Posts Tagged ‘friendship’

No Complaints

July 19, 2014

Tuesday July 15th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I am by nature a complainer. I think most comedians are to some degree, and that’s a large part of why many of us are attracted to the concept of comedy in the first place. Our minds tend to go that way anyway, so why not pick apart life in general and point out the flaws and absurdities?

It’s hilarious when done right, and I became skilled at it early. I used to pick apart school lunch every day in grade school, just because I thought it was funny. It was funny, at least to the kids in my class. I used to get them rolling to the point they almost choked on the food, and that’s about the best compliment I could ever imagine. Killing a kid would have made me a comedy legend.

Then one day out of the blue one of the lunch ladies got in my face and said she was sick of my smart mouth and told me to shut it once and for all. She said how hard they worked every day on a limited budget to feed us, and then I’d walk in and get all the kids laughing. She said it hurt all the kitchen employees, and they dreaded seeing me enter into the cafeteria. I felt like a giant ass.

I didn’t realize that my bitching had hurt those ladies, and that day I walked in the kitchen and said I was sorry to each and every one of them. I told them I was only trying to get the other kids to laugh, and I didn’t realize that I was hurting their feelings. I don’t know if they believed me at the time, but I absolutely meant it. I still do. From that day forward I never made another joke.

Granted, I’ve done jokes about school lunch on stage but that was decades later and in another state. The chances of any of those ladies being at my show would be astronomical. My luck they would be having a convention or reunion in the town I was playing, and I’d infuriate them again.

I often use this very forum to tee off on something or someone that grinds my gonads, and I’m sure I’ve turned people off with that too. I would love to paint a perpetually sunny picture of the world, but from my vantage point I just don’t see it. There are circumstances that befuddle me.

A big one I am painfully reminded of every day is my roommate Sheri. What a horrible hand she has been dealt off the bottom of life’s deck, and it sickens me to see all the pain and suffering she is enduring. She is out of the hospital after her stroke on New Year’s Eve, but her life is hell.

I am delighted that we were able to pull off a benefit comedy show for her, and I see the direct result of it every day. She has a chair lift that takes her up and down some stairs, and our event is what paid for it. Most of us don’t need to think twice about going up or down any single flight of stairs, but Sheri can’t do that by herself anymore. It’s a major deal for her just to get out of bed.

She has nurses that come over on most days and help her do the simplest things, and she has to take all kinds of medication that is very expensive. She’s on disability, and some of her medicine comes out of that. My rent money really helps her, and I do all I can to help her in any way I can.

It’s extremely sad all around, and sometimes I look at her situation and wonder why somebody so nice has to suffer such a cruel fate. Sheri is a kind soul and would never hurt a baby flea. I’ve known her twenty years, and feel an obligation to help. Yet through all this mess I’ve yet to hear Sheri complain even once. I’d bet few of us could take it so well. It’s time to shut my yap. Again.

It's easy to complain about just about anything. That's a habit I need to break.

It’s easy to complain about just about anything. That’s a habit I need to break yesterday.

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Social Intercourse

July 15, 2014

Monday July 14th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I have been feeling more than pretty good of late, and attempting to relax and enjoy the charms of summer. It’s been unbelievably slow on the business side, but jam packed with friends calling and asking to get together. My greatest resource has always been my long list of amazing friends, and that list gets longer and sweeter with time. If I did nothing else in life, I met some nice folks.

To have friends one must be a friend, and that’s where I’m having some issues. I don’t have all the time I’d like to hang out and visit, and that bothers me. I’ve always been one to hang out with someone because I like that person, not for what they can do for me. Unfortunately, that’s not the smart way to do things in a business sense. Social climbing is necessary, at least on some level.

I have always had a hard time hiding my disdain for someone I don’t care for. I realize nobody likes everybody, and there are more than a few that don’t like me either. I have no problem with that, except when those people are friendly to my face but then stab me in the back when I leave.

