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The Road That's Home

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Saturday, 15 July 2017
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     It's mid-summer, and I'm in my hotel room in Omaha, Nebraska trying to stay cool, and avoid the 95 degree weather outside. I learned a lot last night- mainly if you're in cow country, don't tell the crowd you feel bad for the cows.  They will turn on you. Cows are big business in Nebraska, as its mostly cornfields, along with the cows. I met a farmer last night, and he owned 75,000 cows over 3 different farms. That's a lot of cows. I'd been talking to one of the ladies after the show, and she told me she had 19 other siblings- 21 at one time, with 2 being deceased. Her father was a big baseball fan, and had named all his sons after famous players such as: Sandy Koufax, Ted Williams, and Mickey Mantle. Poor guy died of Lou Gehrig's Disease. I can't think of a better example of irony in life than that.

For the 10th straight year, I went to Lollapalooza, a now 4-day music festival in Chicago. It's my favorite weekend of the year. In no particular order, I saw: Head & the Heart, Cage the Elephant, XX, Arcade Fire, Whitney, Run the Jewels, Spoon, Live, and the Killers.. amongst a few other bands. Music is a lot like comedy- the bands are telling a story, but with their songs. They evoke emotion and inspiration- that's why I love it.  There are a few differences - when a band plays a slower song, audiences get quite, but if a comedian tells a joke and it doesn't get a laugh- the silence is deafening.  The other thing I've noticed when attending concerts - some people seem to storm-out early to beat the rush, well before the last song is played- if people did that at comedy shows, it would be humiliating for the comedian.

I did a show in Nashville, Indiana a few months back.  I'd been on a roll for about 75 minutes, when a drunk couple decided to come on stage and proceed to spew nonsense to the crowd. I decided to have a seat in the audience,  cause I knew they'd make fools of themselves. The crowd put up with it for a short-time, than proceeded to shout at them "Get off the #&*# stage." When they wouldn't, a near melee almost occurred between the crowd, and the couple. Thats comedy for you. I'm been touring non-stop this summer, and its been very satisfying.

The thing about the road is, you meet a lot of great people along the way. People you'd love to hang out with, and be friends with.  It'd be impossible to list them all here- but I can tell you this-- I'm grateful that I get to interact with them, however briefly...even if I never see them again. I saw a mural once at a rest-area off the highway by James Autry, the poet, writer, and accomplished businessman.  He wrote "There is no business. There are only people. Business exists only among people, for people. " Than there's the audiences. They're like your family for the night. Just like regular families, it's a unique bond you share. Than you pack-it up, and do all over again the next night. Sometimes, when you're on the road - somehow, it feels like home. 

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CSI: Mankato

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Friday, 17 February 2017
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    I woke-up in my hotel in Mankato, Minnesota, to get the standard breakfast fare, and discovered the elevator wasn't working. Not only that, but any attempts to make it to the lobby were met by a Sheriff standing guard, telling me the hotel was now a crime scene. Apparently, someone had gotten killed, and there was a dead body still festering. I made my way to the mock breakfast area in the bar next door, grabbed a few items, than headed-out to Moorhead, MN for my NYE show. I wasn't about to stick around to find out what happened. I was in bed by 11 pm since I had to wake-up at 6 am for the 9-hour ride back to Chicago. On the way home,  I picked-up $130 in frozen tamales from La Loma Tamales in Minneapolis that I'd pre-ordered. 

One place I never expected to perform in this lifetime: Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Every Chicagoan knows that people in Green Bay, especially Packers fans, hate the Bears, and vice-versa. The show was in the Atrium, inside Lambeau, for about 300 concession workers right before they played Dallas in the playoffs  I was fully expecting the crowd to hate me, as soon as they announced I was from Chicago, so I was surprised at how well the show went.  Ironically, a few weeks later, I had a 4-show run starting at UW @ Green Bay. The next night, Groundhog Day, I was supposed to do a show in Ishpeming, Michigan, way up in the Upper Peninsula. However, due to a dispute with the landlord, the venue got changed at the last minute. Because it was a fundraiser, the town rallied to find an alternate location, and the show went-off without a hitch. As an added twist, I'd somehow contracted a fever the night before, and still had 2 shows left on the run. There's nothing worse than being sick on the road. 

