Posts Tagged ‘football’

Buck Off

July 5, 2014

Wednesday July 2nd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

That Mother Nature can sure be one icy hearted cruel bitch when she wants to. I have been in a one way love affair with the game of basketball ever since I was old enough to know what it was, but she personally saw to it a marriage between basketball and I would never be consummated.

I loved baseball and football too, but basketball was my favorite – probably due to the fact that my hometown Milwaukee Bucks were the only winning local team besides Marquette University basketball coached by Al McGuire, then known as the Warriors. All the other local teams stunk.

Like most school kids, I was delusional and cocksure I was going to have my pick of any major professional sport I was going to play – maybe even two or three. I would make the Hall of Fame in at least one, and then I’d spend the rest of my life signing autographs at baseball card shows.

Little did I know Moms Nature had other plans. She left my toolbox completely bare of any of the tools I would need to play any sport professionally including badminton, bocce or full contact Chinese checkers. I’m Caucasian, clumsy and never came close to being six feet tall. Game over.

That didn’t mean I wasn’t a great fan, and I followed all my local sports teams in Milwaukee as I grew up. The Bucks were my team, and in high school I got a job as a ball boy. That was going to be as close as I would ever get to participating in professional sports, but I had fun anyway.

It’s been painful to be a Bucks fan since Senator Herb Kohl bought the team in 1985, but if he hadn’t they would have left town. I’ve continued to cheer for them, but that’s like cheering for a sheep in a wolf pack. All the cheering in the world won’t help, even if the intentions are sincere.

I was holding out hope when the team was recently sold to a pair of billionaires, but that hope was violently dashed to the pavement this week when the team hired Jason Kidd to be their new head coach. I don’t care one way or the other about Jason Kidd, but how the owners handled the situation spoke volumes. They botched it to the highest degree, and it was totally uncalled for.

Larry Drew was the coach of the team last year, and they had the worst season in their history. He was in a no win situation, but I thought he handled it with class and professionalism. That had to be a nerve shredding meat grinder, but he hung in there to the end of what was a brutal season.

It’s not uncommon for new owners to come into a situation and put their own stamp on things. I was the victim of it several times in radio, and that’s why I was so sensitive to Larry Drew and his situation. I wasn’t surprised that he was let go, but it was done in a way that lost my fandom.

I know he’s got a guaranteed contract for two more years and will be making millions without having to work, but that’s not the point. Couldn’t they sit the guy down and explain things like a human being rather than let it play out in the media? No human deserves to be treated like cattle.

Not that it means anything to the new owners or anybody else, but I’m not going to cheer for a team that handles business like this. The San Antonio Spurs don’t, and they win championships. I love how they do business on and off the court, and they are my new team. Buck off, Bucks.

This is the logo of the Bucks teams I cheered for since I was a kid. Their new billionaire owners lost me in their first week.

This is the logo of the Bucks teams I cheered for since I was a kid. Their new billionaire owners lost me their first week.

Nobody Has To Know

March 6, 2014

Tuesday March 4th, 2014 – Chicago, IL

Once again I was called in for short term bullpen duty by Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago, and once again I answered the call. For whatever reason, they needed me to fill in for tonight only so that’s what I did. I always enjoy the chance to work, even though the crowd isn’t always stellar.

I’m not talking about Zanies crowds necessarily, but about audiences in general. There are a lot of variables that make up any particular group of random strangers, and each gathering is its own mini lottery with astronomical odds. Like hands of cards, the possibilities are virtually limitless.

Sometimes a given group meshes perfectly with the act on stage, and when that happens life is absolute bliss. Depending on the experience of the performer, he or she can make adjustments to find the sweet spot of what the audience is buying on that night. Trying to find what that happens to be is part of the fun of live performing. It all happens in the moment, and it’s a calculated risk.

Inexperienced entertainers have a limited range of where they can go. They give whatever they have, and leave it to chance. Sometimes it’s the correct fit, and sometimes it isn’t. That’s part of the process, and why it takes so long to master the craft of standup comedy. It’s quite involved.

Matching wits with an audience is a tremendous challenge, and I’ve learned to respect it over a lifetime. It’s a constant mental chess game, much like how the quarterback takes on a defense in a football game or a pitcher vs. batter matchup in baseball. It’s a series of guesses and adjusting.

On rare occasions, it all works out right from the start. I’ve had nights I could seemingly do no wrong, and I can’t figure out why. It just clicks, and I run with it. Other nights nothing works no matter what I try, and over time I have amassed quite a stash of tricks to haul out in the moment.