Why be two faced? Just stay away, and we’ll both be better off. I don’t have time for all of the good friends I have now, so why would I waste even one second with somebody that doesn’t like me? It makes perfect sense to me, but that’s not how business operates. I need to mingle more.

I think we all tend to stay with who is familiar in many areas of our lives, but branching out is absolutely essential in today’s world. Making new contacts can be a job in itself, but maintaining them is even harder. There are only so many lunches in one’s life, and how many times have we all said “Let’s get together soon,” but never do. Even if intentions are sincere, it’s just not easy.

I have been going over my master list of contacts, and I am WAY overdue to get in touch with a lot of people I really like. It could be a phone call or email, but I’d much rather meet up face to face if possible – even though they’re scattered all over the country and beyond. It’s a huge list.

We all have lives to live and I get that, but this year has been extra hard on losing many people I knew but hadn’t contacted in a long time. John Pinette is a prime example. It’s not like we were thick as thieves, but we knew each other well enough that whenever we crossed paths it was fun to see each other. We worked together enough times where we’d built up some positive history.

I’ve got literally hundreds of comedians like that scattered all over the planet, not to mention a ton of friends I made in radio, professional wrestling, trading sports cards and just going through life in general. It’s important to me to stay in contact with as many as I can, even though I can’t come close to keeping current with everyone. Who can? If someone else can do it, major kudos.

I just don’t have enough time, and it’s getting worse. I get up early, work all day, stay up a lot later than I probably should, drop off to sleep and then start it all over again. I make a hell of an effort if I say so myself, but I still fall painfully short. I’m going to have to rearrange yet again.

Idiots and/or scumbags have zero place in my life. Baseball gives three strikes, but I don’t have that kind of patience at this point. I’ll give one strike, and then you’re out. There are far too many good people I want to hang with. I don’t wish the losers harm – I just wish them away from me.

Friendship

Kindness 101

June 28, 2014

Thursday June 26th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

No matter how many complicated problems I have or how disappointed or overwhelmed I feel – and I do on a daily basis – I have not forgotten that the only thing that matters is kindness. I am making it a priority in my life, even when nobody is looking. It’s what makes life worth living.

I’m obviously not perfect, but I feel myself getting into a groove and I really like it. I’m always on the lookout as to how I can make someone at the very least smile a little. That’s a positive, but it takes it to a whole new level if I can get an outward laugh. One to one laughter is comedy too.

Another of my grandfather’s countless wisdom pearls was “Find the ugliest person in the room and make it a point to be extra nice to them. They’ll appreciate it a lot more than everyone else.” I know that’s not P.C., but it’s SO true. Gramps knew how to cut to the chase with total candor.

I’ve always tried to be nice whenever a situation presented itself and I don’t intend to stop, but now I am actively seeking those opportunities before they happen. Holding doors for people in a public place is a great example. Just holding the door itself is nice, but it only takes a teeny tiny smidgeon of extra effort to make it an event. A deep bow and arm gesture can work wonders.

Sometimes a goofy little line like “PRESENTING…his (or her) ROYAL majesty…” will light up a stranger’s face and make them laugh out loud. It doesn’t work every time, but even when it doesn’t I find that especially funny. Imagine what the person must be thinking. I find it hilarious.

I also find that it takes my mind off my problems several times a day. We all hear how what we think shapes our lives until we’re sick of hearing it, but it really is true. We can only think about one thing at a time, and the more good things we focus on the less time there is for the ugly stuff.

This takes a concerted effort, and I am not saying it’s easy – especially at the start. I just know that as for me I have been putting a lot of effort in of late and I’m seeing results that I really like. My goal was and is to make kindness my habit, and to train myself to go there without thinking.

Another thing I have been working on is making a call a day to someone I haven’t talked to in a while and saying hello for no reason other than their name jumped out at me on my phone list. I try to be objective, and just scroll through my massive list and pick somebody out at random.

