for now. It was running great all the other times a major repair was needed, and I’m about tapped out of cash. Too bad for me, there’s no guarantee the transmission won’t seize up tomorrow. Welcome to the world of the cost of doing business.

Deals On Wheels

January 29, 2013

Friday January 25th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Sometimes the right thing to do is to cut one’s losses and move on. That’s something I have not been willing to do as often as I should have in my life, and it’s only brought more heartache upon situations that have already proven to be losing propositions. It’s time to try something different.

This nightmare situation with my ‘free’ car has been a flat out disaster. Well meaning intention or not, I just can’t afford to keep getting kicked in the ball joints like I have been and I need to go in another direction. I’ve painted myself into a financial corner and this couldn’t come at a worse time, but when is a good time for any problem? They show up like bad relatives that won’t leave.

I’ve been keeping my eye out for a different car of late, and I found it. There are no guarantees with any used car unfortunately, but this is a calculated risk I feel I have to take. I need to have a dependable car to get to gigs, and also as a self esteem builder. Driving ratty cars is getting old.

My plan had been to drive the ’94 Nissan for at least a year, and save some money to move up the food chain and buy something at least halfway decent. My credit is so far in the toilet I doubt I’ll be able to get a car loan in this lifetime or the next, but that’s where it sits. I’m in a tight spot.

The car I found is an extra clean 1995 Toyota Camry. It’s only got 95,000 miles on it, and it’s a one owner car from Wisconsin of all places. There are written records of all the maintenance that was performed and the original owner took it to a Toyota dealer exclusively. It’s been cared for.

I’ve had several Toyotas from that era, and loved every one of them. They handle well, and get great gas mileage. The only reason I got rid of any them was that they were hit and totaled out by the insurance company. Had that not occurred, I’d probably still be driving one to this very day.

There’s no guarantee this one won’t get plowed into as well, but I am going to roll the dice and go deep into debt to get it anyway. I’m juicing up my credit card as far as it will go, and I haven’t been one to do that as a rule. I’ve saved it for emergency situations, but this is starting to qualify.

It was getting to the point where I was sticking more into that Nissan than if I’d had a loan on a brand spanking new Cadillac, and I just can’t see that continuing. I’ll send the Nissan through the auction, and that will go to pay off the credit card. I’d prefer not to do it that way, but right now I have no other choice. This is an opportunity I feel I need to jump on, and I’m not going to flinch.

I can’t help but be reminded of the people who owe me money from years ago, and if I had that I could have paid cash for the Toyota and had money left over to throw at my IRS bill which also needs to get paid sooner than later. This is a very painful lesson, but rather than stew in what I’ve blown in the past I need to forge ahead and get myself out from under this mess. It’s a tough test.

In the short run, this is a stressful pain in my differential. The last thing I want to be doing right now is farting around with changing cars – especially in the winter – but in the long run I feel I’m  making the right choice and hopefully it will free me up to keep myself on a good track for 2013.

Open Door Policy

January 6, 2013

Friday January 4th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL/Nashville, TN

   It took four days for the first crisis of 2013 to pop up, and I’ll take that as a positive. It’s been a lot sooner in other years, so hopefully things are improving. I must say I didn’t fully expect it to pop up when it did, and of course it came at the most inconvenient time. That’s what a crisis is.

I needed to get to Nashville today, and I got up at 3am hoping to make it through the rush hour of Chicago with minimal delay. There’s never a great time to go through downtown, as nastiness can ensue at any time. All it takes is one little incident or construction and it’s clogged for miles.

Also, it doesn’t help living where I live, as getting to the Interstate is a hassle unto itself. I’m so far away that depending on when I leave traffic can be a nightmare before I ever get there. I have to be very careful when I make road trips, but I know it. I thought I had it all figured out. Wrong.

I had my car warmed up and packed, but my driver’s door issue I thought was fixed apparently wasn’t and I couldn’t close my door. I was farting around with it for twenty minutes and it would not cooperate no matter what I tried. The latch just won’t work, and I’m totally helpless to fix it.

I felt like ripping the damn door off the hinges after a few minutes of playing with it in the cold weather, but that wouldn’t accomplish anything. I needed to get to Nashville, and hadn’t planned on playing the surprise role of Mr. Goodwrench with a rusty screwdriver at 3:30 in the morning.

