Posts Tagged ‘dysfunction’

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?

Untwisted Sister

June 15, 2014

Friday June 14th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

This was my Facebook post today, and what made me decide I should start blogging again:

Yesterday was a rare day all around. Not only was it Friday the 13th AND a full moon, I got together with my sister Tammy at her house to celebrate her birthday which is actually Sunday the 15th. We had not spoken or had contact for a full TWENTY YEARS until all three of my siblings and I got together this past March for a reunion meal.

Family relationships can be infamously and notoriously delicate, and I know I’m not the only one that has been estranged from siblings or parents for years. I will say that our wayward tribe is at the top of the extreme list though, but the crackpots and wackadoos it all trickled down from are now dead and we are left and doing our best to ‘break the chain’.

There was a touch of awkwardness in March, but it didn’t last long. We had a really fun time that night, and it was a tremendous start. Last month I cautiously asked Tammy if I could take her out for a birthday meal, and she suggested we get together at her house to have a barbecue instead.

I had never seen her house, and she bought it with lottery winnings. She won a nice chunk of money 19 years ago – and then paid off the rest of the family so they wouldn’t tell me she won. It was very hurtful then, but we were both able to share a hearty laugh about it in March, and any pain or ill feelings are long gone.

There was also a time when I was 17 and lived with Tammy and her husband Jake when they were newly married and I needed a place to live. The rampant dysfunction in our family made it necessary to leave my grandparents’ house where I was raised because our grandfather had died and our grandmother was an icy cold German who had her own severe childhood issues. She passed a heap of them down to my father, and he in turn passed them on to us. The chain needed to be broken.

Tammy didn’t have to take me in but she did, and it was a very tense time for everyone. I used to bitch about her cooking constantly, but she was 21 and newly married and the last thing she needed was an asshole brother in the mix. I didn’t see that then, but I see it with crystal clarity now. I never felt close to Tammy as a small child, and sure didn’t at that time either.

Last night, Tammy grilled out a delicious feast of steak and chicken, and made a homemade pasta salad and cake that were probably the most delicious home cooked dishes I have ever eaten. The company helped, and I savored every scrumptious bite and every minute of conversation with her and Jake. We sat down to eat and before we knew it five hours had passed.

She hauled out a giant plastic storage tub of photo albums and we looked at all kinds of family pictures I had never seen before – and many that I had. Twenty years away is a long time. There were several pics of all of us as kids, and from the time when I lived with her. It brought back a flood of memories good and bad, but I think we needed to look through them together and just let a healing process take over. There were some deep thoughts exchanged between the three of us about topics that have been festering in all of us for decades – but not ONE cross word. We were intelligent adults discussing painful memories.

Our mother left when I was five months old, and Tammy was 4 1/2. She has her own pain and issues with it, and it’s different from mine. She is the only girl, and has been dealing with her pain the best she can all these years. She and Jake raised two very sweet kids and now they are grandparents of four more. They live a quiet peaceful life, and are doing a great job breaking the chain.

The four of us siblings could NOT be any more different people, but we all came from the same genetic cesspool. Our brother Larry was scheduled to come, but had a last minute emergency and had to back out. Our other brother Bruce Dobrient lives in Florida. I was sorry we couldn’t all get together again as a group, but I think it was important for Tammy and me to get some one on one time after all these years apart. I didn’t feel even a hint of any negative energy.

I never felt close to Tammy as a kid, and it felt like she just didn’t like me. All I wanted was to have a chance as adults to sit and air our feelings intelligently so we could both see where the other was coming from. We totally did that last night, and it went exactly as I hoped it would.There is no lingering anger on either side and I think we can FINALLY start to build a sibling relationship after all the pain and insanity we have both had to face. I know it will end very well.

What a one of a kind surreal day it was on so many levels. If it took a full moon and Friday the 13th to do it, so be it. I know there are others that have been apart from their families for years. I thought I would NEVER get a chance to reunite with any one of my three siblings, but now I am on good terms with them all and I know it’s not fake or temporary. We all realize the delicate nature of life, and despite where we all came from we are solid people and I’m proud of us all.