This has been getting outstanding results. I’m dusting off relationships that have been put on hold as life does its thing, and everybody has those. There isn’t time to keep close track with all the people we know, but this is a great way to let people know they’re still on the friend radar.

Yet another little deed I’m working on is writing a personal email to someone as well, telling them all the good things I can think of about them and how much I appreciate them. I don’t lie, and I really try to honestly seek out their good qualities and let them know it. Sometimes I have not heard back, and maybe those people think I’m a weirdo. That may be true, but I did mean it.

None of this means anything other than I think it’s the right thing to do. There are still idiots I can’t stand, but I refuse to let them waste my energy. I would much rather focus on those I like.

Life's magic password is KINDNESS. Pass it on.

Life’s magic password is KINDNESS. Pass it on.

WMOM Radio – Always Listen To Your Mom!

June 15, 2014

Saturday June 14th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Here is the first of several posts I made on Facebook in the last week or so. I am posting them here for those that aren’t Facebook friends, so please forgive me if you are and it’s a duplicate. I am just trying to get everyone on the same page, and a lot of things have happened of late.

This is one about my radio mentor, and being able to pay back someone who really helped me:

* * *

Everybody has mentors, and my biggest one in radio without question is the great Patrick Lopeman aka Pat Martin. He helped me get my first job at WMMQ in Lansing, MI in 1990. What a thrill it is to get one’s first morning show, and I won’t forget it.

Since then I’ve bounced around and have worked all over the country. It’s an insane business, with ZERO stability – but I still learned a lot about life and had fun doing it. Not only that I met a ton of really creative and wonderful people.

Management at most radio stations are apes, but the rest of the people are almost always great. There isn’t a station I’ve ever worked at where I am not in touch with someone to this day.

This past weekend, Pat hired me to consult his morning show on the station he owns in Ludington, MI. It’s called WMOM or ‘Mom’. They have a GREAT catch phrase in “Always listen to your Mom”. They were are the age now I was when I started, and it was fulfilling to be able to come back for a day and pass on some of the hard earned knowledge I have gotten in my travels – and from Pat.

Pat is in a word brilliant and is still as passionate about radio today as when I met him decades ago. He’s a fantastic mentor, loyal friend and goes out of his way to help others. That’s probably why you may not have heard of him before. Nice people rarely get the recognition they deserve, and I want to do what I can to change that. If you are a fan of CHR radio, listen to WMOM. http://www.wmom.fm.

It sounds as good or better than any other new music station in the biggest markets, and there’s only one reason for it – the great Patrick Lopeman. Thanks Pat! I appreciate you very much. Your kindness lives on in many – including and especially me.

* * *

I wanted to write this mainly because it’s all true, but I also wanted Pat’s friends and family to see it in print. I know it’s only the internet, but these days that’s as good as what it used to mean to get something in the newspaper or a magazine. I’m not a major publication, but I wanted Pat’s inner circle to see this and it totally worked. I know he did too, and he called to thank me for it.

People like Pat are WAY undervalued in my opinion. He’s considered a borderline wacko by a segment of the radio fraternity because he does things his own way. What they fail to give credit for is that his way WORKS. The guy is a brilliant radio mind, and lives and breathes it each day.

I am in that same category with some as well, so I go out of my way to toot the horn of the Pat Martins of the world. May he continue to live his dream, and I will support him any way I can.

WMOM is a radio station in Ludington, MI that sounds as good as any CHR radio station in America. www.wmom.fm

WMOM is a radio station in Ludington, MI that sounds as good as any CHR radio station in America. http://www.wmom.fm

Thank You David Letterman

April 5, 2014

Friday April 4th, 2014 – Chicago, IL

Just as it is in life in general, breaks in show business can come from anywhere at any time. If I could know where to be and when to be there, I would obviously show up. But it’s not that easy, and that’s why this business can be so maddening. Some catch their break early, others never do.

