Posts Tagged ‘Wisconsin Dells’

Cross My Hartford

January 9, 2010

Friday January 8th, 2010 – Hartford, WI

I finally got my car situation taken care of. I hope. I was wrong about the fuel pump, it’s the distributor, wires and plugs. Apparently that’s one of the few things that seem to be an issue with Toyota Camry models from 1993, or at least that’s what the mechanic told me.

The bill came to $550, and that seemed quite high for a distributor and wires, but that’s how it is when you’re living the cockroach lifestyle and take chances like this. Some time or another everyone ends up paying, whether it’s buying a new car or nursing an old one.

I feel like I’m at an animal shelter trying to rescue pets. There aren’t many cute puppies left to choose from, I’m just looking for something that won’t die on the way home. After this whole Cash For Clunkers thing has drained my supply of cheap cars, I’m lucky to get the one I did. Still, it’s a Toyota Camry, and even if it has high miles it’s still a smart bet.

Just because I sprung for the money doesn’t guarantee it will last past tomorrow. I could get stung over and over again but I don’t want to think about that. I need this chariot to be faithful for at least a year, and that’s my plan going in. I’ve still only got $1750 tied up for a total investment, and that’s pretty cheap. But, things can add up quickly. It’s a gamble.

Part of me wouldn’t know what to do with a nice car. I’ve had them before, and paid all my loans off early. Unfortunately, I put so many miles on cars that I never had anything to show for them once I did pay them off. That and the credit nightmare of losing my house in Utah have kept me fishing cars out of the auction for the last ten years. I’m used to it.

I’m rapidly tiring of having to deal with these surprises. Yes, I do enjoy going to the car auction but not under these circumstances. If I were finding a second car for someone else or a toy for myself, it would be straight fun. When I need dependable wheels, it’s stressful to have one take a splattering poo in the dead of winter. But, that’s how it’s worked out.

All of it seems to be under control, at least for the moment. I ended up making it to my gig last night in Wisconsin Dells and tonight I made it up to Hartford, WI for a really fun show at a place called The Schauer Arts And Activities Center. It was a fantastic night.

My friend Steve DeClark booked this show because he and Jane Matenaer did their play about marriage there. Jane is a long time Milwaukee radio personality who grew up out in Hartford and I’ve know her for years too. She’s very talented and I always respected her.

The venue promoted it well and it was totally sold out. I had to stand way in the back in the corner to watch Steve’s set, and I’m thrilled to have had that problem. Normally, there are seats available when Mr. Lucky is performing, no matter how frustrating that may be.

Not so tonight. This was a big hit from top to bottom. The venue was happy with us and I was thrilled with the venue. The sound was excellent, as were the lights. The whole staff treated us very well and the audience came to laugh. I tried to think of what was missing.

Then, it dawned on me: drunken idiots. There were no drunken idiots at this show and it felt SO good to not have to deal with that for a change. I didn’t realize it until I was up on stage, but when I did I knew I liked this better. I’ve fought drunks in clubs my whole life.

THIS is the kind of venue I need to be working. It was top notch on all levels. The pay I got tonight was more than I got for my entire infamous week at Giggles in Brookfield and there was absolutely zero stress to go with it. The check didn’t bounce tonight because no checks were involved. I got paid in cash, like I’m supposed to. It was very professional.

Those apes at Giggles and Comedy Café both did me a huge favor by pulling those dirty stunts they did. Bouncing checks to comedians is inexcusable, and not only that they were mean spirited in how they handled it. Both of those clubs are run by halfwits, and I’m SO glad I don’t have to go back there anymore. The karma train will see they both get theirs.

Tonight’s experience was nothing at all like that. It was a transformation. I knew it from the first thirty seconds on stage. I was home. The people were there to listen, so I used my local reference lexicon as much as I could and it was a bull‘s eye. I said the name of what I want to call my one man show about Milwaukee and they applauded. They totally got it.

This is all extremely encouraging. If I had to do shows like this every weekend, my life would be a lot less stressful. It was a short drive, I hung with friends and a full house was laughing hard the whole time. I ended up doing exactly one solid hour and that’s another very encouraging accomplishment. I’m really starting to stretch my comedy boundaries.

The normal headliner spot in a comedy club is about 45 minutes. Believe me, that’s NO easy task. It’s especially hard to have to follow two mediocre inexperienced acts and have to deal with a room full of boozed up maniacs who got in for free. I’ve never enjoyed that part and it’s getting worse. Nobody polices the rooms anymore and it’s an absolute zoo.

