Posts Tagged ‘diabetes’

Buffet Of Danger

July 30, 2014

Saturday July 26th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Does life ever get even a little easier for any of us at any time? I’m beginning to think it never does, and that scares me. Well maybe not scares, but absolutely disappoints. I’d hate to think we plow through the treacherous jungle this planet can be, only to leave with no payoff. That stinks.

The human experience as I have observed it is a constant evolution of change, and each change brings with it a spanking new set of ominous obstacles to have to figure out a way to get over. It would certainly be nice to have at least a little time to enjoy the scenery, but the intense struggle always seems to require more than just casual attention – at least for me anyway. It never rests.

My problems have always been different than most everyone else’s in my immediate circle, but I always assumed I would receive a higher payoff. When I was a kid I knew other kids that came from various levels of dysfunction, but nobody was close to my situation and it was a distraction.

I really struggled through childhood when I should have been just enjoying being a kid. I never had that chance, but I assumed adulthood would be easier. Then I chose to get into THE craziest business around, filled with instability at every turn. Adulthood has been a buffet of danger also.

Again, I assumed I’d meet a great woman and build a good life anyway. Well, I met a bunch of women that may or may not have been great but I knew inside that I wasn’t ready to put together the life I always dreamed of. That’s why I got into radio, assuming it would bring along stability.

Boy, do I have to quit assuming. Nothing could have been more unstable, and life has been one crisis after another for as long as I can remember. I know everyone has problems, but not quite as unique or complex as mine. I don’t know anyone else that has had to testify in court against their best friend from childhood for robbing the same bank twice. Those kinds of events leave scars.

I wouldn’t wish anyone that mental torture, and I still have nightmares about it. Another rotten feeling is moving across the country for a job, then having that job taken away with zero backup. I know that has happened to others, but I’ve had it happen five times. I’m still hurting from that too, and I never had anyone to go to for help or support. I’ve made it this far without a safety net.

Now I’m reconnecting with the siblings I never got to grow up with as a kid, and it has opened up a tremendous window of hope. It feels SO good to begin this process – even this late into the game. It is what I have always wanted, and I feel it only getting better. Meeting a woman I could spend quality time with is still on the bucket list, but that’s extremely difficult in my current situation.

I thought for sure I would be financially secure by now and on my way but I’m a shopping cart and cardboard sign away from vagrancy, and I’m living week to week despite the fact I’m trying harder than I ever have. Life is constantly changing, and now that I finally figured out my craft it seems like nobody wants it anymore. I am a master blacksmith but nobody is buying horseshoes.

On top of that, I’m still dealing with depression and diabetes issues. Both of those require a lot of attention and effort, but how can I do that when I’ve got to focus on survival? There aren’t any trust funds with my name on it, and I’m screwed. No wonder old people are salty. Life is HARD.

Life seems to get harder as it goes. No wonder old people can be so crabby.

Life seems to get harder as it goes. No wonder old people can be so crabby.

She doesn't look crabby. I wonder if she wants to have lunch.

She doesn’t look crabby. I wonder if she wants to have lunch?

The Doctor Calls!

November 25, 2013

Saturday November 23rd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

It takes a lot to surprise me anymore, but once in a while something happens that does raise my eyebrows. This morning I received a phone call completely out of the blue from Dr. Funkenstein himself, George Clinton! Had I been asked to predict something freakish that might happen today I highly doubt that would be in my top 1000 guesses. It was a pleasant surprise, but unexpected.

Actually it has happened before, and I didn’t expect that either. The band was on the way to do a show at Summerfest in Milwaukee in 2011, and they stopped at the Lake Forest Tollway Oasis on I-94 and George’s manager Carlon Scott saw me listed in the Lake County Visitor’s Guide.

I’ve been a member of Visit Lake County for several years, and it comes with a listing in their annual guide of businesses, attractions and events in Lake County. Carlon happened to pick up a copy and saw my name, and called to say hello. That’s proof positive that advertising does work.