All four of us could easily have gone off the deep end and been serial killers or habitual criminals and nobody would have blamed us, but we have all chosen to fight it out and do our best. Getting together with Tammy was a highlight of my life, and at the end of the night she gave me a hug and invited me back any time I want to show up. I have a comedy show at the Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee on July 19th, and she and Jake are planning on coming out. Larry and Bruce will be invited too. I am just overjoyed to have this happen. Even if they don’t make it out, I’m sure we’ll all get together again.

I have no idea if anyone even read this far, but I had to get it out of my system. I think I’m going to start up my blog again because there is so much happening I can’t keep track of it all.

The point of this post is – patience DOES pay dividends. I will cherish last night’s visit for the rest of my life, and I know Tammy got something from it too. If you have a rotten or even slightly shaky family situation, HANG IN THERE because I am living proof it can totally change – and for the better.

We’re not the Cleavers and never will be, but we’re not the Munsters anymore either. What a relief! Miracles do happen, and this is something I’ve been asking for my entire life. It was without a doubt the best Friday the 13th of all time.

I still have a mountain of problems to climb, but this was a great healer of my inner turmoil.

This was THE best Friday the 13th I could ever imagine.

This was THE best Friday the 13th I could ever imagine. I would love more like it.

Mother Flunker

May 11, 2014

Saturday May 10th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I am in pain today. It is excruciating pain. It is a pain so intense and overwhelming that I don’t want to live anymore pain. I thought I would never have to come back to this horrible place, but here I am. It is an ugly and a terrifying place. I wish I wasn’t so damn familiar with it. But I am.

It’s like my soul is a teatherball attached to a giant rope on a pole, and no matter how hard I try to escape I just come back to where I started. This is the place I have been trying so diligently to escape from as long as I can remember, but here I am again and I don’t know how to deal with it.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and I have been getting that stinging fact rammed down my throat every time I have turned on my radio for the last week. It’s been non-stop, and it’s getting to me just like Christmas ads. It’s unavoidable, and a constant reminder of what I have missed in life.

I must admit, I assumed getting back in touch with my siblings would finally remove that pain, and to some degree I think it did in the Christmas department. I felt a strong need for some kind of closure, and I got it. One dinner meeting doesn’t mean everything is now “fixed”, but it was a gigantic step in the right direction. At least they showed up so we could compare notes as adults.

I didn’t think we’d ever have the chance to do that but we did, and I know it was good for all of us. I’ve been in touch with my brother Bruce since, and it’s been all positive. He was the one that I never dreamed would be willing to come around but he’s been unbelievably great. I hope we’re all able to keep it going so we can heal. It took a long time to get it done, but it was SO worth it.

Deep inside I always felt that if we could just sit down peacefully as adults we would be able to talk things out intelligently, and that’s pretty much what we did. I don’t anticipate any arguments with any of them ever again, only because it takes two to argue and I’m not up for it. If they had smoldering issues with me, I’m sure anything would have been brought up during our meeting.

The issues we all had with our tyrant father are hopefully dead along with him. We don’t miss him, but we all missed out on a nurturing father/child relationship. He was a vicious bastard, and a bully to boot. He didn’t love himself and he sure didn’t love us, but his memory is now fading.

With my mother it’s a different story. All of us are united on the fact our father was a pecker of epic proportions, but our mother situations are all different. Bruce’s mother and I never hit it off, but I will say she doted over Bruce and gave him everything she could under the circumstances.

I say good for Bruce and good for her. She was forced into the role of step mother, and I have a whole different view of it now than I did then. Bruce was her only child, and I see why it worked like it did. It was brutal to deal with back then, but I get it now and have no hard feelings at all.

Whatever problems Bruce may have sure don’t originate from a lack of love and attention from his mother. In retrospect I’m very happy for him, because he doesn’t have that hideous feeling of total isolation that I have felt for a lifetime. It’s overwhelming, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

My mother Jean left abruptly when I was five months old. Tammy was 4 ½ and Larry was 2 ½, and that can’t be good for any of us. Kids need a father figure at the very least, but the mother is the source of loving and nurturing and life itself. Fathers take off all the time, but whoever hears of mothers doing it? I can’t think of many others, and most people can’t relate to the aftershock.

