Posts Tagged ‘destiny’

Health Issues

August 16, 2013

Thursday August 15th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Although I barely remember it, when I was a wee lad I spent about ten days in the hospital with a pretty serious case of pneumonia. From what my grandparents told me in later years, they were not completely sure I was going to make it out. I must have been three or four years old at most.

   From what I heard through childhood, the doctors told me I’d be susceptible to pneumonia for the rest of my life. Oh, boy! There’s something to look forward to. I suppose it could have been a lot worse, as kids get all kinds of diseases. Some of them die before they grow up. Life isn’t fair.

   As I grew up, every few years or so like clockwork I’d get sidelined with a miserable infection that knocked me out of commission for several days. It always seemed to be in the summer when I was out of school, and I remember how cheated I felt. Why couldn’t I get it in the school year?

   It’s been a long time since I’ve had ‘the crud’ as my grandparents used to call it, but I’m afraid it’s back by unpopular demand. I started to feel all congested on Sunday out of the blue, and then on Monday a barking cough came along with it. I’m not a doctor, but it sure feels like it used to.

   I don’t think it helps that I’ve never had my tonsils out either. For whatever reason the doctors chose to leave them in, and it’s been another source of random infections. Every once in a while they swell up to the size of raviolis and I fight a brutal sore throat for a few days. Then it’s done.

   My entire medical history has been rather freakish at best. I didn’t have the chicken pox until I was 19, and I don’t know of anyone else who had them that late. Supposedly it can cause one to be sterile, so maybe it was Mother Nature’s way of preventing me from spreading my freak gene.

   Another thing I found odd as a kid was that I contracted pink eye – TWICE. Who gets it once? None of my friends ever got it, and I don’t know how I did. The doctor said I probably got it at a public pool where I was taking swimming lessons, but who knows? I just remember it was icky.

   Other than those few glitches though, I’ve been remarkably healthy. I’m not one of those types that catch a cold every year, and I’ve never ever had a flu shot. It seems like those that get a shot are always the first ones to get sick, and I’ve never trusted the procedure. I’ve taken my chances, and so far I haven’t caught the bug. If the Black Plague comes back, I’ll think about a shot then.

   If it’s in the cards for someone to get a disease, they’re going to get it. Genetics have a lot to do with everything about our lives. My grandmother was a compulsive neat freak to the point of her constantly scrubbing her telephone receiver, doorknobs and toilet seat. She’d bring a Tupperware container filled with soap and water in the car when she went somewhere in case she needed it to sanitize something. Wouldn’t you know it that she of all people happened to contract ringworm.

   I found that to be hilarious as a kid. Here’s the one person that could give Felix Unger a run for his money on cleanliness, and she gets ringworm. Gramps found it funny too, and it was the start of one of their biggest arguments I had ever seen. Grandma had ZERO sense of humor about it.

   Another weird case was Andy Kaufman. Somehow he managed to contract lung cancer but had never smoked a cigarette in his life. How does this happen? It’s some kind of genetic freak show, and none of us can control it. The instant that one single sperm hits the egg, our destinies are set. I shouldn’t complain that I get a coughing spell every few years. At least it’s not pink eye again.

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Ross Bennett’s Revenge

April 5, 2013

Thursday April 4th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I’ve been keeping a happy secret to myself for the last couple of weeks, and I’m delighted to be able to finally let it out. My long time friend and comedy mentor Ross Bennett got a chance to be on the David Letterman show tonight, and he knocked it out of the park. I am SO happy for him!

Ross is just the best on so many levels, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this killer opportunity. It gives me tangible hope that at least a little fairness exists in this insane world, and a little goes a long way. I was on pins and needles all day waiting to hear from him, and when he texted me saying he killed it I felt like my Packers won another Super Bowl. It was pure ecstasy.

I first met Ross in the ‘80s when he worked at the Funny Bone in Milwaukee. We hit it off then and have stayed friends through a lot of ups and downs in both of our lives. Ross has not lived an easy life either, but like me he still keeps slugging and tries to play the hand he was dealt in life.

We’re kindred spirits and I’ve always gotten along with him from day one. He’s been like a big brother in many ways, and I’ll never forget his kindness. When I was living in Los Angeles, he’d lived there before I did and helped me get settled in. He didn’t have to do that, but I so appreciate the time he took to show me the ropes. L.A. can be very intimidating to a newbie, at least at first.

Then Ross moved to New York where he lives now, and he helped show me around that scene when I visited a couple of times. He helped me get sets at some of the clubs there, and again was like a big brother at a time when I really needed it. We went to a Yankees game, and saw a lot of amazing places all over Manhattan that I will never forget. Ross has always been a stellar friend.

I’ve tried to be one in return, and many years ago I was able to help Ross get involved in sports cards of all things. He set up at card shows for a few years as he was out on the road doing shows as a comedian, and at the time it gave him focus and structure he needed in his life. He’s thanked me for it numerous times, but it was my pleasure to help a friend who has always had my back.