On the way back while traveling thru Iron Mountain, Michigan- this Trooper that was bored senseless and didn't have anything better to do...pulled me over.  I sensed he was in a bad mood, cause he accused me of going 68 in a 55. When I insisted that I wasn't, he proceeded to shake me down, by demanding $100, or telling me he was going to keep my license. I had a similar scenerio in Ottawa, IL back in October of 2013 - of which I proclaimed it the "Worst Town in America". I recently read they got hit by some tornados...what a shame ! Iron Mountain gets my #2 ranking for WTIA. As if things couldn't get any worse, my hotel room in Madison, Wisconsin - for my show in Middleton, was haunted. I couldn't sleep a wink. I was kept awake by what sounded like waves crashing against a barge that I was on, in the middle of the ocean... only I wasn't anywhere near an ocean. I came pretty close to checking myself into the hospital- as my fever was now at its peak, I could feel my body burning up. I managed to do one more show in Dennison, Minnesota, than drove home and slept for days. 

I had a blast on my Iowa & Missouri tours in February. I had fun shows in Ottumwa, Algona, Versailles, Jefferson City, and Joplin. I got to work with my comedy pals Bryce Stanley & Cornell Nichols -and even got $150 in tips after my show in Joplin. So Yin/Yang was back in full swing from the highway robbery back in Iron Mountain.  I decided to stop at Budget Liquors in Normal, IL -on the way home, and buy myself a bottle of Blanton's bourbon as my reward. I used to buy booze here when I was in college. I casually mentioned to the clerk the year I graduated, and he replied that was the year he was born. Man, did that make me feel old. 

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Blue October

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Friday, 28 October 2016
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     The past 3 months have been exhilarating.  I got to perform for the US Army, at Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri this summer. Built in 1940, and used primarily to train the Military Police-the base itself reminded me of the movie the Truman Show, where they built a mock-town to resemble the real thing. In early November, I got to perform at Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Knoster, MO. It was both a thrill, and honor, to perform for the men & women who protect our freedom. Whiteman is a joint-service base, employing troops from the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and is the only permanent base in the world that houses the B-2 Stealth Bombers. With the help of Staff Sargent Travis Keele, I was able to see one on the tarmac.  

It'd been over 10 years since my last trip to LA, so I decided to visit a few close friends, and see Jeff Lynne's Electric Light Orchestra in the same trip. The last time I saw a show at the Hollywood Bowl, was in 1995 to see Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. ELO had been at the top of my list to see live, and they'd only scheduled 5 shows total in NY & LA- and I was glad to catch one of them. I did some research, food-wise, and tried fitting as many of the places on my list as possible.  La Azteca Tortilleria, Al & Bea's, Tito's Taco's, and Phillipe all lived-up to my expectations. I even got to visit Tijuana, get some great street tacos, and catch Kyle Kinane's show at the Comedy Store one night. There was some carnage though. I missed seeing a few other good friends, and  I didn't get to stop at the supposed Holy Grail for burgers in LA - The Apple Pan.

I drove down to Tennessee twice in the past month. On one of my off-nights before my show in Smyrna, I saw the band Blue October at the Canary Ballroom in Nashville. I'd seen them years ago, and remembered they'd put on a great show. I was torn, because Bill Burr was performing in town also, same night- and he's one of my favorite comedians- but I was determined to see some live music while in town. Plus, I couldn't let the irony of seeing a band called Blue October with the Cubs winning the World Series. Danny Malone from Austin, TX, was the opener, and he was incredible. Overall, the show rocked. 

I had to entertain a crowd while the Cubs were on the TV one night- and it turned out surprisingly well- I worked the craziness of the whole thing into the show, and the audience played along. Everyone was in Holloween costumes so that made it easy to interact with the crowd. This past weekend, I made my way back to Minnesota again, and got to check-out Paisley Park, the official residence for Prince, who passed away back in April. That was pretty neat.  Below, carne asada chile relleno burrito from La Azteca. Al & Beas green-chili burrito, Tijuana street tacos, lamb french dip from Philippe with a pickled hard-boiled egg, and my #1 pick for hot chicken in Nashville, Hattie B's. 