Looking back from an adult perspective, I have no doubt my mother leaving when I was at the age I was did major damage to my emotional growth. How could it not? I have to believe it was also devastating to Tammy and Larry. They were to the age where they had at least some sort of memories of her. Larry might have been a tad young, but I would think Tammy still has some.

I never talked about this with either of them, because it just never felt right. I was never all that close with any of them growing up, and it was a delicate subject that wasn’t ever brought up. Our father never sat us down and told us what went on, so it kind of got swept under the rug forever.

This is all very deep and personal, but I’m writing about it because I need to get it out so others that have similar struggles – and I hope they are VERY few and far between – can know they’re not alone and hopefully gain at least a little comfort in knowing others are suffering like they are.

I don’t enjoy knowing that others are in pain too, but it does make me feel a little less freakish. Nobody wants to be out there all alone, but that’s where I’ve been for as long as I can remember. I grew up with our grandparents, and Tammy and Larry stayed with our father who’d married the woman that became Bruce’s mother. They all grew up in the same house, while I was the freak.

People have told me my entire life to just “shut up and get over it already” and “that was in the past” and any other kind of half baked Zig Ziglar or Hallmark Card cutesy slogan. “God is in the driver’s seat” and “Everything happens for a reason” is really easy to say when you’re doing ok.

Well, I’m not ok and I know it. I’ve tried to “suck it up” and “hang in there” as long as anyone can, but after enough time passes one realizes the hoped for “ship” is just never going to come in. If it hasn’t by now, it isn’t coming. My mother left and never came back, and that’s what dented my can the deepest. If she was dead at least I could have closure, but she isn’t. All I have is pain.

My self esteem and self worth is completely in the toilet. How the hell could I expect to attract the ideal quality mate when I’ve got so many things still hurting so badly inside? If I at least had some financial security I wouldn’t be under so much constant stress to survive month to month.

The people that tell me to “lighten up your blog” can kiss the fuzziest part of my pink buttocks. This is not for you. If you want light and fluffy, go read Marmaduke in your morning newspaper. This is mainly for myself, but also those that have had to navigate their own insane life jungle. It isn’t easy even when things are ‘normal’, but for dented cans life can be absolute hell on Earth.

That’s where I am now, and I’m not going to lie. I am REALLY hurting to the point of wanting to end my life. I’ve had enough and I can’t stand the pain anymore. I have talked to a few shrinks over the years, and I guess it maybe helped a little at the time – but I don’t see what’s so different about writing about it here. The only hope I have is that it might give someone else a little hope.

No matter what happens, I can honestly and proudly say I have tried my best to pay back all of the bad breaks I’ve caught in life with good. I never thought I was the only one suffering, but my problems are far from what most others face. I have helped a large number of other people when I didn’t have to, and I did it because it was the right thing to do. Warts and all, I do have a heart.

What I don’t have is someone to go to when I need a boost. Where was my mother? I never got even ONE hug, or a cake for my birthday or anything a child is supposed to get from a mother. If you haven’t experienced that deep emptiness, you have zero right to tell me what to write about.

No matter how old I get, there's always going to be a lost little boy inside looking for his mother.

No matter how old I get, there’s always going to be a lost little boy inside looking for his mother.

The Merriest Christmas

December 27, 2013

Thursday December 26th, 2013 – Amarillo, TX/Flagstaff, AZ

This year is going to go down as one of my favorite Christmases ever – diarrhea and all. At the start of the year I made a goal of wanting this to be my best year ever, and it sure looks like I will get what I asked for. 2013 was also rough in many ways, but after today I know I got my wish.

I had about 100 funny Christmas cards laying around that I bought several years ago, but never sent out. I discovered them during my move last month, and decided to send them out to people I like and respect or that did me a solid this year. I also had bought a roll of stamps so it didn’t cost me anything other than the time to address the cards and add a personal note. I sent them all out.