Ross has really been through some rough stretches in his life. His first wife passed away and he was left to raise his son Nash with the help of his mother. That’s no easy task in a ‘normal’ world but trying to be an entertainer and raise a child is damn near impossible. Still, Ross pulled it off.

He has also had his share of run ins with certain people just as I have. He was kicked off of the Bob and Tom radio show for years, and then managed to get back in their good graces – the very same day I was kicked off of the show. We sat there together for a few minutes, then I was gone.

We laugh about it now, but I was really bummed out when it happened. I still don’t know what I did to make them that upset, and Ross talked me off the cliff that day – again when I needed his help the most. He’s always been there for me, and I can’t say that about most of my own family.

To hear he got a shot on Letterman made me leap with joy. He’s been slugging it out all over in the New York area for years, and has worked like a mule to get this chance. I’m glad he nailed it, but I’m surely not surprised. He’s a world class comic talent, and always was. This is his destiny.

The show will air on Friday April 5th, but I’ll be on my way back from a gig in Indiana. I don’t know how I’ll get to see it, but I’ll make sure I do at some point. This is a special occasion of the highest order, and I hope it launches him into other amazing opportunities. Ross got his revenge!

Comedian Ross Bennett will be on David Letterman Friday April 5th, 2013

Comedian Ross Bennett will be on David Letterman Friday April 5th, 2013! Check him out, he’s very funny and deserves to be there.

An Almost Anniversary

March 28, 2013

Thursday March 28th, 2013 – Atlanta, GA

   I can’t let today pass without mentioning it’s almost the anniversary of a very significant day in my life I thought I’d never forget. It turns out I haven’t forgotten, but it’s getting buried deeper in my memory than I ever thought it would when it took place twenty years and a week ago today.

On the night of March 21st, 1993 I was coming home to Milwaukee from performing a show in Antigo, WI when I flipped my Mustang convertible completely upside down and almost lost my life. I still don’t know how I managed to survive, but I did and every day since has been a bonus.

In what was one of the freakiest chains of events I have ever seen, a drunk driver heading west on Capitol Drive in Milwaukee somehow managed to knock an electric power pole out of socket and it caused live electric power lines to be drawn tight across lanes of traffic on Capitol Drive.

The lines were about two feet off the ground – perfect height to hook underneath the bumper of my Mustang and flip the car upside down. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and was in the left hand lane on Capitol Drive headed east at 19th Street. I saw the power lines in front of me but had no way to stop in time and I didn’t even try. Before I knew it I was upside down in pain.

Apparently, the drunk driver had hit the power pole only seconds before I got there. If that isn’t the ultimate Mr. Lucky story I don’t know what is. What are the chances I would be in that exact spot at that exact time? It’s beyond astronomical, but there I was. I heard later had I even been in the right hand lane on Capitol Drive I probably wouldn’t have flipped, but little good that does.

I have often gone over in my mind the details of what caused me to be precisely in that place at that time, and it’s flabbergasting. I had the opportunity to stay in Antigo that night, but I insisted on driving home. I had a girlfriend I really liked then, and we had a lunch date the following day.

We never made our lunch date, and it turns out I ended up never seeing her again. I ended up in St. Michael’s hospital with a twice fractured sternum, a broken jaw and a whole pile of problems I would end up paying for for years. I had six months of recovery time, and it was an ugly mess.

I don’t enjoy going back to that place in my life, and the farther I get from it the better I like it. I can’t believe I survived not only the accident, but all the circumstances that were around me at the time that went along with it. My best friend had robbed a bank he used to work at and I was the only one other than him that knew about it. Then he ended up robbing the same bank again.

There were all kinds of complicated twists and turns, and all kinds of things were going wrong in my life at once. That girlfriend was lucky she bowed out when she did and I wish I could have joined her. It wasn’t fun being me at that time, but who has a choice of the poker hand life deals?

I had more than my hands full, and looking back twenty years later I have no idea how anyone could have done much better under those extreme circumstances. I actually managed to keep my ship above water, at least enough to survive and be able to look back now and assess the damage.

That was an extremely difficult time in my life, and I was still working on recovering from my childhood which wasn’t much smoother. Chaos and disarray have always been main ingredients in my life’s recipe, but I still haven’t acquired a taste for either. I’d like some peace for a change.

There’s no doubt all I’ve gone through has given me a thick callous in some ways. It also helps explain why some people think I’m a bit harsh and rough around the edges. Sure, who wouldn’t have a few scars after going through the worst part of the hurricane? I’m working on it, but I still have a ways to go. I try to be as nice as I can to as many as I can, but I still have a few detractors.