I had just gotten out of the hospital from my diabetes debacle a couple of days before, and was feeling pretty weak. I almost didn’t answer the phone, but I’m thrilled I did. When I told Carlon I had just gotten out of the hospital, she had George call me back a few minutes later. He had been in the hospital around the same time, and was just out himself. He wanted to call to cheer me up.

He certainly did. How many times does anyone get to have an all time personal hero call out of the blue? It’s kind of like a famous athlete visiting a sick kid in the hospital only better. I’m a big fan, but he treated me like a peer. He asked how my shows were going and I asked all about his.

The reason he was calling today was to ask if I knew how to get in touch with artist Pedro Bell. Pedro did quite a few legendary album covers for Funkadelic in the ‘70s, and happens to be from Chicago. I tracked him down years ago and he did two CD covers for me, and the DVD cover for James Wesley Jackson. It cost me a chunk of change, but I had it at the time and I’m glad I did it.

Not only did I get every penny of my money’s worth, I got to know Pedro through the process and now consider him a friend. He’s a very talented artist, but also a down to earth person. I was very much in awe at first, but he could see I knew of his work so he opened up and we hit it off.

George is coming out with a new project, and wanted to track down Pedro to do some artwork. He knew that I had hired him recently, so he wanted to reconnect. I told him Pedro has been sick lately, and in fact James Wesley Jackson and I had discussed doing some kind of benefit show.

George asked me to keep him posted on the benefit, and I certainly will. James and Pedro have been friends for years, and when I suggested some kind of benefit I knew James would jump on board immediately. With all the other projects I’ve got going now, it has forced me to put that on the back burner for much too long along with James’s DVD. http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

Hopefully this will set everything in positive forward motion again. As George said on a record years ago “Funk not only moves…it can re-move. Dig?” I’d love to be involved in anything I can do to help Pedro and work with James, but if George happens to be involved it would be a dream come true. If you need a dose of the funk, the real Mothership flies at http://www.georgeclinton.com.

George 'Dr. Funkenstein' Clinton has my number.

George ‘Dr. Funkenstein’ Clinton has my number.

Pedro Bell aka 'Captain Draw'. Cover artist for many clasic Funkadelic albums

Pedro Bell aka ‘Captain Draw’. Cover artist for many clasic Funkadelic albums

This is a  bonus cartoon Pedro did when I hired him to design my CD cover for "Hard Luck Jollies'.

This is a bonus cartoon Pedro did when I hired him to design my CD cover for “Hard Luck Jollies’.

Here's the cover Pedro did for James Wesley Jackson's new DVD. It's available at www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

Here’s the cover Pedro did for James Wesley Jackson’s new DVD. It’s available at http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

The first cover Pedro did for me was 'Hard Luck Jollies'.

The first cover Pedro did for me was ‘Hard Luck Jollies’.

Here's the original Funkadelic album 'Hardcore Jollies'.

Here’s the original Funkadelic album ‘Hardcore Jollies’.

My next CD will be 'Comedy Skeletons In The Closet'.

My next CD will be ‘Comedy Skeletons In The Closet’.

Here's the original it was based on - 1986's 'R&B Skeletons In The Closet'.

Here’s the original it was based on – 1986’s ‘R&B Skeletons In The Closet’.

No Guarantees

September 28, 2013

Friday September 27th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

I had a tentative gig booked for tonight that was what’s known in the business as a “door deal”. That means the performer gets to keep an agreed upon percentage of the cover charges collected at the door. In this case, I was to get 100% which is as good as a door deal gets. I was optimistic.

The venue held roughly 100 people, and the cover charge was $10 per person. On paper, I had a chance to make a decent payday – not to mention a chance to sell some merchandise. The joint was in an affluent area, and they’ve only tried comedy shows once before. I thought I’d gamble.

What I didn’t plan for was the place closing down completely, which is exactly what happened. I called to confirm on Monday, and was told that they were going out of business abruptly and of course that meant my show was cancelled. I was counting on making at least a little bit of money for the week, but now it’s a total loss. September has been brutal, and has totally wiped me out.