Part of the process includes trying several tactics to obtain the most positive response. One that can be highly effective is interaction. A dead audience can spring into life with crowd work, and I’ve implemented it successfully many times. I’ve also had it blow up in my face too. It’s tricky.

This whole game is tricky – but that’s why I love it. It’s a constant challenge, and even when it goes right there’s always the next audience to figure out and they could be stone faced. I liken it to doing crossword puzzles – something else I really enjoy. There’s always the next one to solve.

Tonight’s crowd on the surface seemed very good. It was quite large for a Tuesday, but I found them to be one of those rare hands of cards that was difficult to play. Vince Maranto was hosting, and he’s one of the most experienced emcees around. They liked him, but he talked to them a lot.

Calvin Evans was the feature act tonight, a younger comic who is very likeable on stage. I saw him have a tough time keeping their attention, and he eventually had to politely ask them to keep the table talk down. He handled it very well, but I knew I would be in for a challenge and I was.

This was one of those shows when every little thing went wrong, and no matter what I tried fell flat. It didn’t help that the whole front row was chatting during the whole show, but that happens. They all clapped loudly at the end, but I’ve had far better audiences. Shhh. Nobody has to know.

Performing for live audiences is never the same twice in a row.

Performing for live audiences is never the same twice in a row. That can be good and bad.

Michael Sam’s Club

February 11, 2014

Sunday February 9th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Well, it had to happen sooner or later and it happened today. The first openly gay athlete came out that will be a current member of one of the ‘Big Four’ professional sports leagues in America. To me it’s no big deal on a personal level, and in fact if anything I’m surprised it has taken this long.

Was anyone naïve enough to think there weren’t any until now in the history of sports? Really? Come on. Please get me a list of those imbeciles so I can sell them some swamp land or a bridge – preferably a two for one deal. Better yet, sign me up as the first straight male flight attendant.

From a life standpoint, I could not care any less about this story. I wish Michael Sam well, and quite honestly before today I’d never heard of him. He’s in for a hell of a ride to say the least, but judging from the interview I heard with him he seems like a sharp kid and will be able to hack it.

From a comedic standpoint, this is going to be a nightmare before it starts. Every no talent hack and his or her grandma’s uncle at open mics and on You Tube is going to jump all over this story and mangle it horrifically, all in the name of “humor”. I shudder to think of it, but it’s inevitable.

Every time there’s a huge story like this with any hint of shock value, count on there being lots of backlash in the form of painfully poorly placed “jokes”. I saw it first hand in Milwaukee when Jeffery Dahmer hit the world media stage like a sledge hammer. It spread everywhere overnight.

It only took a couple of days for a barrage of jokes to start flowing, but that was way before the internet. Life in general is at warp speed these days and this story will explode online and already has. He happens to come from a town called “Hitchcock”. Really. Do I need to go any further?

Hack comics and wannabes everywhere are salivating right now. They can’t wait for their shot to get on stage anywhere to display a lisping limp wristed mean spirited “impression” of Michael Sam, thinking it will be there ticket to the top. There’s blood in the water and the sharks are out.

More than a few somebodies somewhere are breaking their necks to make it to their local malls this very minute to have a number “69” Michael Sam jersey custom made to order. You think I’m joking. I wish I was, but I know it’s true. The latest hack comedy premise has been fully hatched.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good sick twisted politically incorrect downright nasty joke. I am all for slicing and dicing any subject imaginable – but NOT on stage. There are just some things that need to be left alone – or at least left to those with experience that know what they’re doing.

I have thirty solid years of hard earned experience, and I have no interest whatsoever in doing any Michael Sam bits or gay jokes in general. It’s not my style, and not what I do. I’m sure there could be some funny stuff there for someone, but for the majority of the herd it’s already passé.

I’ve been accused of being gay for years because I’ve never married. Did it ever occur to them that maybe I’m just an ugly bastard that has been rejected by the entire female species? If I were gay, I’d gladly admit it. I would also be able to dance, cook and my clothes might match at least once in a while. Leave Mr. Sam alone. But if there’s any comedic justice, he’ll be drafted by the Packers.

Michael Sam will be a household name forever because he's the first openly gay athlete to play in a major sport in America.

Michael Sam will be a household name forever because he’s the first openly gay athlete to play in a major sport in America. That’s his business.

That's his business, but unfortunately it will bring along some really bad attempts at humor. I cringe just thinking about it. Ugh.

Unfortunately, it will bring with it some really horrific attempts at ‘humor’. I cringe just thinking of it.