I guess that’s how life works, but I’m not going to change who I am for anybody. I know I’m a good person deep inside, even with my flaws and shortcomings. I can sleep at night knowing I’m trying my best to earn an honest living and not hurt anyone. When I’m wrong I’ll admit it openly and apologize to anyone I need to. If they don’t accept it – and some don’t – what else can I do?

It’s nothing short of a miracle as to how far my life has come in these twenty years and a week since I thought I would be checking out of life as we know it. I was really down and out with not a lot of resources then, and if nothing else I have learned to be grateful for every little thing I get.

I was to the point of eating food from a shelter and having to learn to walk all over again. I had my jaw wired shut for a while and had to suck my supper through a straw. Still, I somehow made it through and here I am twenty years and a week later living a life I’m enjoying and still chasing dreams. There have been a lot of shaky moments in the years since, but all in all I’m doing great.

I’m doing extremely well considering where I’ve come from and what I’ve been through since that fateful night, but as much as I’d like to forget it the more I know I can’t. Who doesn’t have a list of examples of having to overcome obstacles in life? Mine are just more dramatic than most.

I could have easily died in that car accident, and I’m still surprised I didn’t. I clearly recall how people came running out of their houses after hearing the crash and I lay upside down trapped in my Mustang. I couldn’t yell because of my injuries and most of them thought I was dead. In fact I heard some people talking and they said it out loud next to me. “No doubt about it – he’s dead.”

With all my might I tried to holler something out loud to them know I wasn’t dead, but I didn’t have the strength. It’s all so surreal now, but it was very real that day. I knew right then I’d been given some bonus time in life, and from that day forward I would be playing with house money.

I even remember the Milwaukee Police Officer who filled out the accident report coming to my hospital room and telling me how lucky I was to have survived such a horrific crash. He told me he’d been an officer for 15 years and knew a fatality when he saw one. He told me to enjoy life.

I’ll admit that sometimes I still forget to do that, and that’s exactly why I need to remember the almost anniversary of that fateful moment that changed my life forever. It doesn’t matter how my set in Atlanta at Laughing Skull Festival goes tonight. Win or lose, I’m just lucky to be above the dirt still able to draw breath. I’m grateful for each one I have left. NOW I’m in the right mindset.

No Glitches Tonight

March 25, 2013

Friday March 22nd, 2013 – Holland, MI

   This is the beginning of a very hectic stretch, and I’m crossing my fingers I get through it with as few glitches as possible. It’s hard enough to make plans in general, but then hiccups occur out of the blue and it can derail the whole train. I’m heading into this without guarantees of anything.

Seemingly little things like a car problem or flu bug could prove to be disastrous if they happen to come at an inopportune time – which in my world they always do. I can only do my best to try and show up everywhere I need to be, and do the best I can do when I get there. My plate is full.

Tonight I needed to be in Holland, MI for a show at a beautiful venue called The Park Theatre. It’s an old Vaudeville house that was almost torn down, but the city is repairing it and they want events to attract business. Jerry Donovan is a comedian and promoter I have just started to work for recently and he happened to have a fallout for tonight and asked if I wanted it. I told him yes.

It’s true I wanted the work, but it’s going to really make my already packed weekend schedule even more so. I’m also scheduled to perform with Jimmy McHugh’s Chicago Comedy All Stars in Spencer, IA tomorrow night so that means I’ll need to really hump it if I’m going to get there.

I didn’t have time to think about that tonight, as I had a show to do. I hadn’t been to Holland in a while, and I thought I remembered how to get there but of course I didn’t and made a turn that got me totally lost. I made it to the theatre right at show time, but I don’t like cutting it that close.

I’m extremely glad I came though, as what a night it was. I have been having consistently solid shows of late, but this one was for the ages. I’d go as far as to say this was THE hottest audience I have performed for in the last dozen years or more. They were on a level that I’ve rarely seen.

Jerry hosted the show and did a very professional job. The feature act was Chris Young out of the Ann Arbor area, and he was the perfect act in front of me on this night. He did an outstanding job, and everything just fit together like it was custom made. That’s hard to plan for, but when it happens everyone can feel it. For whatever reason, all the pieces of the show fit together tonight.

The crowd wasn’t huge, but it was full and they completely got all of us the entire night. I have been part of some killer shows in my day, but this one was right up there with anything I’ve ever been part of in any size venue anywhere. It’s like fate brought every one of us together tonight.

It got to the point I had to stop and let them breathe several times because I didn’t think they’d be able to laugh anymore – but they did. Shows like this make those long drives worth the hassle – but they still are exactly that. I was barely done shaking hands and then it was back in the car.

I was on a major high most of the way home, but then I ran into some heavy traffic in Chicago that wiped a bit of the smile off my face. I got home at 2am, but I’ve got to get right back out and make it to Spencer, IA for another show tomorrow night. Who would have thought an old theatre in Holland, MI could be such a great experience? It totally was, but now it’s over. On to Spencer.