Posts Tagged ‘truck stop’

A Sour Pickle

March 22, 2014

Thursday March 20th, 2014 – Mystery Small Town Location in Illinois

I’m in a pickle, and it’s a big old sour one. I really enjoy performing, and always have. I enjoy getting an income too. I have almost always jumped at any chance I ever got to perform, even if it happened to be in less than ideal conditions or subpar pay. I always thought it was better to get on stage and practice my craft than not do anything and let it rot. Those days are officially over.

There comes a point where there’s nothing to gain from doing tiny little gigs in tiny little towns for tiny little money. The time and effort it takes to get there, do the show and get back no longer makes it worth my while. Not only that, the drain it puts on the self esteem really kills the deal.

Tonight I had one of those gigs in a town I’m not going to mention nor will I name the booking agent that sent me there. I have no issues with anyone but myself here, so that’s where I’m going to point all fingers. In a way it’s a major positive, as I have graduated past these kinds of shows.

The booker in question and I have a very good relationship. This person asked if I’d like to do a show in a small town approximately 180 miles from Chicago. The money wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great either. But on a Thursday night when I had nothing to do I said yes as I usually do when things like this come up. On paper it would be a breeze, and I would sleep in my own bed.

I had the option of doing all the time myself, or bringing an opener. I like to give people a shot whenever I can, so I asked Caryn Ruby if she wanted to come along. Caryn is trying very hard to gain road experience, and she asked if I ever had a chance for her to tag along if she could do it.

I have an ever growing list of people like that – mostly former students – and that’s yet another reason I take gigs like this. They don’t float my boat like they used to, but if I take someone with me that’s excited just to be there it gives me a charge in return. Their energy helps me endure it.

Caryn is always very professional, and knows how valuable of an experience it is to be able to get in front of a real audience – even if it’s a small one. She had her chance tonight, and it was as small an audience as I’d care to have. There were a total of 14 people, and I think a few of those worked at the sports bar where the show was held. This is just not what I need to be doing now.

March Madness basketball killed the comedy show, but since it’s a sports bar one would think the person would realize that and now schedule a comedy show. I didn’t think about it from my end, but that’s not my job. I don’t own a sports bar. I’m not pointing fingers, but it does add up.

There was a separate room in said sports bar that holds around fifty, and we did the show under bad lighting with no stage. We stood in front of three dart boards, and people had to walk right in front of us if they had to use the bathroom – which almost all of the 14 people did at some point.

It was embarrassing, humiliating and not fun whatsoever. I had to do more than a full hour time wise, and at the end of the night the owner and crowd were thrilled. I did get my pay, but the ride home was hollow and unfulfilled. Caryn was happy, but I was miserable. It sucked out my soul.

Caryn could see I was less than thrilled, and started to tell me all the good things about the gig and how much fun she had. I appreciated her effort, but I wish she would have just kept quiet to let me brood or bring up another subject. Trying to salvage this situation was not going to work.

Again, I’m not angry at anyone but myself – and I’m not even angry at myself. I’m just not in the same mindset I’ve been in for decades when I would just suck it up and drive home and hope to come back another day. I’ve reached the point of not wanting to come back at all. I’m over it.

I have done too many nights exactly like this in too many small towns over too many years to count, and I have reached my limit. Driving roughly 400 miles to entertain roughly 14 people is just that – rough. It’s surely not smart from an economical standpoint, and I surely don’t need it for the experience. I have more than enough of that, so there’s no reason for me to even be here.

Caryn popped for dinner, which was all you can eat soup and salad at a truck stop just outside of town. I have eaten in thousands of places like that in my life, and it was just ok. Sometimes it can make an entire trip to discover some hidden jewel of a restaurant in a secluded location, but tonight wasn’t it. It was run of the mill chicken soup and bowls of lettuce served by a teenager.

I looked around at the locals eating there with us, and I saw absolutely zero spark whatsoever in any of their eyes. They all looked like lost zombies having a little snack before going back out on their hunt for brains. They weren’t bad people, but I didn’t feel a kinship with them and me.

The couple that owned the sports bar were very nice people as well. They had done about half a dozen shows there in the past, and of course “they were all packed full except tonight.” I have to believe I have heard that phrase or variations thereof more than any other living performer.