Passing On Football

January 8, 2014

Sunday January 5th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I’m still floored by the news of my roommate’s health, but unfortunately I have to keep living my own life. Not to be selfish, but this throws a complete change of plans into everything, and I am still fuzzy on what I’ll need to do. According to what I’m hearing from Sheri’s friend Debra, Sheri is going to be in the hospital for at least a couple of weeks. That’s never a pleasant thought.

I don’t know about strokes or what to expect, but I do know that football player Teddy Bruschi suffered a major one but is back working as a TV analyst and appears to have made a comeback. Pro wrestler Bret “The Hitman” Hart also had one, and he has since wrestled again. I hope those are positive signs for Sheri, and she will be able to get most if not all of her quality of life back.

This just stinks so badly on so many levels. Not that I would wish something as horrific as this on anybody, but especially not Sheri. She is as harmless and sweet as anyone I know, and would not harm a flea. She’s a dented can herself, and all she wanted was to have fun. Is that so bad?

The house was eerily silent all day, as nobody was in it but me. Sheri had another room rented to a woman named Tracy, but she just moved out before the end of December. Actually, Sheri let her live rent free because she’d just survived breast cancer surgery and needed a place to recover.

That’s the kind of person Sheri is, and that’s why I’m so saddened by this sour turn of events. I just don’t understand how these things happen to good people, while unscrupulous weasels seem to slide through life problem free. It doesn’t add up, and if there’s a lesson to be learned I for one am failing to see it. It leaves a very sour taste in my mouth, and I’m trying hard to stay positive.

I shut everything else out of my mind and went to work all day. I was invited to several parties to watch my beloved Green Bay Packers playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers, but I was not in a mood to watch football – even the Packers. I didn’t need the stress of three hours with a possibility of them losing at the last second – which they eventually did. I’m glad I didn’t see it.

Even if they had won, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it much today. My heart wasn’t in it, and my mind was thinking off much deeper things. I normally love football, but today it seemed boring, trivial and far far away. I was thinking of more spiritual things, and that’s what matters.

How can I give more of myself as a human being, and really make a difference in somebody’s life or lives? That’s all that has any meaning whatsoever, and all I aspire to for as long as I am on this cosmic plane. It may sound corny or sappy, but why would I lie? Football doesn’t come close to scratching this itch, and never will. It’s a fun diversion on occasion, but not where real life is.

What Sheri is going through in that hospital has to be sheer torture. Depending on how clearly she is able to think, it has to be scary beyond words to think of what she may have to face. I can remember when I had my own hospital scare and thought I was going to lose my genitals. That’s a hilarious comedy bit, but it wasn’t funny to think there was a chance of it actually happening.

What can I do to serve my fellow humankind more? I see more than ever how important it is to bring laughter and smiles to as many people as possible. People like Sheri could really use it.

Normally I'd have to watch a playoff game when my beloved Green Bay Packers were playing. Today I didn't, and I didn't miss it. There are a lot deeper things in life than football. Really.

Normally I’d have to watch a playoff game when my beloved Green Bay Packers were playing. Today I didn’t, and I didn’t miss it. There are far deeper things in life than football. Really.

Deep Sleep

October 29, 2013

Thursday October 24th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

I have had recurring dreams throughout my life, and I wish I could figure out why they happen and what if anything it means. They range from the traditional being back in high school without my homework to being on the radio when my song ends and I don’t have another one to others.

One I have fairly regularly is being booked to do a huge comedy gig, but can’t find my way to the stage. I’ll spend most of the dream feverishly trying to get to the venue, and then I’m not able to find anyone to report to backstage, and I never actually get to perform. It’s always frustrating.

Other times I dream I am on a network show, and go out and destroy the audience. They laugh at everything I say, and I know even before I say my next line that it’s going to crush. Sometimes the host is David Letterman, and he and I sit and talk afterward. It’s not clear if it’s on TV or not, but we’ll chat about the business just like two comics would – and he always treats me as a peer.

Another batch of dreams I’ve had for years is being a professional athlete and playing baseball, basketball or football. They are incredibly vivid, and it feels like I’m really doing it. I am right in the heat of action, and always know exactly what to do. In basketball I’m the point guard and get a rebound and dribble it up the court and either pass it off for a basket or sink a perfect jumper.

In football I’m usually a kickoff returner and feel the rush of trying to run one back for a score. Sometimes I make it a long way up the field, and other times I get tackled. Other times I’m in the defensive backfield and can feel where the quarterback is going to throw and I intercept the pass.

