Posts Tagged ‘Michigan’

Memories Of Michigan

July 2, 2013

Sunday June 30th, 2013 – Lansing, MI

   In the old days, it wouldn’t have been out of the question for me to have driven home after my shows in Ann Arbor, MI last night. I gain an hour coming back, so that would probably give me an arrival time at home between 5 and 6am. These aren’t the old days, so I took the night’s sleep.

   There was no reason to rush home, so I didn’t. I’m not doing the Mothership Connection radio show anymore, but even if I was I’d still have been able to make it in plenty of time. It had been a while since I was through Michigan, so I chose to stop and see some old friends along the way.

   My first stop was in Lansing. That was where my first morning radio job was in 1990. It seems like a whole other lifetime ago now, but memories came flooding back as I drove through a town I never did quite take by storm – or any other way. I was only there six months, and it wasn’t fun.

   The circumstances at the radio station I worked for were horrible, and I chose to go back to the ‘stable’ world of standup comedy. They actually wanted to sign me to a return contract, but I had had enough and decided to move on. In retrospect, I wonder how different my life would’ve been had I sucked it up and stayed. The station was eventually sold, so I would have had new owners.

   The other times that has happened in radio I was shown the door, but who knows? Maybe this would have been the one time it would have been different, and I’d have had the long successful run in one town I’ve always wanted. I’ve seen it happen for others, but I’ve never had it myself.

   My news person in Lansing was a sweetheart named Debra Hart. She was new like me, and we were together on the air for probably three months. We hit it off quite well on the air and off, and then she got an offer from the competitor across town. They gave her more money, so how could I be angry? She told me she needed to take the offer, and I totally understood. No hard feelings.

   I ran into Deb just a few years ago, and she’d been on that very same station ever since leaving the job with me. She became a local fixture, and neither of us could have predicted that. We were telling the story on the air as I was a guest on her station, and listeners were calling in disbelief.

   She had become so ingrained on the station she was on, that nobody listening could picture her being on the competition – which was also still on the air. That’s how the cards played out, and I relived the story in my head as I drove past the office building where the radio station used to be.

   I also have some friends located in the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo areas, and I drove through those towns after a long time being away. Boy, the years sure have not been kind to either one of those towns and they reminded me of the pathetic decaying rust belt hell hole Lansing was when I was there in 1990. East Lansing is pretty hip with the university, but Lansing itself is a toilet.

   Well, that toilet seems to be overflowing all through Michigan and it’s a shame. It’s indicative of the collapse of America’s greatness, and it’s sad to see it firsthand. The rust belt was the place to be at one time, and everyone had a job who wanted one and life was sweet. That’s over now.

   I stopped in Dyer, IN next to have dinner with Tim and Kathy Slagle. Tim is from Detroit, but moved to the Chicago area years ago. We talked about how the whole state of Michigan has been rotting for years, and how sad it is. We both cut our teeth doing comedy shows all over that state, but now those places are barely hanging on. With radio and comedy, I have deep Michigan roots.

Staying Humble

March 12, 2013

Saturday March 9th, 2013 – Menomonee, MI

   Every time I think I’ve almost figured out this whole ‘comedy thing’, a rough show comes out of the blue to jolt me right back into reality. No matter how long anyone is in this game, there are going to be glitches and unavoidable rough patches. The smart thing to do is shut up and let it go.

I had a brutal show tonight in Menomonee, MI which is right over the border of Wisconsin into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I’ve had a lot of shows in the U.P. lately, and that’s always the smart thing to schedule in winter. As if comedy isn’t hard enough, let’s add horrific weather too!

Unfortunately, that’s just where the bookings happened to have been this time around. I’m sure I’ll get some nice work in the heart of Texas in July, and then I’ll be pining for snow drifts above the roof of my car as I slowly bake in my own juices when it’s 99 at night with 99% humidity.

Until then, I have to deal with Old Man Winter and all of his treachery. It was clear sailing for most of the drive north, but of course it started sleeting toward the end as I got nearer to the town and that always cranks up the old stress-o-meter farther than it needs to go on a drive that I don’t want to make in the first place. When peeing in Green Bay is a highlight, it isn’t a pleasure trip.

I had no idea what to expect for this particular show, as it was booked by an agent out of North Carolina that doesn’t normally book shows in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I get along fine with the booker, but he’s more known for his college bookings of which I’ve never been a player even when I was that age. Certain acts play better in certain venues, and colleges aren’t my forte.

I took the gig a couple of months ago, as I had nothing on the books to speak of. Since then it’s been a very good year so far, with a lot of last minute bookings coming my way. I didn’t know it when this came calling, so I took it as a safety measure to insure I wouldn’t have to sell plasma.

Halfway through my set I was figuring in my head how much I would have been able to get for the plasma. Maybe they would have taken a kidney and/or some sperm too in a package deal. My tolerance for rough gigs is getting lower as I get older but a professional sucks it up and shuts up.

The time to bitch in these situations isn’t at the gig itself, it’s at booking time. I accepted a gig in Menomonee, MI in March that was labeled ‘corporate’ that paid a lot less than any ‘corporate’ booking I’ve ever done or seen anyone else do. It was my own fault, and I could have turned the job down when it was offered. It was between starvation and this, so I choose this. It’s all on me.

The people themselves weren’t bad at all. This was a Christmas party for some auto workers in the U.A.W. and they were not mean or vicious. There were a lot of them that felt a need to speak incessantly through the entire show, and it made it rough to keep those listening fully engaged.

There was a bad sound system and poor lighting arrangement too. It wasn’t my place to whine about it to anyone, and I did my very best with what I had to work with. Nobody complained, but this wasn’t what I want to be doing this far into the game. Sometimes it’s better to just say no.