“Hey, you should have been here last week,” or “I don’t know what happened – we promoted it all over town” or any number of other last minute band aid excuses just doesn’t cut it anymore. It lets me know that I no longer need to be doing these kinds of shows, even if it means working at a car wash or bagging groceries. Doing it like this isn’t working, and it’s destroying me inside.

I have feelings and an ego like every performer, but nights like this in places like this are just what the doctor ordered to rip all that out of the socket and leave me feeling like a cow that has been completely milked out. I’m much better than this, and there’s no reason for me to continue saying yes to shows like this. I didn’t think it would be as bad as it was, and it kicked my keester.

People talking through the show and walking back and forth in front of me to the bathroom is just plain disrespectful. I don’t think they even realized it, so I did not take it personally. I gave them my best show, and at the end of the night they all loved it – but at what cost? My dignity.

I took my money and thanked the owners, and I truly wish them nothing but the best not only in business but in life. They seemed like nice people, I just can’t afford to come back here again. Even if it was ‘sold out’, it’s what – fifty? Sixty? Easy money does not exist. This was painful.

Caryn Ruby opened for me in a small town in Illinois tonight in front of 14 people. If you missed it, I can assure you it won't happen again.

Caryn Ruby opened for me in a small town in Illinois tonight in front of 14 people. If you missed it, I can assure you it won’t happen there again.


Worst Case Scenario

March 20, 2013

Monday March 18th, 2013 – Kenosha, WI/Waukegan, IL

   My shredded tire situation is back to at least functional if not normal. I hesitate to use the word “normal”, as I don’t think anything in my life has ever been that. I’m always the asterisk with the exception like “void where prohibited” and “subject to change without notice.” Well, I noticed.

I know I’m not the first person to ever have a flat tire, but having it blow out on a Sunday when nothing is open is that glitch that makes it just a little bit harder. Why couldn’t it happen in front of a Walmart that’s having a tire sale at high noon on a sunny payday? It could, but it never does.

It’s always the worst case scenario, with a wrinkle on top of that. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying that’s how it is. It’s very funny…when it’s someone else’s problem. I personally have had my fill. Things like this have happened so often they don’t even faze me anymore. I’m calloused.

I finished my radio show in Kenosha, WI last night at midnight, and then had to deal with all of this whether I wanted to or not. My car was in Waukegan, and that’s about 10 miles away. That’s a significant hike anytime, but especially at midnight when the temperature is in the single digits.

My options were slim at that time of night, so what could I do? I suppose I could have called a cab, but Kenosha isn’t a cab town like Chicago is and it would have cost more money out of my pocket I don’t have. I also could have slept on the couch at the radio station and hoped to catch a ride from someone in the morning, but I didn’t want to do that either. I would feel like a vagrant.

Lucky for me, my friend Lou Rugani happened to stop by the station to work on something for his own show. Lou is one of my favorite people, and a major talent. He’s got one of the absolute best radio voices I’ve ever heard, and could work on any station in America. He’s from Kenosha, so that’s why he works at WLIP. I get that, but the station is lucky to have him. He’s got game.

Lou is also a car guy, and has several antique and collector cars. He knows what it’s like to be marooned with car trouble, so he gladly took me to Waukegan but first we sat at a truck stop for a while and enjoyed some of the best cream of mushroom soup either one of us have ever had.

Moments like that are surreal. I’m sitting with Lou Rugani at 2am eating cream of mushroom soup at a truck stop in Russell, IL. And it was fun. I sure didn’t expect to be doing it, but as long as I had to kill time anyway it was a pleasant experience. Lou dropped me off in Waukegan right next to where my car was at a Motel 6. I’m broke, but sleeping in my car would have been hell.

I popped for a room, and it was $49.99 plus tax. What? At Motel 6? That has to be the highest priced Motel 6 in America. Is March the height of tourist season in Waukegan or something? Do vacationers from all over come to watch the gangs shoot each other? I had no choice but to pay.

Then it took most of the morning to get my tire fixed. They didn’t have my size in stock – of course – and they called all over looking for one. I ended up having to drive another mile on the shredded donut to a junkyard up the street, but I got my used tire for $28. Life can continue now.