Posts Tagged ‘civil service’

Nothing Sexy

August 21, 2013

Tuesday August 20th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   There’s nothing sexy whatsoever about the daily grind of self employment. I suppose mopping floors at Walmart is no barn dance either, but at least there’s a steady paycheck involved. It’s not a wealth maker, but it’s there. My grandfather always made me promise I’d opt for the safe life.

   As much as I wanted to please him, that just wasn’t in my psychological makeup then. He kept his mouth shut and plowed through thirty years of a civil service job he totally hated dispatching garbage trucks and snow plows for the city of Milwaukee. He was miserable, but he got a check.

   The only time I saw him happy was after he retired. He was in his mid 60s, and he got involved with the senior center circuit and started his short lived entertainment career. He would take roles in their various plays and musical productions, and he was like a kid with the keys to a toy store.

   I never saw anyone love the entertainer’s life more than Gramps. He would take any kind of an instructional class he could sign up for if it had to do with anything close to entertainment or the arts. He took a creative writing course once and would pay me ten cents a page to type what he’d written in longhand. I don’t recall his stories being all that memorable, but I was teenager then.

   I wish I could read those stories now, and get more of an insight as to what was in his head. He forced himself to squelch his creative urges for decades to opt for the safe path of having a job to feed his family, and I don’t know how he did it. I know why, but not how. It must have been hell.

   It was especially disappointing for him, as nobody really thanked him for it. My grandmother’s personality and his were like oil and water, and she hated anything to do with show business. She never went to see any of his shows, and in fact made fun of his desire to be the life of the party.

   My father and uncle both took the civil service route and they hated their lives as well. Gramps and my father never saw eye to eye, nor did he and my uncle. I was the only one that he thought had a clue to what he was doing, and I went to see his shows all the time. It was torture for me to sit through senior citizen revues as a teenager, but I knew it made Gramps happy so I showed up.

   He LOVED it when I showed up, and would show me off to anyone who would listen. He was definitely the kid in that scenario, and I let him have his moment in the sun. He sacrificed almost an entire lifetime of doing what he despised just to get that chance on stage. That was his reward.

   Today I got up extra early, and started answering my huge mountain of emails. At 7:40 I had to do my weekly radio bit with ‘Stone and Double T’ on 104 The X in Rockford, IL and then I took the rest of the morning to rework my comedy class outline in order to record my lessons on video for an online course. Nothing sexy there, but it had to be done. Then I returned some phone calls.

   Most of those calls were concerning shows I’ve got coming up – many of them door deals with no guarantee whatsoever that even one person will show up. I’m hoping to scrape some kind of a living together out of all of it, and after a lifetime of slugging I’m still surviving week to week.

   Sometimes that struggle gets me so down I don’t feel like getting out of bed. I gave everything I had to be an entertainer, and have no wife and kids or retirement plan to fall back on when life gets hard – and it totally is right now. I’m out there dangling by myself, wondering if I made the right decision. For me, it was the only decision. There’s nothing sexy, but I’m still in the game.

Comedy Competition

June 9, 2013

Friday June 7th, 2013 – Rosemont, IL

   If the universe isn’t going to give me a break, I have to go out and make my own. I don’t know why life has gotten to be so difficult right now, but it is. I need to rustle up some work, and that’s one of many cold realities of self employment. Had I opted to suckle the civil service teat like the majority of my family, I’d be able to coast through life collecting  a check. I chose another route.

   While that route may be much more scenic and interesting, there are also a lot more potholes to dodge. Being in business for one’s self is a severe test of endurance, and several skill sets have to be polished to make it all work. Each and every penny any entrepreneur makes is well deserved.

   It’s no secret that right about now I could use a steady stream of income. Four or five would be better, but I’ll settle for a solid trickle for now. I’m willing to work for it, and in fact I’d prefer an opportunity to just practice my craft and make an honest living. That’s been rather tough of late.

   Trying to make lemons out of lemonade, I signed up for the World Series of Comedy contest at Zanies in Rosemont, IL this weekend. I absolutely abhor comedy contests as a rule, and there are many legitimate reasons for it. They can be demeaning, degrading, dysfunctional, humiliating to the bone and almost always the only one who isn’t thoroughly pissed off afterward is the winner.

   Still, I need to get in front of some bookers and that’s what this contest is about. A guy named Joe Lowers out of Pittsburgh moved to Las Vegas and started it from scratch. I give Joe a double thumbs up and all the credit in the world for putting something this big together , and it has been growing every year since he started a few years back. He’s worked like a maniac and it shows.