I received all kinds of emails and phone calls from the people who got them, and it put me in a really super mood as I drove from Amarillo, TX to Flagstaff, AZ today. I tried to add something personal to each card, and it totally worked. I got the reaction I was looking for and then some.

I also texted a ton of people yesterday that I didn’t have addresses for, and that also got a very positive reaction. Just making that small personal contact worked wonders, and it helped to make my long drive a lot shorter. Hearing back from so many I like and respect made me feel special.

On a total lark, I sent my younger brother Bruce a Facebook message wishing him not only a Merry Christmas, but to hope that at some point my older sister Tammy and older brother Larry would be able to all get together and start communicating again. That would be good for us all.

Our family makes The Sopranos look like Ozzie and Harriet. We’ve taken dysfunction to new heights, and it’s the source of my pain for Christmas and all that it’s supposed to mean. We were never allowed to be kids, and our innocence was taken way before it should have been. It stinks.

I really didn’t know what to expect, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to take another stab at trying to turn this horrific situation around. I’ve heard of siblings having ‘squabbles’, but this is a whole lot deeper than that. Tammy and I haven’t spoken in twenty years, and it’s at least ten years since Larry and I saw each other. Bruce and I were never close, and have been at odds since childhood.

The whole situation has been a big oozing sore for decades, and I’d have to think even Dr. Phil would scratch his bald head and wash his hands of it. There are a lot of hurt feelings and broken spirits, and we were never close to begin with so we’ve stayed apart. Actually, they stayed apart from me but that’s how it has always been. I was raised by my grandparents, and they were not.

This whole disgusting mess has lingered on into adulthood, and has been a huge source of pain for years and years. I’m not without blame, and never claimed to be. I had an enormous blowout with Tammy in 1993, and said some things I’m really sorry for. I’ve tried to apologize, but it has not worked. I feel horrible about it but that was the amputation of our communication and still is.

Well, to my delighted shock and surprise Bruce wrote back and said he would be willing to try and get all four of us together in a room somewhere for a chance to if not reconcile at least let the healing process begin. We’re all broken inside from our horrific childhood scenario, and only the four of us can relate because we all survived it. This will be something only we can appreciate.

Just the thought of hope that this long overdue meeting might actually happen put me in a place of sheer ecstasy. THIS is what is hurting and always has been, and there is finally some attention being paid to the source of all that pain. Comedy has been something to cover it up all this time.

All kinds of performers look to numb their true source of agony, but it’s never what truly ends it. Fame and fortune might help to cover it up, but deep down inside there’s still that smoldering little ember that can easily turn into a raging fire at a moment’s notice. That’s where it all starts.

That’s where it starts with me too, and getting the response from Bruce was like a healing salve for my psyche. He sent a long detailed letter and made some terrific points. He is very intelligent, and has had plenty of his own demons and hurdles to jump. He’s doing an outstanding job, and it would be beyond words to be able to finally develop an adult relationship with the three of them.

This is far deeper than comedy or marketing or anything else I can think of. I know I’m not the only one with a shaky family relationship, but ours has been unbelievably volatile. Being able to finally start to heal would be my greatest Christmas or any other wish. It’s seemed so impossible.

Nothing has been set up yet, but Bruce wrote back and said he talked to Tammy and she would be open to the idea of getting us all together in one place. Even knowing that the possibility of it is being talked about is making my deepest inner child do cartwheels and jump for joy. It’s what I’ve been hoping for forever, but haven’t had the opportunity. The time finally seems to be right.

I wrote to Bruce and told him how excited I was that this was even being talked about, and told him also that I was coming into this with a spirit of extreme humility. I don’t claim to be without reproach, and I’m sure I’m going to catch an ear full from everyone for the mistakes I’ve made.

I’m willing to accept that, and although it’s never pleasant to admit one is wrong it’s necessary to let the healing begin. Most of the idiots in our family were so dysfunctional they would never accept responsibility for their actions and that was a huge source of the problem. They were not ever wrong in their eyes – not even once – and blamed everyone else for every problem at hand.

Now they’re all dead, and they left their toxic residue behind for us to clean up. That’s what we will hopefully do, and it will take the rest of our lives to do it. It will be a process, but if we don’t start it somehow we’ll all go to our graves with giant gaping holes in our souls. This is crucial.