I’m to the point now I can barely put gas in my car. I’ve got work coming up in the next three months, but that doesn’t do me much good right now and I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel to make it day to day. I never thought I’d be this low this late into it, but that’s how it’s turned out.

There are a variety of odd circumstances that put me here, and many of them are plain old bad breaks. Woulda, coulda, shoulda isn’t going to change anything, but I sure am in the trick bag for the time being. I’m working hard every day to get myself out of this rut, and I could use a break.

Then just when I thought I was in a bad way, I heard that some comedian friends of mine are in a whole lot worse shape than me. Scot Wickmann is a Chicago comedian I worked with steadily for a few years when I was with a group called Chicago Style Standups. I knew him long before that from the comedy trail, and we always got along well. He was just a guy out making a living.

I was surprised to hear Scot had triple bypass surgery this week, and it made me sad. Scot has had quite a few health problems over the years, and I never wish that on anyone. He’s a diabetic and also has been on kidney dialysis for several years. That sounds extremely painful, but after I got out of the hospital with my own type 2 diabetes diagnosis Scot was right there to help me.

He brought me to the hospital he goes to for his dialysis, bought me lunch and introduced me to his dietician who joined us and made suggestions on how I can change my diet to improve my condition. That was unbelievably nice of him, and I never forgot it. He didn’t have to do all that.

I’ve tried to keep in touch with Scot and a lot of my other friends – comedians or not – but it’s a daunting task with how hectic life gets most of the time. Who has time to connect by telephone much less in person? Time slips away from all of us, and weeks become months become years.

I also received some sad news that another comedian friend Jim Wiggins is going in for cancer surgery in a week. There’s another comic well liked and respected in the business. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Jim, but he and Scot are suffering miserably while boils on the face of the Earth like Charles Manson and so many others are pictures of health. I just don’t get it, but it seems to happen all the time. I’m sad my gig got cancelled, but even more so for Scot and Jim.

Scot Wickmann "The Married Man" - if you pray, please offer something up. Triple bypass surgery is no joke.

Scot Wickmann “The Married Man” – if you pray, please offer something up. Triple bypass surgery is no joke.

Jim Wiggins can use some prayers and good vibes too.

Jim Wiggins can use some prayers and good vibes too.

Begging For Boring

May 19, 2013

Saturday May 18th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   It’s raining…it’s pouring…but life isn’t boring. That’s too bad, as I would gladly welcome a bit of boredom right now. In fact, I’d like more than a bit. Twenty years of steady work for great pay in quality venues sounds fantastic. Sign me up today, and I’ll gladly be bored without complaint.

   In the mean time, I’m trying to figure out how the hell I’m going to make it through these next few months financially – and then the few months after that. I’ve been taking it in the shorts over and over, and it’s cleaning my clock. I can use a windfall from somewhere, and I can use it soon.

   And to take the week’s exploits further into the toilet – literally – I was in and out of the crapper  all day due to something I must have eaten yesterday. I had to stop about an hour after dinner last night, and that was a red flag. Bill Gorgo is a fellow road dog, so he got off the road immediately and found a gas station. Everyone who has done road time has had to find a bathroom in a hurry.

   There’s nothing scarier than being miles away from civilization and feeling ‘the urge’. It comes out of nowhere, but commands full attention when it arrives. Nothing on Earth takes precedence during that intense period, and until the situation gets resolved it becomes one’s complete focus. 

   We did find a gas station, but it was a few miles of hell before we got there. I was pinching my cheeks and praying for strength, and every mile we drove seemed like 100. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to hold it even ten seconds longer, but we got there and I got my pants down with no time to spare. That’s a hilarious situation when it happens to someone else, but sheer fright when it’s me.

   I could tell there was something wrong by how fast and intensely it had hit me, and it happened again five minutes after I got home. I was up and down all night and several times today, and I’m not 100% positive what it was that caused that reaction. Whatever it was, I hope it’s cleared out.