An example of a break I caught years ago was getting a call out of the blue to open for George Miller in Cincinnati. George was a really nice guy, and we became friends. He was also friends with David Letterman, as they had come up the ranks together in L.A. George was in my corner.

The booker that week stressed that I needed to work clean, which was not a problem. George’s act was also clean, and I was a perfect opener for him at the time. He thanked me for doing what I was hired to do, as often comics have no clue where the line is and aren’t able to change styles.

That one crossing of paths led to years of friendship, and I really liked George. He passed away a few years ago, and he was very sick at the end. I was sorry to hear it, but he ended up including me in his will. I was able to get him a New Year’s Eve gig one year when he needed money, and the amount he earned that week was what he left me in his will. I had no idea he would do that.

George had some severe health problems at the end, and David Letterman ended up paying his medical bills. I’m sure Dave didn’t want that to get out, but he’s about to retire now so what does he care? It was an act of kindness and loyalty to his longtime friend, and I think that’s wonderful.

I think it’s even more wonderful because had he not stepped in, there would have been nothing left in George’s will to go to the people he left money to – including me. So indirectly, I owe an extremely big debt of gratitude to Mr. Letterman even though I’ve never met him. Thank you sir!

Unfortunately, I had to spend that money on living expenses when I had my diabetes diagnosis in 2011, but thanks to him and George, I was able to survive. I’ll be eternally grateful to both of them, and it all came about because I happened to get paired up with George all those years ago.

I sure could use another break like that somehow. This week I had a call to go to Nashville and open for Damon Wayans. I had to turn it down because I was already booked in Chicago backing up Jeff Garlin at the locations he wasn’t working. Is that a career move? Nope. It’s just money.

Would Damon Wayans be able to help me? I bet he probably could if he wanted, but there’s no guarantee if I had gone that we’d even cross paths. It would have been a total crap shoot, and I’m not saying I missed out on anything other than a chance to maybe get seen and maybe get a break if we hit it off like George Miller and I did. Again, nothing is a formula. It just kind of happens.

In theory, I should be trying to get as many dates opening for big stars as I can. In reality, that’s not always easy for one but it’s also not a great way to showcase one’s talents. The audience sure doesn’t care about the opening act, and often the star is so worried about everything else that we never get to cross paths more than a quick hello. Where is my break? It’s impossible to predict.

George Miller and I were friends for many years. It all started when I opened for him for a week in Cincinnati.

George Miller and I were friends for many years. It all started when I opened for him for a week in Cincinnati.

George was also friends with David Letterman. At the end of George's life, Dave paid his medical expenses which allowed money George left for me in his will to come to me. Thank you both!

George was also friends with David Letterman. At the end of George’s life, Dave paid his medical bills which allowed me to receive money George left me in his will. Thank you both!

Thank You Randy Kosanke

September 10, 2013

Monday September 9th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

My long time good friend Randy Kosanke in Milwaukee sent out this mass email yesterday:

To all my friends,

I guess I have some bad news. They’ve taken me off chemo as it’s not working anymore. The cancer is spreading too fast. The doctor says I have three to six weeks left. I guess this is kind of shocking news, but please don’t be too upset.

I have been given a great life that I wouldn’t trade with anyone. I have the best family anyone could want, from probably the most perfect wife you could want to two of the greatest kids any man ever had and their wonderful spouses, and now the perfect grandson.

I also have the best friends any man could want who have given me the best times and laughs imaginable. I haven’t missed out on anything.

I truly love all of you and thank God for all our times together. Please don’t worry or mourn for me as I look forward to the next adventure. Please help out Jan as she’s under a lot of stress.

There will be no funeral as I am to be cremated and have my ashes thrown on Racquel Welch’s breasts – which probably sag too much and will spill on the floor. I guess they will dump them in my asshole neighbor’s yard.

It would be impossible to tell each and every one of you what you’ve meant to me, but know that I love you all deeply. Please don’t e-mail or call as I am too tired to respond.