We’ll never have that ideal family bond I see so many have, but like a burn victim we’ll have a second chance at life. There will be ugly scars, but at least we’ll be alive to talk about it. We will appreciate life a lot more, and it will be a major source of joy for us all. I see nothing but good.

I can totally see myself getting out of the standup comedy game and not looking back. I’d still want to perform, but in a MUCH more meaningful way. Maybe I could be a counselor to broken families, or help others patch up their lives. I know we’re not the only family to experience this.

I’m giddy with excitement right now, and I will have a wonderful run of shows in Tucson. This may be the end of the comedy club chapter of my life, but I feel a much better one beginning. It’s what I’ve always wanted, and if it happens it will be the greatest Christmas gift I ever received.

This is how my inner child feels today. I don't ever remember it feeling that way before, but I know I love it.

This is how my inner child feels today. I don’t ever remember it feeling that way before, but I know I love it. What a rush!

New Sheriff In Town

December 14, 2013

Thursday December 12th, 2013 – Stevens Point, WI

I have a comedy booking tomorrow in Antigo, WI, which is about an hour away from Stevens Point where my cousin Leah lives with her husband Rob and their daughter Janine. Leah’s father and mine were brothers, but neither should have sired. Their parenting skills were nonexistent.

Despite the fact they rarely if ever got along in life, they both left this world the same cowardly way by defiantly refusing to help their children and neglecting to pay their bills leaving a horrific mess to clean up. They both took dysfunction to a whole new level, but never showed remorse.

My father died in 2007, and Leah’s on New Year’s Day of 2012. She bent over backward to be ‘the good daughter’, yet he crapped all over her and her brother Brett. I still can’t understand the reasoning behind how he or my father acted, but now they’re both dead and nobody misses them.

I hadn’t seen Leah in a while, and it was good to catch up with her and Janine over a pizza at a great little joint in downtown Stevens Point called “Bill’s”. It has become our traditional meeting spot, and we’ve made many fond memories there – a lot more than we ever had with our fathers.

Janine is going to be 20 next month, and she’s just a peach. I’ve watched her grow from a baby to a teenager and now a young lady, and even though she’s technically not my niece she calls me Uncle and I think the world of her. She won’t have the dents in her can like Leah and I still do.

My attempt to escape the horrors of childhood was to become a comedian and roam as far from Milwaukee as I could assuming that would dilute the pain. Leah’s was to marry Rob and move to Stevens Point when Rob found a job as a corrections officer. They wanted to start their own life.

I wouldn’t last very long in a small town, but I respect them for having the guts to pack it all up and start over from scratch. They distanced themselves from dysfunction in their own way, and it worked. They raised Janine with love in a house in the country, and for them it was a good plan.

Rob had to work and couldn’t join us to eat, but Leah told me he’s running for Sheriff in 2014. That’s a major undertaking by any standards, and he’s got a lot of work ahead of him. I’m happy he will be taking this gigantic step, and I really hope it happens for him. He’s paid a lot of dues.

I don’t know of a harder working or more straight shooting guy than Rob, and if he gets elected he will do a stellar job. He truly cares about people, and has the demeanor to pull it off. He loves living in Stevens Point as does Leah, and even though I kid them all the time and call them “The Clampetts” I have nothing but respect for how hard they have worked to build themselves a life.

It takes gargantuan gonads to go after a dream, and that’s why I’ll support Rob to the bitter end with this effort. Win, lose or draw, he’ll run an honest campaign and give his best. Very few ever lay it on the line, and he is. How exciting! My father and uncle went to their graves not swinging.

There are no guarantees Rob is going to win, but I’m extremely proud of him for going through with it even this far. He’s made up his mind to go for it, and that’s the kind of spirit I admire. It’s an adventure and that’s what life should be for us all. My father and uncle never got that concept.

America's favorite Sheriff is Andy Taylor of Mayberry.

America’s favorite Sheriff is Andy Taylor of Mayberry.