 

 

 

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Redemption

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Wednesday, 10 August 2016
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     It's mid-August, and I'm just finishing up a string of shows in/around Minneapolis.  I was here in May, and I don't recall the bumper-to-bumper traffic, and detour signs that have taken me miles out of my way this trip. Yesterday on the way out of town, I tried Matt's - one of the more revered juicy-lucy spots in town. It's a simple concoction - two hamburger patties with cheese in the middle. At Matt's they add pickles and grilled onions. Insane. A few blocks down the street is the Midtown Global Food Market, which houses the Salty Tart Bakery, of which I am a frequent customer. I told the owner Michelle if she ever set-up shop in Chicago, it would make her an instant millionaire. Summers coming to an end, and it feels like its just getting started. My bike got stolen back in May, so it started-off on a sour note. Two highlights: Guns N Roses over the July 4th wknd - finally getting to see them after their show got cancelled in Tinley Park, circa 1991. They extended Lollapalooza to 4 days this year instead of 3, and I paid the price- I was sick for a good 10 days afterwards. Lana Del Ray, Radiohead, RHCP, and LCD Soundsystem were just some of the bands I saw.

I've been wanting to do something special for my late girlfriend, whom I called Peach, since she passed away on March 3rd, 2014. I'd emailed an organization called Hope For The Day - they focus on suicide and mental health education via self expression to achieve awareness, outreach, and prevention.  One of the directors, Carl Evans reached out to me, and I pitched him my idea on doing a comedy show to raise money for the cause. With the help of some of my comedy pals, we put on a great show. I'm grateful I got the chance to do it - it was cathartic for me, given the depressed state I've been in ever since. I didn't want her to be the focus of the event - she wouldn't have liked that. The greater cause of suicide prevention was. She would've gotten a huge kick out of the poster below - which was a more subtle way to honor her. The peach is purposely drawn-out to look like a heart. Nice job Marylou Herrera ! 

 

 

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Blondie

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Friday, 06 May 2016
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     I've been reading the cartoon Blondie ever since I can remember. It's written by Dean Young, and drawn by John Marshall. Dean inherited the cartoon in 1973 from his father Chic when he died, and it will be 86 years old this coming Fall. Something about the cartoon resonated with me, and I wanted to give proper credit for being the inspiration for my website design. The cartoon is centered around a women named Blondie thats married to a guy named Dagwood. Some of the the situations have to do with eating, sleeping, and everyday quandaries  - topics I can relate to. Young has been quoted as stating that if people admire a person's character and the way they act, they'll love that character - very similar to a comedian's job on stage. Dagwood has personalty traits similar to myself, and I've alway felt a connection to him, even if he's just a cartoon. For example, we both get exited about food, and are clueless in various situations. A good part of my persona on stage, comes from real-life interactions with other people- similar to what Dagwood deals with in his cartoon life. 

     I've been touring non-stop, but I love it. Grinding out new material is what keeps me going, even if it does come at a price. I did a prom show for teenagers in Indiana that didn't go well, but I was able to get some good material out of it.  I never went to prom in high school- my date stood me up at the last minute. I'd even rented the tux already, and gone thru the formalities. I ended-up driving downtown with my friend Mark that night. At one of the stop-lights, I turned my head to the car over and saw the girl who agreed to go with me, along with her date to the prom. Below is a pic from Everest Tikka, a Nepalese restaurant I stopped at, while working at Courtney's Comedy Club in Moorhead, MN. Under that -Gray Brothers Cafeteria, in Moorsvile, Indiana -they are both great.

 

 

 

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Time For Change

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Monday, 29 February 2016
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    I've done this before. Come back from a gig in Wisconsin, only to not have enough cash to stop at Speed Queen BBQ in Milwaukee. They don't accept credit cards, and finding an ATM in Milwaukee can be like looking for a bar that sells Budweiser. So I had to use coins out of my change jar, which comes in handy, but people look at you like you're a dick.  Even banks don't like change. They used to convert it to paper money, now they tell you "we don't do that anymore, but if you want, we'll give you the wrappers and you can roll your own- let's see how you like it."  I just want to get to a point in my career, when I'm using paper money. I have big expectations. 

     Last year ended with me being in the hospital for several stays. I'd had some tests done, and was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. Midway thru one test, the technician determined that I needed to go to the ER immediately. After a few procedures, I'm doing better, but I need to take better care of myself. Than a few weeks later, my check engine light went on, which turned into a $750 transmission issue.  I've just finished up an 8-week run of weekend shows, driving to and from states like Iowa and Wisconsin. I'd say there were differences between the two, but life on the road often blends together, and what remain are only snapshots. I received a sobriety check in Des Moines, even though I was sober, and only going to pick up oatmeal from the Walmart.

     I did a late-night show at the local VW post here in Chicago, that was mostly frequented by police officers, and military. There was a heckler in the crowd, who I assumed was with the group. I kid-gloved him, since I was sure he was a cop or military-person, but he wouldn't shut-up. He eventually got removed, and escorted out of the building - but not before shoving one of the cops, and saying "Fu%@ the military." Turned-out, nobody knew who he was. From what I heard, he got the daylights beat-out of him. Below is the Lomo Saltado from Mia Patria, an Ecuadorian restaurant in Des Moines- insane !