Nobody had to do any policing tonight, and in fact the ushers all gathered in the back of the room and were watching the show. I could see them from the stage, and they laughed as hard or harder than the paying customers. That’s another thing, people PAID to see the show tonight. They made an investment and were very polite and let me pay them back.

I can’t say enough good things about the whole experience tonight. Steve DeClark is an excellent promoter and every show I do with him gets easier and easier. He gets to keep a finger on performing while still making a few bucks for himself. What’s wrong with that?

I get to show up and go up. In a perfect world, that’s all I ever want to have to do. If any promoter can make a few bucks, I’m all for it. I know Steve isn’t raping me like the clubs used to, but they do it to all the comics. We’re just meat to them. This was our own baby.

More than ever, I know I can pull off a locally based show. The audience for it was here tonight. There are thousands of these people all over the Milwaukee area, and they’ll love the show. This is the most fun I’ve had on stage since…last night. I’m on a positive roll.

Dells Bells

January 8, 2010

Thursday January 7th, 2010 – Wisconsin Dells, WI

A road comic has to learn to improvise and adapt in order to survive. We’re kind of like the Marines or Navy Seals of show business. Bands usually have tour buses or at least are able to travel as a unit so there are familiar people around when things go wrong. Comics are all by ourselves, and sometimes that can present more problems. Plus, it gets lonely.

The most important thing of all is getting to the gig by any means necessary. It’s great if we can be on time, but sometimes that’s just not possible. At least if we show up there’s a good chance we might get paid, and that’s what it’s all about. Even if we’ve had any kind of car trouble or travel delay, it’s much better to get to the gig, get paid, and fix it all later.

I had a gig booked tonight in Wisconsin Dells, WI at a place called Christmas Mountain Village. The booker is an agency out of Charlotte, NC and I have no idea how they got an account at a ski lodge in Wisconsin in January, but they did and they asked me to perform there. The money was better than the average one night hell hole bar so I gladly said yes.

When they asked me to do it, I assumed I’d be able to zip right up and back again in my new old Toyota and pocket the found money for an unexpected night’s work. Wrong. I’ve been me so long I should have known not to expect any zipping to occur at any juncture.

The Toyota is still in the shop, and despite flatulent promises of “getting to it first thing in the morning”, I hadn’t heard from them at all by 9:30 and they supposedly opened up at 7. I knew I needed to rent a car because not only was I being blown off by this garage I’m not familiar with, it was also snowing with threats of a foot or more to drop later today.

There’s no way I would put myself in the ultra stressful position of depending on both a strange garage and a strange car that broke down two weeks after I bought it. I absolutely had to get to the gig for many reasons. One, I needed the cash. Two, it wouldn’t hurt to be at the top of the booker’s mind. Three, I said I’d do it. If I say I’ll do it, I honor my word.

A rental car would be an extra expense, and in the nasty weather it was even more as it would be completely stupid not to take the insurance on it. Normally, I let my own policy handle it but I didn’t read the fine print and have no idea how much it covers should I roll it or take out a light pole. In this kind of situation it’s best to pay the extra money and go.

My web person Shelley did me a huge favor and gave me a ride to the rental car place at 10:30am. I called her as she’s the closest person I know who lives near me in Hooterville out in the sticks. I suppose I could have hitch hiked, but Shelley kindly said she’d take me over there, and I totally appreciate it. She didn’t have to do it but she did. Thanks Shelley!

She dropped me off and I got in my sky blue Hyundai go kart to head for Wisconsin. It was snowing harder by the minute and I saw a couple of cars wiped out in the ditch along my way that were getting towed out to serve as a warning to keep my speed down and get there in one piece. I sure don’t need a second wreck in two weeks, especially in a rental.

Nothing about any of this has a single thing to do about being funny, yet it’s something I have to deal with a lot more often than actually being on stage. Had someone told me I’d spend the majority of my adult life worrying about how to get to random towns across the country rather than actually being funny, I might not have signed up for this gig. It’s hard.

My knuckles were white and my bung hole was tight as I guided the Hyundai over lanes of snow and ice, trying to find some pavement once in a while. I felt myself slide a couple of times and especially after the recent accident that made my heart beat like a drum solo.

I tried to let my mind go and visualize my future and all the stuff motivational cassettes say to do, but if I wanted to have any kind of future at all, I needed to pay full attention to the road so I just did that. The weather didn’t let up all the way up to Wisconsin Dells and by the time I got there I was about ready for a nap. Then, I got lost on the way to the gig.