Running a close second is Sheriff Buford T. Justice from Smokey and the Bandit.

Running a close second is Sheriff Buford T. Justice from Smokey and the Bandit.

My cousin Rob Golla is running for Sheriff for real in 2014. Go cuz go!

My cousin Rob Golla is running for Sheriff for real in 2014. Go cuz go!

Michael Jackson’s Birthday

August 30, 2013

Thursday August 29th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Today would have been Michael Jackson’s 55th birthday. What a fascinating character study he was on so many levels. Only a handful of people who ever lived have had a worldwide influence like he did during his run. Like Elvis, he was the right person in the right place at the right time.

   Did he have talent? He was loaded with it, but that doesn’t always guarantee success. There are many things that have to come together for massive success, and both Elvis and Michael Jackson were the proverbial ‘one in a million’. They were one in hundreds of millions, but that in no way insured their lives would be Shangri-La. Their problems were larger than life just like they were.

   From all I’ve read I don’t think Elvis was a dented can but Michael surely was. I don’t think he and his father got along well to say the least, and that’s usually where it starts. Unfortunately, we as children of relationships like that often tend to think fame and fortune will heal those wounds, but it never does. Sooner or later that fact becomes apparent, and it’s a stunning disappointment.

   I can’t comment on Michael Jackson’s personal life, as I wasn’t there. Whether he did what he was accused of or not I don’t feel qualified to talk about. It’s absolutely none of my business and nobody else’s but his and his accusers. Unfortunately, on that level one’s personal life becomes a wide open book to be rummaged through by the public on a whim. That’s the downside of fame.

   I’m just focusing on his career. The success he had with The Jackson Five alone would be a big deal, but that was only the beginning. His star steadily rose, and he took entertainment to heights that had never been seen on a worldwide level ever – including Elvis. He set the world standard.

   He rode the global wave of MTV, and pioneered the way music videos were done. Every other act to come along after Michael Jackson basically used his template of a lead dancer in front with a flock of dancers behind, but few came close to doing it as well as he did. He was the innovator.

   Elvis had his own greatness for his time, but he wasn’t a dancer or writer of songs. He was one of the most charismatic stage performers in history, and that alone is impressive. Michael took it to a whole other level at a different time, and his influence is still being felt today. What a talent.

   I’ve always been especially impressed with the ‘Thriller’ album. That came out the year after I graduated high school, so it’s been a part of my life for decades. I heard the songs played on the radio, and they were a part of my entire life experience just as the Beatles were for a generation before. I hear Beatles songs being played today, but I was never part of that intense culture blast.

   I watched Michael Jackson’s career soar, and it was quite impressive. During the ‘80s it wasn’t easy to turn on a TV or radio without seeing or hearing something about Michael Jackson. It was a true cultural phenomenon, and part of the fabric of life. How many ever reach that level? Him.

   I’m sorry his and Elvis’s lives ended so sadly and quickly. No mortal can sustain that lifestyle for long, but the question is if one could choose would it be the short fast life of a superstar or an ordinary one filled with mediocrity that lasted into old age? That’s a decision most never face.  

Every entertainer would LOVE to have a project like this on the resume - an all time classic.

Every entertainer would LOVE to have a project like this on the resume – an all time classic.


The Chain Breaker

August 23, 2013

Wednesday August 21st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

    For one million dollars free and clear in unmarked $50 bills, I couldn’t honestly tell you what I did on my 18th birthday. That was such a long time ago now it just blends in to the big blur that is life. One would assume it should be a special event to be cherished forever, but it wasn’t for me.

   I know what I didn’t do. I didn’t get high or drunk, as that’s never been my style. I didn’t have any parties or celebrations either. There was no big family get together or anything like that. My life was never ‘normal’, and by that time it was already going in a different direction than most.

   That direction was south. I was on my own by 17, having to scrape together a living by night as I finished high school during the day. I seriously thought about dropping out, but my grandfather was in the final stages of cancer and made it his last request that I finish. My father dropped out, and Gramps was completely embarrassed by it. I didn’t want to cause him more pain so I did it.