   I did eat some potato salad, something I don’t have very often. There was mayonnaise in it and some hard boiled eggs, so who knows if that was sitting out for a while? Whatever the case, I put my time in on the throne all day, and it wasn’t expected. Again, some boredom would be a treat.

   It’s not easy to eat right on the road, and even though I’ve been trying I’ve been falling short in my efforts more than I’d like to. If I really go off course, I’ll be dealing with diabetes and all that goes with it and I don’t want to go back down that road. I came as close to that as I ever want to.

   I basically laid around all day, but I needed the rest. I would have loved to be working tonight, but what happened this week happened and it’s too late to undo it. I took another hit, and nothing I can do will make up for it other than buying a lottery ticket – which I did. It’s forced optimism.

   I can either slide into the mental abyss and let myself be miserable, or I can force myself to get back up one more time and keep fighting. I really didn’t feel like fighting, but what other options are there? Giving up is not the answer – even though there are times when that looks like the best option. This is one of those times, but I know that’s exactly why I need to dig in and slug it out.

   In a way it feels like I’m starting all over again, and I kind of am. A performer is only as good as his or her last performance, and right now I’m between stages. That’s always an adventure of epic proportions, and never the same twice. I’d love to be bored with a full calendar and not have to sweat so much if and when a glitch happens as happened this week. Variety can be overrated.

Walking Tall

December 15, 2012

Thursday December 13th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   I’m delighted to be able to say truthfully that I’ve been keeping up with my physical exercising as of late. That’s one thing that is truly an individual decision, and everyone is accountable for it. It’s not easy to maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise, but I have been making it a priority.

It takes time and effort to exercise, and it also makes me tired so I sleep more. I do sleep much better, but there’s still the tradeoff with the extra time commitment. I try to make the best use of that time by using it to think through ideas I’m working on, but it still shortens up my work day.

It really gets tough if I have to be on the road. That’s the lifestyle that contributed to getting my type 2 diabetes diagnosis in the first place, so I have to be extra careful. It’s work enough to keep up a regular diet and exercise schedule at home much less try to maintain one living like a gypsy.

All I can do is make the best choices I can in whatever circumstances I’m in. I realize I can’t be 100% correct, and once in a while I can have a treat if it’s not out of control. I’ve really managed things well since June of 2011, and I feel the difference every day. I won’t go back to the old me.

Still, the lifestyle of an entertainer is extremely hectic and stressful and maintaining one’s good health requires conditioning over time. I ate whatever I wanted for decades, and I have to believe there are several quarts of special sauce, hot fudge and animal fat encrusted on my heart valves.

It’s not an option to give up my program now, and in fact I need to increase it significantly for 2013 and beyond. I’ve mainly been walking, but my doctor suggested starting a weight program a while back which I haven’t done. I suppose I could also start doing pushups and sit-ups as well.

Then there’s stretching and yoga. I’ve heard amazing things about yoga from many people, and it’s something I would be up for trying at some point. I’d also like to get a bicycle and use that as a change of pace from walking since I live near several paths. Maybe I could ride to a yoga class.

The possibilities are endless, but unfortunately my time is not. It’s been tough enough to keep a fairly regular schedule of walking, especially when I’m at such a stressful point in my life. I have all I can handle with everything else that’s going on, and it would be super easy to blow it off.

Hopefully, I’ll get some benefits in the long run from all of this. In my heart, I know I’m trying to play the cards I was dealt the best way I can. I’m not looking for the easy way out, even if I’ve got to make difficult choices that aren’t always pleasant. Believe me, getting my untanned fanny up early and out for a long walk isn’t my idea of a party, but neither is recovering from a bypass.

None of this is what anyone thinks about when they dream their big showbiz dreams, but it’s a part of life that we all have to deal with eventually. It’s easy to blow it off in youth, and most do. I know I did. Who thinks about daily exercise, a healthy diet and dealing with diabetes? Pass the good stuff! Why yes, I believe I will have dessert with that double cheeseburger meal. I’ll worry about it later. Well, later comes a lot sooner than one thinks. My decadent diet days are ditched.