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Danger: Comedy Ahead

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Sunday, 06 December 2015
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     I was driving towards Sioux City, Iowa last month, when I found myself in the midst of a snowstorm. I didn't take it seriously, cause it was the first snow of the season, and wrongly assumed it would blow-over quickly. Additionally, I'd forgotten that two of my tires were bald, and needed replacing. It's usually a combination of things that lead to a negative outcome in life. My car spun out of control, and I ended up crashing into a ditch and hitting a carcase. The guys been dead for 6 months, and still managed to get me !

     There's also the never-ending amount of police patrols hiding along the roadways, eager to pull me over. I make sure to drive the speed limit, but many times it varies widely - so its easy to go over unintentionally. Towns like Ottawa, IL depend on saps like me for their entire fiscal budget. That's why I once proclaimed it the "Worst Town in America." Eating poorly is another hazard for a comedian. I try to make healthy choices, but you're bound to trip-up, based on sheer numbers. I'm convinced that's why McDonald's is so successful. On any given road-trip, I'll see 20-30 McDonald's. It's easy to pass on the first 25 or so, knowing there's another right down the road. Eventually though, you're gonna cave, either because there's nothing else open, or you're just plain starving. A lot of times, the last two choices you have are McDonald's or gas station junk-food. 

     I was lucky enough to catch a ride from a stranger, who graciously drove me to Sioux City - it took us over 3 hours to drive what normally would've taken only 30 minutes.  I'd never hitch-hiked before, but desperate situations require desperate measures. He showed me his Facebook page, and his last name was Guzman- as in  "El Chapo" Guzman, Mexico's #1 Drug Cartel Kingpin, and currently the most wanted person in the world. He told me he was a distant cousin. Turned out he was kidding, but I'd wondered what I'd gotten myself into. I've been driving all over the map lately, but I'm fortunate to be doing what I love. Below, the "Gold Rush" from Harris Pizza -butter, olive oil, garlic, mozz -in the Quad Cities, Iowa.  And an Oaxaqueno chicken tamale from Cafeteria La Loma, inside Mercado Central Food Market- Minneapolis, MN. Incredible.

 

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The Tragedies of Friends

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         I realized that some friends only stay in your life for a short while, when I first started doing comedy back in 2002.  One of my good friends at the time met a girl, and from that point on, I rarely saw him, or even talked to him. At some point he got married, had a kid, and that was the last I ever heard of him. It's one of the reasons I started doing comedy. I felt the need to somehow expose this injustice to the world. You invest a lot in friends, and I somehow felt betrayed. Friends will disappoint you, hurt you, and even turn into your enemies in some cases. The worst ones are the phonies, the ones that pretend to be your friend, but are really not. Those people reveal their true character to you eventually, making them easy to identify. 

    Most of my friends live normal lives, and have regular jobs, while I tell jokes on stage to strangers. Any change for them, be it in relationship status or work, generally means less time spent with you. Some friends you'll know an entire lifetime, but rarely see them. Some will fade away naturally, or you might see a friend once a year, yet still treasure them as if they lived next door.  People's attitudes and behavior change over the years, and its often not the same person we first met.  Finding genuine, lifelong friends are still a rarity in this world. 

   A glaring example of how it effects  creative types, might be Axel Rose & Slash, from Guns N Roses. Had they not had a falling out years ago, they've might've put out a lot more great music. Instead, they couldn't bare to stand in each others company at the Rock & Rock Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. You give up a lot in life to become a comedian. Dating, family, girlfriends, parties, your health, and yes, even friends-became casualties to my relationship with comedy. It works both ways, of course. I wished I could attend some of those events, but often I was doing an open-mic, performing in a show, or in my car... making the trip back & forth to some dreadful town.  

    Last month, I had 4 shows in Virginia, and last weekend, I was doing a pair of shows in Iowa.  I had a blast at every single one of them.  Driving thru the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, on the way up to entertaining members of the US Customs & Border Patrol in Front Royal, VA, performing at the Olde Mill Resort, in Laurel Fork, VA -below in miniature form, and at Another Road Brewing in Marion, IA were a few highlights. Of course, I still had time to eat some great Indian food, in Harrisonburg, VA --pictured below.