   I have no qualms with Joe or anyone else at the World Series of Comedy. The grand prize is an opportunity to work about 50 weeks as a feature in several clubs across the country. I’m a strong headliner, but if I get in front of the bookers they’d see I’ve got the chops. I just want the chance.

   Since I was off this week, Zanies manager Cyndi Nelson suggested I enter the contest. She said they had an extra slot, and if I wanted it it was mine. I thought long and hard about it due to all of the horrific experiences I’ve had in the past, but I decided to give it a run. A chance is a chance.

   On this particular show, I drew slot number 7 out of 8 contestants. The others weren’t bad acts, but they weren’t headliners either. No offense to any of them, but I’ve got more road experience than probably all of them put together. I know how to read an audience and how to bring a show to the next level. I have a passing gear those guys don’t have, but it didn’t come without a price.

   I sacrificed everything to acquire that skill, so I absolutely expected to win the contest. I had an excellent spot, and the audience was with me the whole time. I took it up a notch, and since I had seven minutes I packed as much as I could into it and closed on a big pop. I knew I threw heat.

   At the end of the show they announce the winners, and I took first place tonight. I could see the looks of disappointment on the others’ faces, and I’ve been there myself. I went over to each one and complimented them on their act, and meant every word. I’ve been in their position too often.

   This is not a time to gloat or brag. I am very flattered I won tonight, but I should have won. I’m far more experienced than all of these guys, and I’ve earned it. All I want is to get some attention from bookers so I can get back out and earn my living. Tonight went great, but it’s not over yet.

A One Day Career

February 9, 2013

Thursday February 7th, 2013 – St. Charles, IL

   The process of being an entertainer is a lot more complex than anyone thinks. Had I known I’d have to work this hard on so many levels I may not have jumped in with both feet and thrown all caution to the wind. There are zero guarantees of a payoff, and circumstances change constantly.

There is less work involved managing a fast food restaurant or driving a forklift, even though it isn’t nearly as exciting and doesn’t have a potential payoff at the end. There is a steady paycheck involved, and this far into the game that sounds REALLY good right now. Too bad I missed that.

My grandfather made me promise him on his death bed I would get a civil service job to insure a steady income. He had one for more than thirty years (and absolutely hated it) as did my father and uncle (who also hated theirs.) I loved my grandfather and respected his wisdom, but I knew I didn’t want to settle for a life of misery like they all had. Still, I was always a man of my word.

I promised him I’d get that civil service job, but my heart was never in it. I ended up having to take an exam, and actually placed quite highly on the list. I eventually got called for the position of ‘Clerk Typist 1’ for the City of Milwaukee. It was third shift at a police station of all places.

The pay at the time was $14,000 a year, and I remember that sounding pretty good. I was about 19, and it would have included benefits and been steady cash flow. It could have been the start of a respectable career, and I could be thinking about retirement now with a nice wad stashed away.

Unfortunately, that just wasn’t me. I ended up lasting ONE DAY. I knew within in the first few minutes I wasn’t going to last, and when all was said and done the only thing I ever typed during my tenure as a ‘Clerk Typist 1’ was my resignation. The cop in charge thought I was completely insane, and told me exactly that as I turned in my exit notice. I nodded, smiled and walked out.

I had fulfilled my promise to Gramps and did indeed get myself a civil service job. But I could see the results of what a lifetime of empty existence looked like with Gramps, my father and my uncle and I wasn’t going to be like that. I made up my mind I was going to chase that big dream.

Well, if nothing else I got my wish. I wasn’t like any of them, but now here I sit all these years later with absolutely no financial security whatsoever living hand to mouth like a glorified hobo. I was too busy chasing those dreams and recovering from disasters to put together a savings plan.

I’m not making excuses, but I sure did make a lot of dumb mistakes that are biting me squarely in the meatiest part of my rump right now and it hurts. Too bad for me, as I was sole chooser and have nobody to blame but myself. I hope I chose the correct path, but sometimes I still wonder.

I’m too far into it now to turn back, so all I can do is plow forward and make the best of what’s happening now. That’s a mammoth undertaking, as there’s a lot going on. I have fun things right around the corner like ‘Schlitz Happened!’, but I also have to pay my bills this month. That takes planning on several levels, and my days are consumed morning to night trying to sort it all out.