Thank you all and goodbye.

Randy

It stopped me in my tracks, especially since I didn’t even know he was sick. I was stunned to get it, and couldn’t help thinking about it all day. Once again, the message is clear. Life is short.

I’ve known Randy going on thirty years. A rabid fan of comedy and long time active supporter of the local scene in Milwaukee, he was a frequent audience member that loved to hang out with the comedians afterward. He was especially supportive of beginners, and a longtime fan of mine.

One night he told me out of the blue that out of all the Milwaukee comedians of that time, there were only three that he thought had legitimate talent – Chris Barnes, Will Durst and me. Will had already moved to San Francisco years before, but is still a native of Milwaukee and started there. Randy was an authority on the local scene, and closely monitored every act that went on stage.

I agree wholeheartedly on his assessment of Chris and Will. To include me up there with them is as flattering as it gets, and he wouldn’t say it if he didn’t mean it. He and his wife attended my “Schlitz Happened!” show last April, but he didn’t let on that he was sick. I will miss him dearly.

I’ve got story after story of things he did over the years that really meant a lot. Just a few years ago, I was booked to be the first comedian ever at Milwaukee’s German Fest. Throughout much if not all of recorded history, Germans haven’t traditionally been known for frivolity and mirth.

They surely know how to bake a mean strudel and can dance the polka with anyone, but when it comes down to chuckles and yucks they’re severely lacking. Maybe twenty total showed up to see me perform on an outdoor stage that was built to seat several thousand, and it was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. I gutted it out, and Randy and Jan were there to support

Afterward we drowned my sorrows in a large plate of sausage, and Randy cheered me up when I really needed a lift. He was such a fan of comedy that he wouldn’t let me get down about it. He kept telling me that I did a great job under the circumstances, and that I was blazing a new trail.

The single story that sums up Randy by far the most took place in 1992 when I had purchased a professional wrestling organization for which I had served as ring announcer. I bought a ring and a truck to haul it and put on shows around Southeastern Wisconsin. A unique adventure it was.

There were all kinds of painful aspects of that endeavor, but the hardest was taking proper care of the actual ring. It was heavy and cumbersome, and a total pain in the ass to deal with. I hadn’t considered it when I bought the business, and it turned out to be one of the main reasons I sold it.

The ring was stored at one of the wrestler’s houses who happened to live out in the sticks. He’d leave it set up in the summer, so if guys wanted to go and work out moves they could. It became a nightmare when it rained, and I’d have to make sure it was taken down and stored in the truck.

One day it was scheduled to rain, and I couldn’t get any of the wrestlers to help me move that damn ring. They all had piss poor excuses, but the rain was coming and I needed to take it down or the canvas would get soaked and the plywood underneath would warp. I was in a tight spot.

I had an office then, and Randy happened to wander in to say hello since he lived not far away and often would drop in. I told him of my situation, and without blinking he said he’d be glad to help and that’s exactly what he did. That ring was a bastard to move, but he helped me do it with not one word of complaining. I offered to pay him or buy him dinner, but he wouldn’t hear of it.

THAT is a true friend, and I never forgot him for that. When I was backed into a corner he did not hesitate to help and never asked for a thing. I must have thanked him hundreds of times over the years, and we’d laugh about it every time I brought it up. He’d ask if he could be a wrestler.

All of these memories came flooding back today, and there wasn’t one bad one in the bunch. I don’t have any good ones of my father, but I have a ton of Randy. I know his email instructed us not to write back, but I never listened to anyone until now and I ignored it and wrote anyway.

I thanked him for everything, and told him he was a true winner in life – and he is. He has love from a great family and that’s what I have always wanted. All the fame in the world won’t match what he has, and he realizes it too. Randy Kosanke will hold a special place in my heart forever.