   I started my adult life in a big hole, and I’ve been digging my way out ever since. I had no time to party and chase chicks like most other kids my age, so I did what I had to do to survive. By the time I was 21 I was already getting started in comedy, and it was a long uphill climb from there.

   My birthday is in March, and Gramps died in December of the year I turned 18. That’s when I needed him most, but too bad for me. When he died, the already delicate relationships I had with the rest of the family collapsed immediately and World War III broke out in full bloody combat.

   My belligerent old man who was never there for me suddenly tried to step in and call the shots in my life and that went over like an accordion in Led Zeppelin. At first I tried the polite route to make an attempt at a father-son relationship, but that lasted just a few weeks before it got ugly.

   I don’t take bullies well, and that’s exactly what that bastard was – especially to anyone weaker or smaller than him. He treated all of his children like personal property, and I for one absolutely refused to take it. I got in his face, and the more I stood up to him the more he would back down.

   It’s never a pleasant time to be at war with one’s father, but that was an especially volatile time to be in that situation. Adolescence and puberty and all that goes with them are difficult enough, but not having parental support makes it downright scary. I’m surprised I didn’t turn to booze or drugs or crime, but I didn’t. For whatever reason, that just wasn’t in me. It’s not my personality.

   I vowed I was going to prove to everyone – especially the cantankerous ogre that was supposed to be a nurturing father and not my most hated enemy – that I was better than where I came from, and I wasn’t going to let anyone take my life or my dreams away from me. I chased the showbiz dream thinking I’d ace it in a hurry, but that provided a whole new set of political games to play.

   I made a ton of mistakes in comedy, but there was nobody there to reel me in. Gramps was the one steadying mentor figure in my life, but he was long gone at the time I needed guidance most. I made my choices with very limited perspective, and it launched my life path on an unnecessary detour that diluted my dream. With all of that on my plate, I’m surprised I made it as far as I did.

   What really hurt was the bubbling cauldron of anger I carried with me for so many years. I lost years of productive time I should have been growing and learning to focus on getting revenge on a psychopath who shouldn’t have had children in the first place. What a useless waste of youth.

   The reason I’m trudging up all this ancient mud from the past is my friend Max Bumgardner’s son Dustin turned 18 today. I couldn’t be more proud of Dustin if he was my own son – and Max is as high on my list as anyone can get. He’s one of my closest confidants and has been for years.

   Not only do I think Max is unbelievably talented and one of the smartest people I know – he is also a big time dented can. Max’s father is frighteningly similar to mine, and I knew right away when we first met that we were kindred spirits. Max has fought his whole life to break out of his father’s shadow, and his path has been no easier than mine. It’s like trying to sprint in knee deep sloppy mud while carrying two full bags of groceries and a watermelon. It’s an impossible task.

   Max and I became close when we worked on the morning show at 97.9 ‘The Loop’ in Chicago in 2004, but after we got fired we became even closer. He struggled with a lot of the same issues I did, and more than a few times we’d talk each other off a cliff when things got really difficult.

   We kept each other going, and were one of the few people the other could go to when life took a nasty turn. Dented cans can only relate to the pain of other dented cans, much like women trade stories about how painful their pregnancies were. I can sympathize, but I can’t truly empathize.

    I knew exactly where Max’s pain was coming from, and he knew mine. I never met his father, but we talked on the phone a few times on the radio. He actually seemed kind of nice, but that’s a very common trait of psychotic tyrants. Ted Bundy was nice enough to lure his victims to where he could do his deeds, and that was it. It was an act. My father often appeared gentle to outsiders.

    The pride of Max’s life has always been his two kids Dustin and Skylar. I have watched them both successfully grow from cute kids to solid young adults. Max has gone out of his way to be a world class father, and he has done a spectacular job. I remember sitting with Max and Dustin at a Bears game in Chicago in 2004, and what a beautiful father-son moment it was for those two.

   Max tells me all the time that Dustin looks up to me as an uncle figure. He plays my CDs over and over and Max told me I’m his ‘personal Rodney Dangerfield’. I remember how much I loved Rodney when I was that age, and to be put in that class is as flattering as it gets. I’m very grateful to have had Max and his family as friends all this time, and to see Dustin turn 18 is a major thrill.