To make it much more aggravating, there’s an automatic seatbelt that engages when the door is closed, and every time the door closes past a certain point it kicks in. Since the latch didn’t work, it kept sliding up and down over and over and making it a scene out of a movie. It would be very funny as a movie scene, but not today. Things like this are rarely funny while they’re happening.

The only way to drive the car is to hold the driver’s door shut as I’m driving. Whenever I made a turn, the seatbelt would slide up and down like a gag reflex and vehemently remind me there is no such thing as a free car. I’m paying more for this one than if I’d bought a brand new Cadillac.

A few days ago I noticed one of my headlights was out, but it’s only a loose wire and I’m able to hit it like Fonzie and it pops right back on. That’s happened a dozen times now, and one more hassle that’s not worth my time. This will make a funny comedy bit at some point, but not now.

My only alternative was to wait for a rental car place near me to open at 7:30am. I hadn’t made a reservation, and all they had was a full size Mazda which was also full price. It’s going to suck a substantial chunk of my profit out for the week not to mention gas, but I didn’t have a choice.

Welcome to the world of self employment. I took the gig in Nashville to pay bills and start out the year a little ahead, but now I’ll be lucky to be able to break even. One thing that little Nissan does is get great gas mileage, and when I can get the door to stay closed it really runs extremely well. I’m still very grateful to my friend Richard for giving it to me, but the costs of both money and frustration are making me have second thoughts. Too bad life doesn’t allow any Mulligans.

Watered Down Thoughts

August 10, 2010

Sunday August 8th, 2010 – Kenosha, WI

I’m in a low mood and I really shouldn’t be. But I am. I’m trying to figure out what did it but I don’t think it was just one thing. It’s a lot of little things coming together, but they add up and now I’m feeling lower than a cricket‘s pecker. I hope I’m not in another funk.

Part of it is deep down I really don’t want to go out on the ship, especially for as long as I’m going. I really do appreciate the work and everyone there has been wonderful to work with, it’s just that the timing seems to be wrong. I would have loved this ten years ago.

Even five years ago when I got fired from the radio gig at The Loop. I had money saved then, and I would have saved more and been sitting pretty right now and not had to really do much of anything I didn’t want to do. I think I would have appreciated it a lot more.

I still do, and I’ll get to see some exotic places, even if it is in the dead of summer when it’s as hot as it gets. If I’m lucky, I’ll get some additional bookings at the peak times when it’s winter in the north. Eventually, I hope to be able to schedule myself whenever I want.

I guess a lot of it boils down to freedom too. Money equals freedom of choice. I had the world by the t’aint just a few years ago, and I really didn’t know it. I was totally debt free when I went to Salt Lake City in 2000, and that’s when everything started to disintegrate.

I had a nice radio gig making $50K a year, not great for a morning show in that size of a market, but very good for a cockroach like me used to piecing weeks together. I also did a lot of comedy out there, and lived off of that money and banked 100% of my radio salary.

I had a nice apartment a mile from where I worked and a nice girlfriend and a shiny red Cadillac I paid cash for and life was on the up. I was saving money every week, then I got snaked into buying a house. That’s when it all came crashing down. Hard. It took a while, but eventually I lost the job and the house went a few months later. I’ve struggled since.

Then I got the job at The Loop which turned things in a good way again. I started saving the radio money and again living on my comedy gigs. That turned things around in a short time, and life was again on the upswing. I was used to living like a bug and was in heaven knowing my car was paid for and I was putting money away every week. That’s success.

I had zero debt and $40K in the bank and was just ending my first year and hoping we’d get signed to our second contract, which we would have done if the company hadn’t been sold. Instead of showing us respect, they showed us the door and it hasn’t been anywhere close to the same since. My partners Max and Spike have had to struggle just as I have.

That was five years ago now, and it’s never going to come back. I didn’t think it would at the time, but I sure didn’t expect it to play out like it did. I’ve had to piece and paste all my life together month by month, trying to find the next somewhat steady gig. It looks to be the cruise ships, so I won’t complain. I’ll be grateful and go in and give my best work.