Spike’s Big Night

July 22, 2013

Sunday July 21st, 2013 – Evanston, IL

   I can’t think of too many things that feel better than a friend remembering a birthday, so that’s why I try to do it whenever I can. It’s not all that difficult, but it really makes a difference. I love the beaming look of joy on someone’s face when they are truly surprised, and it never gets old.

   Today was my friend Spike Manton’s 50th birthday. He’s a very low key guy when it comes to any kind of celebrations, and I learned from his wife Tami that he’d made specific instructions to NOT under any circumstances have any kind of party or make a big deal of it. That’s how he is.

   As luck would have it, our mutual friend and fellow member of the morning show on 97.9 ‘The Loop’ in Chicago Max Bumgardner was going to be in town for a Monday business meeting so I suggested we go over and pay Spike a surprise birthday visit – especially since he didn’t want it.

   Spike, Max and I are like brothers, and I’m sure it will be that way for life. Being on a morning radio show tends to bond people together, as it can be such an intense experience. I can’t think of many jobs other than an astronaut where that much intimacy between workers exists constantly.

   How many spouses speak to each other four hours a day, five days a week from 5-9am? I doubt if there are many, and those that do probably have some epic battles. Spike, Max and I got along extremely well, and we enjoyed each other’s company on air and off. We had a rare chemistry.

   The human dingle berries of the vaunted Emmis Communications happened to be way too full of themselves to know what they had, so they chose to blow us out the door when the station was sold in 2004. They proceeded to make stupid decision after stupid decision, and now they’ve lost the station and their stock is worthless. I can’t say any of the three of us have ever shed one tear.

   What I can say is that we’ve remained friends, and every time we get together it’s like we were never apart. I’ve heard pro athletes talk about that feeling, as have military veterans. The bonding in intense situations lasts for life, and believe it or not a morning radio show can be very intense.

   There’s no use bitching about what went wrong, but the bottom line is that we got a bloody red raw deal and it’s too late to do anything about it now. What we have is our lasting friendship that will continue as long as we’re alive, and I thought it was important to visit Spike on his big day.

   I met Max at his hotel in Schaumburg, and we had about a half hour drive to Spike and Tami’s house in Evanston. We stopped and got a card, and bought him a Dunkin’ Donuts gift certificate because he used to suck down their coffee by the gallon every morning. It was the perfect gift for him, and I had some obscure sports books I knew he’d like so we threw those in to top it all off.

   We arrived at 6:30 – to the minute when Tami told us to be there. He was in the basement with his daughter, who was distracting him so he’d stay down there so we could surprise him. It was a perfect plan, as we walked downstairs and ambushed him with his gifts. He was truly surprised.

   Even though Spike is very dry and non emotional, we could tell he was glad to see us. The look in someone’s eyes in a situation like that never lies. We had a wonderful dinner, and had a lot of laughs to go with it. Spike and Tami’s kids Mickey and Samantha have grown into beautiful and well behaved teens, and that also reminded us how time waits for nobody. Spike is a great friend, as is Max. Was it worth losing our jobs how we did for their friendships? I say absolutely yes.

Matters Of Trust

July 10, 2013

Tuesday July 9th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

   If the average person knew just how much plain old hard work is involved trying to squeak out an honest living in the entertainment business, driving a school bus would seem like a dream gig.  It’s excruciatingly difficult at all levels, and every advancement brings with it new challenges.    

   I’m at a point now where I need to build a network of quality people around me to help me get through, or I’ll have no choice but to quit and do something else. Everyone needs that network to survive, but I didn’t realize that early on. I thought I could do it myself, and it was a big mistake.

   The best running backs in football still need blockers, and the best race car drivers still need to have a pit crew to change their tires and fill their gas tank. I’ve tried to be a one man band for too long, and I can see by my results I need to change that or I’ll never get anywhere close to ‘there’.

   I’ll freely admit a major reason has been trust issues. Dented cans tend to have a very hard time trusting anyone, and it’s been a big sticking point. If my own mother would abandon me as a tot, why should I ever trust anybody else? It is certainly not an excuse, but it absolutely is a reason.  