In baseball I’m the pitcher, but I usually get to bat and end up smacking a solid hit somewhere. I can’t control when these dreams happen, but when they do they’re of uncanny clarity and I can feel every tiny detail as if it’s not a dream. It’s a sensational feeling, and I don’t want to wake up.

One that has always puzzled me is where I’m walking down a city street and come upon a city bus that’s been abandoned. The bus is running, and I climb in the driver’s seat and start driving it on the scheduled route. I stop to let passengers on and off, and even answer questions they’ll ask.

I’ll feel that big steering wheel in my hands, and I know exactly what I’m doing and where I’m going. It’s unbelievably fun to be doing this, and I can’t get enough of it. When I’m done driving I just park the bus and get off. At that point I’ll usually wake up, but I still remember everything.

I can’t begin to guess what this could possibly mean, other than I need to take better care of my diet after 9pm. I’ll bet I’ve been having a variation of this dream more than twenty years and I’m still without a clue as to what it might mean. It’s a blast to drive the bus while I do it, then it’s over.

I had this particular dream again last night, and as a bizarre twist my only passenger was Rick Harrison from “Pawn Stars”. We were talking about comedy and pawn shops, and out of the blue I got pulled over by a cop and he wanted to arrest me for theft. Rick thought he was being set up.

I know it’s weird, but it’s so vivid I can still picture it. It’s like I was really getting arrested and I thought I was going to jail. This time I was glad I woke up. Even my life isn’t THAT out there.

I have had recurring dreams for years. Am I nuts? Probably.

I have had recurring dreams for years. Am I nuts? Probably.

Game Experience

October 24, 2013

Thursday October 17th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Any craft that requires skill requires repetition to maintain and improve said skill. There isn’t a single exception to this rule, even though a surprisingly high percentage of beginners mistakenly like to think the rule doesn’t apply to them. This is as wrong as feeding chili to a newborn baby.

It’s fine to read articles and have in depth discussions – even take classes, but until one actually goes out and DOES something it’s all meaningless. The learning comes by doing, and there’s no way around it. It’s great to be prepared, but preparation alone is never enough. Action is needed.

I’ve forever heard pro football people say that NFL quarterback is the most difficult position to play in sports. There are a lot of subtleties to it, and the only way to learn them is by actual game experience. It’s a painstaking process of trial and error but it’s the only way to become seasoned.

Standup comedy is the same way. I believe it’s the most difficult of all entertainment positions, and like quarterbacking there are many subtleties involved. It’s not just a matter of spitting jokes out night after night like a robot. There’s a lot more to it than that. It’s a very complex process.

Circumstances change constantly, and adjustments need to be made. As in football, sometimes a last second audible at the line of scrimmage is necessary. The only way to know what is needed requires experience, and there’s only one way to get it – making mistakes. It’s part of the game.

If there’s one subject I’m qualified to speak on, it’s making mistakes. I’ve made more than my share – more than a dozen people’s shares – but I’ve learned from them all. I’ll still screw up on occasion, but I am able to hide it and recover because I have finally figured out what I’m doing.

Having game experience opens up all kinds of new doors, and makes being on stage even more fun than it was before – and it was intoxicating before. The rush of being on stage is like nothing I have ever experienced, and I have pursued it for a lifetime. It’s the most exciting buzz there is.

I had no idea how to control it when I started, but I knew I loved it. I wanted to be on stage any and all chances I had to do it, even if only for a few minutes. That’s all anyone gets, but that’s all anyone can handle at first. Five minutes can be a LONG time – especially when it’s going badly.

Now, I can do a solid hour without thinking about it and still have plenty of material left over – and that’s a rock solid polished hour, not “Where ya from?” or “What do you do?” Crowd work doesn’t count, even though that’s a skill of its own. I’m talking about an act. It takes a lifetime.

A lot of nasty lumps were taken in that lifetime, and I can’t honestly say if I knew what it was going to entail and had to do it all again if I would. The experience I have came with a very high price, but I chose to pay it and now it’s mine. What can I do with it? Other than continuing to do shows, hopefully writing about my journey (and many mistakes) will help others on the way up.

My perspective now is very different than it was at the start. I still love being on that stage, but growth never ends. No creative artist or performer is ever a finished product. There’s always the next lesson to learn. Game experience gives me confidence, but also helps to keep me humble.

Standup comedy is like being a quarterback - the most difficult job in the business.

Standup comedy is like being a quarterback – the most difficult job in the business.