   I don’t see Dustin all that often these days, but through the years we’ve enjoyed all kinds of fun times. I could see at an early age he was a wonderful kid filled to the brim with potential. He has an extremely sharp mind and is a gentle and loving soul – just like his dad. He’s got all the tools.

   He will have problems as we all do, but there won’t be that ugliness that goes with being from a rotten family situation. Any of us who have been through it know how sickening it is, and those who didn’t never truly will. I’m glad they won’t, and wish nobody had to. It’s not how I thought life should be – but for some of us it is. Dustin Bumgardner caught a break, and I’m glad he did.

   Max and I are always going to have deep scars of a painful childhood, but he showed courage to the tenth power for not turning right around damaging his own kids. It takes guts to break the chain of dysfunction, and Max has totally done it. I couldn’t be more delighted to see it happen.

   I called and left Dustin a message wishing him a happy birthday and telling him how proud he has made both his parents and me, and I meant every word of it. Max said it was a special day in his life, and he’s already ahead of ours by light years. Good for him. Dustin is the chain breaker.

The Unfixable Hole

May 13, 2013

Sunday May 12th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

    Depending on the year, certain holidays hit me in different ways. Christmas can be a source of major pain one year, but not so bad the next two or three. Father’s Day has also drudged up some ugly memories I’d rather forget, but try as I might they still find their way to the top of my head.

    I wasn’t even thinking about Mother’s Day, but I happened to turn on my radio and listened to sports talk radio of all things and heard ball players giving shout outs to their moms and thanking them for all their support through the years. After a few minutes of that I was feeling mighty low.

   It drove the point home again and again that I got cheated out of one of the most basic elements of human life, and I’ve lost out on more than I realize. If my mother was dead I could put closure to the situation, but as far as I know she’s still alive somewhere and the whole situation rots ass.

   I have very few memories of my mother, and those I do have are far from pleasant. She left my father, two older siblings and me when I was five months old, and that’s when I went to live with my paternal grandparents who raised me until age 17. My mother stayed away and it really hurts.

   This is pain I can share with few others. A mother is supposed to be the one who’s there for the tough times – not be the source of them. I’ve tried to push this to the back of my mind since I can remember. Today it came back. There’s a dark empty corner of my soul I don’t know how to fill.

   I wanted to forget about it and ‘just move on’ and ‘get over it’ like so many have told me, even though not one of those self taught know it all back alley aspiring Dr. Phils of the world have felt anywhere close to a crushing blow like that themselves. They think they’ve got all the answers.

   Nobody I know has any of those answers, including me. How does someone deal with such an ugly situation? I wish I knew. My whole life I’ve tried to suck it up and do the best I could with what I have, but that hasn’t been effective. All these years later, I’m still a lost kid. I need a hug.

   If she were to come out of the woodwork again, I’m not sure I’d want to see her. I don’t think I would feel any better, and every other time I’ve seen her in my life it has been nothing but brutal to the psyche and a waste of my time. I’m not going to get what I want, and that’s the way it is.

   I’m writing about all this so openly because I hope I’m able to touch someone who reads it and has something maybe as painful in their life. I don’t know anyone to talk to that I think can relate to what I’m going through, and that makes it worse. Keeping it all quiet just adds to the isolation.

   This is an inner torture I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but I don’t know how to get rid of it. It’s drained me for a lifetime, and continues to be a source of agony. I drove around in a funk all day, and it didn’t help when I wanted to stop for lunch at three of my favorite restaurants and lines were out the door because it was Mother’s Day and people were enjoying their family meal.

   That added gas to the fire, and I was hurting so badly I thought of ways to end my life without leaving a mess for someone else to have to clean up. Why am I even here? No matter how much success I may ever achieve, there will always be this ugly void in my life. It’s the unfixable hole.

   I’ve been far down like this before on Christmases and Father’s Days and even Thanksgivings. I usually move on and keep slugging, but it always sucks a little more out of my soul. If you have loving parents and a family, be grateful. It can’t be bought, and without it life has little meaning.