   I’ve had my heart stomped on way too many times to count, and that pain can be excruciating. Time after time I’ve been disappointed or lied to or let down, and it gets to a point where it isn’t worth trying anymore. One can only take so many wallops, and I bagged my limit decades ago.  

   It’s why I’m not married or in a serious relationship, and it’s also why I’m not farther along in the entertainment business. I’ve never been able to trust anyone enough to let go. I know I’m not the only one who faces this, but if I don’t evolve I’m never going to taste a bite of true success.  

   My needs are changing as I get older, but I still grapple with this issue far longer than I thought I’d have to. I thought things would all just work out in life, but they surely haven’t. I am learning by the hour, and trying extra hard to squeeze the most out of whatever time I may have left here. 

   There’s no substitute for doing things right, and I’ve always tried to do that. My methods might have been a bit off the wall, but my intentions were always good. I see now that that’s not what’s important. Intentions and results are two very different things, and I have encountered obstacles.

   Nobody likes to admit they were wrong, but failure can be humbling proof. When trying to pry open a safe, one must either find the exact combination or blow the door off. There’s no room for ‘almost’, and that’s how I’m feeling now. I have not discovered the magic combination as of yet.  

   I do have a significant number of quality people on my contact list, but I haven’t found the way to best utilize all their useful assets for the benefit of both parties. A deck reshuffle is in order if I intend to see different results, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It will freshen up the energy.

   Today I drove to Milwaukee to have lunch with my friend Dave Hendrickson. We have known each other for thirty years, and he was the very first comedy act I saw at my first comedy show at Sardino’s on Farwell in Milwaukee. He’s no longer a comedian, but he’s remained a good friend.

   Dave and I have helped each other for years, and in evolving ways. His latest contribution was a regular role on The Mothership Connection radio show as his ‘Two Bit Guru’ character. He has a great website at www.twobitguru.com, and his energy is always positive. I don’t know how our friendship will move forward after thirty years, but I know he’s one of the few people I do trust.

Dave Hendrickson - The 'Two Bit Guru' www.twobitguru.com

Dave Hendrickson – The ‘Two Bit Guru’ http://www.twobitguru.com

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Friendship Fumble

September 25, 2012

Monday September 24th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   I’m angry. I’m hurt. I’m extremely disappointed. And only a small percentage of it comes from the result of one of the strangest endings to a football game I can ever remember. The Green Bay Packers ended up losing a game in the last second which by all accounts they should have won.

I’m less than thrilled with how the game turned out, but even less thrilled about the back story that has led up to this bizarre conclusion. I couldn’t write a story like this if I tried, but it sure is a page turner. Every time I try to let it all heal, something like this comes along to pick at the scab.

Today happens to be the 50th birthday of my best friend from childhood. We met when he was 12 and I was 11, and we remained friends all through our formative years. Then we kept in touch way past that. We were two dented cans from Milwaukee who came from low rent pedigree, and we were closer to each other than our own blood brothers. The bond we shared was very strong.

Then, he decided he wanted to rob a bank he used to work at and didn’t tell me as we ventured across the country to Las Vegas in a rental car from Milwaukee with the fruits of his labor in the trunk in a duffle bag. I had no idea what was happening, and wasn’t made aware of it for months. Then several months after that, he robbed that same bank again. It seems like a different lifetime.

I knew I needed to distance myself from my lifelong best friend, but that’s a lot easier said than done. We’d shared all sorts of emotional experiences, and it’s difficult to just walk away from all that but I knew I had to. I was eventually forced to testify against him in federal court and it sent him to prison. It was a horrific experience, and it still causes me to have nightmares even now.

The last time I spoke to him in person, I was wearing a wire in a Milwaukee restaurant looking to get him to spill the beans – which he eventually did. What a surreal experience that was and is now. I have had a lot of difficult hills to climb in my life, but that was by far the steepest of all.