Football Fasting

October 8, 2013

Sunday October 6th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

I love football. I love the action, excitement and drama of a well played game and I’ve loved it since I was a little boy. I loved playing it then, and even after I stopped it has remained an annual staple in my autumn schedule. I especially love the NFL and the Green Bay Packers in particular.

I have written in detail of my inability to stop being a Packer fan, and at this point I consider it a hopeless addiction. It should make no difference whatsoever to me – or anyone else that doesn’t actually play or coach for them – if they win or lose five minutes after a game, but it totally does.

I’ve resigned myself long ago to the embarrassing fact that I will always care somewhere in the deepest part of my existence whether the Packers win or lose even though I know it carries a zero effect or less on how my life turns out. Even though I know it means nothing, I know it still does.

Instead of seeking the years of intense therapy I probably should for this deep rooted condition, I have chosen instead to take a different route and wean myself off of watching games whenever possible. It was damn near impossible at first, but now I’ve gotten pretty good at avoiding them.

One thing that helps tremendously is that I live in a place where they aren’t the prominent team on television. They weren’t on this week, so I would have had to drive to Wisconsin to watch the game which I didn’t feel like doing. I did drive to a flea market and walked around all afternoon.

I mainly did it for the exercise, and it felt good to take a brisk walk on a fall day. A few people did have radios playing both the Packers and Bears games, so I caught up with the scores of both whether I wanted to hear them or not. I didn’t mind in small doses, but I didn’t want to waste the afternoon in front of the TV riding that emotional roller coaster one more time. I don’t need that.

What doesn’t help is that I’m in not one but two fantasy football leagues. I should keep a closer grip of what’s happening, but my friend Jim McHugh is my co-owner in both and he does a more thorough job of combing the waiver wires than I ever could. He’s the perfect man for that job.

I am not saying I won’t ever jump back in with both feet, but for the immediate future I choose to participate in what I’m calling a “football fast” and use at least the three hours that the Packers play to do something much more productive. I will hear the final score soon enough, but nothing of my personal doing will have had a thing to do with it. Whether I watch or not doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that I get at least one of my own flailing projects off the ground. The NFL isn’t going to miss one lone nut that chooses to do something else for a while, but I will cease to exist if I don’t figure out a way to get some legitimate steady income flowing in my direction. A three hour chunk of time to work on that comes in handy right now, and I don’t want to waste it.

I didn’t spend all three hours walking through the flea market, but it didn’t take long to realize I’m not going to haul in much money there. My idea of being a picker of collectibles and turning a profit has been a lot less consistent than I imagined. It’s too high of a time outlay for too tiny of a return, but at least I can do it on my own schedule. The smart thing to do is keep working on all my ideas like The King of Uranus, “Schlitz Happened!” and the rest. Football can wait a while.

The NFL is a drug - with 32 varieties.

The NFL is a drug – with 32 varieties.

My personal drug of choice since age 8. Is there a 12 step program for NFL addicts?

My personal drug of choice since age 8. Is there a 12 step program for NFL addicts?

Catching A Draft

April 26, 2013

Thursday April 25th, 2013 – Niles, IL

   What is it about the National Football League that has addictive powers? It’s frightening, but if I could figure out that secret ingredient I’d use it myself and get rich. Something about that sport has turned hundreds of millions of Americans into brain dead zombies who are hooked for life.

   Unfortunately, I find myself in that category and no matter how hard I fight it I seem to always come back – and I’m sure that’s exactly how they want it. I am a lifer, and my drug of choice has always been the Green Bay Packers. There are 31 other flavors available, but that one is mine.

   Once again as I have for too many years to count, I purposely blocked out my evening to watch ESPN TV coverage of the entire first round of the NFL draft. I’ve done it as long as I can recall it being televised, and I have to say ashamedly that I really enjoy it. I know I shouldn’t, but I do.

   Talk about your quintessential non event being overhyped, pumped full of hot air and force fed to a shallow stupid public – this is absolutely it. It’s such a brilliantly slick marketing job I wish I would have thought of it. Part of me is embarrassed I like it so much, and another part is jealous.

   The modern day King of Ballyhoo Vince McMahon himself couldn’t have pulled an event like this out of thin air, and I’m sure he’s probably jealous too. The NFL really put one over on all of us, and we’re thanking them for doing it by showing up in droves to watch it like a Super Bowl.

   My friend Marc Schultz is as hopelessly hooked as I am, and he invited me over to watch it at his house. It’s become an annual tradition that his wife Audrey cooks us steaks and we sit around in front of the TV from opening pick to the very end. It’s a total geek fest, but we both live for it.