Christmas Mountain Village is way off the beaten path, and that path hadn’t had anyone with a plow drive over it recently. I had a hard time keeping the car on the road, and had a harder time finding the exit I was supposed to find. I ended up going a few miles past it.

I found myself in a situation of ultimate stress. I was lost on a desolate unplowed snowy road in a rental car with my tank on ‘E’, a cell phone that was almost out of juice with no charger, it was an hour before show time and I was working a place I’d never been before for a booker I haven’t worked for in a while and need to impress. Calgon, take me away.

For about ten minutes I was totally lost, but then I wound my way back and eventually got on track and found the gig, checked into the hotel, took a fast shower and showed up as the gig about five minutes before I was supposed to go on. There were no acts before me and about six people scattered randomly in the audience. I’d seen this way too often.

Part of it was kind of funny, but I was too tense to laugh. I was hoping they’d cancel the show, pay me out and I’d be able to get a couple hours of sleep before attempting to drive right back into the snowstorm I’d just fought to get here. Right about then a steady stream of people started walking into the basement showroom and before long it was filling up.

This gig is unusual in that there’s only one act, and we’re supposed to do about an hour and fifteen minutes. That’s a LOT of time when it’s going poorly, but that wasn’t the case tonight. A waitress brought me up with a short intro and I proceeded to use my road years of expertise to blow the room away for almost an hour and a half. I gave them all I had.

As I was up there I realized that I am one of few people in America who’s able to pull a show like this off, especially after all it took to get there. I felt like a green beret decorated from battle, but nobody in the audience knew or cared. They wanted a show and got one.

It was very satisfying to pull off a show like that, even though I was exhausted. Still, the adrenaline after a show like that wouldn’t let me sleep so I got back in the car and headed for home. The snow stopped, but roads weren’t plowed. More stress. But it was worth it.

New Year, Old Luck

January 7, 2010

Wednesday January 6, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

Tick, tick, tick, BOOM. Off went the time bomb on my new old Toyota today, right as I was on my way to play practice with Jerry’s Kidders. I was going to check my post office box for mail before heading over to Jerry’s house, and the car just shut off. I tried starting it again, and it cranked over but wouldn’t start. My experience says the fuel pump puked.

I could be wrong, but I won’t find out until tomorrow one way or another. There’s a tiny two stall garage a few blocks from both the post office and where I live, so that’s where it made the most sense to have it get looked at. The guy said he could do it and promised to get back to me as soon as he knew something. The whole day went by and he didn’t call.

Now I’ve got a situation, as I need to be in the Wisconsin Dells for a show tomorrow at 8pm. I had it pop up out of nowhere and was thrilled to get the extra money. Ha! Now it’s probably going to all go not only into the Toyota, but into a rental to get back and forth.

Not only that, to toss in just a little bit more nerve wrenching tension and drama into the mix, there’s supposed to be a blizzard coming in tonight to dump a fresh foot of wet snow smack dab in the heart of exactly where I’m supposed to be driving tomorrow. How’s that for a heaping helping hit of New Year’s cheer? The good old worst case scenario is back.

I’ve been in this kind of situation in one way or another so often that it’s not a big deal. It is what it is, and right now it’s just an inconvenience. It won’t kill me, but it sure makes me want to make money even more so I can avoid these situations. They’re getting WAY old. I guess I probably asked for it by buying a 17 year old car with 172,000 miles on it.

But it’s a Toyota Camry. Those are allegedly great cars, and if I can squeeze a year from this one, hopefully I’ll be in a much better place to not have to worry about it if my engine decides to surpass the surly bounds of earth during my tenure of ownership. For now, I’ve got to deal with it and get it back running somehow. Hopefully, it won’t drain the bank.

I have a feeling it will though. Toyotas and Hondas have great reputations when they’re running, but fixing them is another story. I think this one is worth it, as everything on it is in perfect working order. It’s got new tires and strong brakes and everything inside works except the overhead dome light. The transmission shifts smoothly too. It’s been a sweetie.

I didn’t have any problems on the way to Eau Claire and back, and I really hope I won’t have to junk it this close to buying it. We’ll see. Tomorrow is when I’m supposed to hear what the damage is, and I’m preparing for the worst. It’s all part of the puzzle of my life.

Pissing and moaning about it won’t change the situation, so I won’t do it. I needed a car so I bought what I could afford with the best knowledge I had at the time. It seemed like a nice car, and it still does. If it’s a fuel pump or whatever else it may be, I just hope it’s not going to put me in a deeper financial pickle than I already am. I’m right up against a wall.
I got myself into this and I’ll get myself out. I just hope I can avoid a major ass kicking.