It stung to have to send my childhood friend to prison but I’m sorry – HE robbed that bank, and I didn’t. Then to throw a bigger monkey wrench into it, he did it again. The story has all kinds of bizarre twists and turns, and thinking about it brings me back there and totally depresses me. It’s a mesmerizing story to hear – but it to live through it was pure torture that lingered on for years.

I’m never going be able to blot this out of my mind completely, and knowing today is his 50th birthday brought it all back like a moose turd clogging a toilet. It’s ugly, disgusting and makes a giant mess that was totally unwanted – but it’s there and it needs to be addressed. I wish it never happened, but it did. I don’t know why he chose to do what he did, but it crapped on both of us.

What stinks more is we grew up loving the Green Bay Packers. We lasted through the ‘70s and ‘80s lean years, and we dreamed of enjoying a Super Bowl victory someday. That happened, but he robbed us of the fun of doing it together. I know he watched tonight’s game, and I’m sure that last play stung him like it did me. But nothing stings quite as painfully as those brutal hours on a witness stand testifying against him. The friendship was amputated, and the stump hasn’t healed.

No Cubs No

September 19, 2012

Monday September 17th, 2012 – Chicago, IL

   I fully intended to spend the entire day getting caught up on my mountain of mundane minutia, but in the end it remains another undone Monday. But this time I’m ok with it. It was my choice, and I’d make it again – even though what I chose to blow everything off for didn’t even happen.

I received an unexpected phone call this morning from my friend and fellow comedian ‘Uncle Lar’ Larry Reeb, asking if I would be available for a Cubs game this evening. Had it been a call from almost anyone else in the cosmos, I would have politely thanked them but said a firm no.

This was a special occasion, and I had no choice but to say yes. Our mutual friend Bob McVia happened to be in town, and Larry and I hadn’t seen him in far too long. The three of us started a tradition probably twenty years ago now of trying to catch a live baseball game every summer.

Most of the games have been at Wrigley Field, but on occasion we’d switch it up and catch the White Sox or even the Brewers in Milwaukee. We’re all baseball fans, but it’s never been about that exclusively. We’re all good friends that make each other laugh hard. That’s the real draw.

Bob used to bring his son Johnny every year, who was probably 12 when we started. He’s now in his 30s, and has a family of his own. He hasn’t been to the last few games, but Bob has told us in the past how much Johnny used to really love hanging out with us and being part of the group.

There are extremely funny people who never become full time comedians, and Bob has always been one of them. That’s no insult to anyone, but the lifestyle sacrifice it takes to pursue this as a full time career just isn’t for everybody. Quite often idiots stay in the game and talent drops out.

Bob McVia is far from an idiot. He’s a down to earth, well read funny guy who dabbled a bit in comedy but decided to have a life and family instead. Good for him. Larry and I gave it all up for comedy, and we joked about whether it was a good decision or not. Frankly, there was no choice.

Comedy is a calling. Those of us who have that calling can’t do anything else. We need it, and will do anything to get it. Larry and I would do comedy even if nobody paid us, and that’s where things seem to be headed. He’s been doing it even longer than me, and we both see what’s going on and it has us more than a bit concerned. It’s too late to back out now. We’re both in too deep.

We didn’t let any of that stop us from having a great time, and we made each other erupt with laughter just like we always have. In fact, we didn’t even need a baseball game. There was a rain delay, and we sat in the stands from 7pm to 10 and they didn’t even take the tarp off of the field.

Larry’s brother Jim came with us, and he brought his son who is Johnny McVia’s age. We had a blast just hanging out, and nobody was upset there was no baseball game. I don’t know if that’s an insult to baseball or a compliment to the quality of the company, but we enjoyed ourselves for an entire evening and nobody was angry we didn’t see even one pitch. Hanging with friends like Larry Reeb and Bob McVia make life worth living. My pile of laundry will be there tomorrow.