   Marc is a lifelong Chicago Bears fan, and even that doesn’t stop me from going there each and every year. We actually have intelligent conversations about what each team needs, and we try to predict who each one will take. We’ve never been right yet, but it’s still fun and we will probably keep doing it as long as they keep televising it – but why would it stop? Halfwits like us watch it.

   All the whole overblown thing boils down to is just a glorified version of picking sides as kids, but there’s something about it that attracts millions of mooks across America that should have all kinds of better things to do. I can’t tell you for the life of me who represents me in Congress, but I do know in what spot my Packers were drafting (26) and that’s embarrassing. I am SO hooked.

  The NFL knows this, so they’ve stretched the whole thing out over three days. Now it’s a whole weekend I have to set aside – and stupid me I probably will. I tell myself I’ll just put it on to find out who the Packers get in the later rounds, but who am I kidding? As always, I’ll end up getting sucked in once more by Mel Kiper Jr.’s hypnotic hyperbole and before I’ll know it it’s Monday.

   There were actual games going on in both baseball and basketball tonight, but I didn’t pay any attention to any of it. Why would I want to watch actual GAMES – some of them playoff games – when I can eat steak with a friend and watch as pampered oafs get chosen to rake in zillions?

   There’s just something not right about any of it, but I can’t deny I had a total blast from as soon as I walked in the door to the minute I left after the last pick of the first round. The food was very good, and the company was better. Marc and I watched every single pick and it was a pleasure to do it. Not one down of football was played, but the NFL still made money. THAT’S marketing!

Thanksgiving Manly Style

November 23, 2012

Thursday November 22nd, 2012 – Kenosha, WI

   Here comes the holiday season, like it or not. I’ll be glad when it’s over, but I know millions of people love it so I hope it’s a good one for their sake. I just wish the whole thing wasn’t so damn omnipresent so those of us who don’t care to be reminded of it could carry on with our existence.

EVERY commercial on TV and radio has annoying sleigh bells in it, and I’m already tired of it and it’s only Thanksgiving. There’s more than an entire month of this torture ahead, and I’m just not up for it this year. Too bad for me. It’s not going to stop, so I better suck it up and move on.

I do like Thanksgiving though. The older I get, the more I realize that gratitude is a choice. It’s one I’m choosing to make as often as I can, and only good things come of it. It’s easy to focus on everything we don’t have – and I’m good at that too – but seeing what we do makes life livable.

One thing I do have is a fantastic group of world class friends scattered all over North America and beyond. It took a lifetime to accumulate them, and I’m grateful for every last one. I received at least a dozen invitations to spend Thanksgiving all over the country, and that was appreciated.

I have to be in Springfield, IL tomorrow to do this weekend at Johnnie B’s Comedy Club, so it was smart to keep it close to home. My friend Mark Gumbinger lives in Kenosha, WI and he had a “guys’ night out” theme this year. It was just him and his cousin Greg, and I rounded out a trio.

No offense to any of the other invites, but this was the right choice by far. None of us believed in the tradition of a turkey, so Mark cooked New York strip steaks on the grill that were about as delicious as any of us had ever eaten. Those alone made it worth showing up. Turkey shmurkey.

But there’s more. Mark has a giant screen TV in his basement, and it’s the perfect man cave for watching football or anything else. We had shrimp cocktail and all kinds of other delicious treats and appetizers piled high and football to watch, and nobody had to say a word. We were satiated.

Then it got better when Mark’s cousin Greg brought out a DVD of Led Zeppelin he bought last night and Mark popped it in his system. WOW, was that a treat. It was like we were attending the actual show. I’ve never been a big Zeppelin fan, but I also never hated them. This won me over.

I had no idea they even got back together, and I probably should have. Apparently they did this particular event five years ago in England, and they’re just releasing it in the US now. I’ll bet it’s a monster seller, as I know I’m going to buy one for sure. Jason Bonham was great on drums and those guys just tore it up. Robert Plant sounded amazing, and it was just an all out kick ass show.

After that we watched some Three Stooges and Beavis and Butt Head DVDs Mark had and felt like teenagers in a tree house for a night. I know it wasn’t a ‘traditional’ Thanksgiving, but it sure was fun and none of us complained. There was no pressure, and everybody went home full of red meat and singing a tune. Life is what it is – warts and all. I’m learning to be grateful for days like today and try to make as many of them as possible. This started the holiday season with a bang.