I've made many new friends on the road, and I'm truly grateful for that. I might see them again soon, in a couple of years, or never again. If or when I do see them, I'll remember how much I enjoyed their company the first time we met. Maybe it's what
I've been seeking all these years. That's the good thing about friends....you'll lose some - but gain new ones along the way. 

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The Dream Motel

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     I was on my way out of town, having just completed a gig in Mt. Carmel, IL - and headed towards Indianapolis, when I saw a sign that caught my attention. The Dream Motel instantly reminded me how fleeting life is, and the irony of it all. We are all only here for a short time, and than its someone else's turn. When I think of irony in life, I think of comedian Robert Schimmel, who beat cancer, only to die in a car accident a short time later. Or Richard Jeni and Robin Williams -comedians who made their living bringing joy to others, yet couldn't do it for themselves.  Or Sam Kinison, a comedian who over-indulged in drugs & alcohol-managed to get sober, only to be killed by a drunk driver.

      I remember meeting Mitch Hedberg at Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago, in March 2005, just two weeks before his death on April 1st. Many people thought it was an April Fool's Day prank, due to the timing. When he took off his blue-tinted glasses he was wearing in the picture below, I could see the effect years of touring on the road and drug abuse had on his face. I told him he was the Jim Morrison of comedy, cause he was a rock star selling out comedy clubs on a regular basis, yet he was on the cusp of something much greater.   

     I'm sure at one point, the Dream Motel was a moniker for what the motel offered. A comfortable place to stay in a small town- making it seem dream-like, albeit temporarily.  Today, it is barren, gutted to the core, and not even an operating business.  I'm sure there's a story behind the abandoned white car in the car-park, in the photo below, but it will remain a mystery.  

     I stopped in Sikeston, Missouri for lunch, on the way to Jackson, Tennessee, where I was performing at the South Street Comedy Club. I passed up the more popular Lambert's, for which I've never been, for Jay's Krispy Fried Chicken - to keep the theme of irony in place. On the wall, were headshots from many of the comedians that have performed there over the last 25 years, including Shirley Hemphill's. She played wire-cracking waitress Shirley Wilson from the sitcom "What's Happening" in the late 70's- mid 80's.  I remember her character being larger than life on that show. After it was cancelled, than revived again for 3 more years in the mid 80's, she returned to stand-up. Unfortunately, she died of renal failure at the age of 52. That's the thing about life, it never has a happy ending. While performing in Jackson is definitely not the dream, it sure is on the path. 

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Cheez-steak Redux

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     Driving thru the mountains of Virginia, you see these cool purple flowers, probably "Wild Blue Phlox" or something similiar and they make your drive pleasant. I'd just completed 2 shows out of 4, one each in Foxburg, PA & Christiansburg, VA and was heading towards Philadelphia. Everything is so laid back in Virginia...none of the big-city problems you'd find in Chicago. Your stress level is immediately reduced by the beautiful surroundings. On the way down from Foxburg, one of my tires was loosing air, and I had to find a quick fix on the route. I was able to solve this problem, by finding a quick oil change shop to plug my tire. The venue in Christiansburg was a panoramicaly laid-out golf club, tucked into the surrounding trees, and it was gorgeous.  It made me wish I was good at golf for a change.

    I was determined to spend my off night in Philadelphia, and I my priority was cheesesteaks.  When I visited Philly 9 months ago over Labor Day weekend, I didn't get nearly enough of them.  One thing about Philly, the drivers are aggressive. The on-ramp lanes are narrow, and nobody's slowing down to let you in.  My first stop was Sonny's, located in the Old City neighborhood on Market St. This sandwich was a winner. As a bonus a few-doors down, I picked up a great slice of NY- style  pizza at SOHO. Of course, after that I had to go to the Franklin Fountain, also nearby, and get a sundae with rum raisin & pistachio ice cream, covered in carmel and pecans. The next morning, I made a classic rookie mistake, and filled-up on donuts from Federal Donuts & Chicken, in the early AM, pictured below.  Afterwards, I hit Johns Roasted Pork, than the Reading Terminal Food Market. Twice this trip, I'd given half my cheesesteaks to homeless people to give myself more stomach space.  I visited old favorite De Nics, the Flying Monkey, and Dutch bakery Beilers.  

    On the way out of town, I stopped at Dellasandros, and got one last cheesesteak, pictured below. I headed towards the Poconos, a vacation-spot for East coasters, in PA and had a fun show in Saylorsburg. The next morning, I had to get up at 8 am, drive 5 hours to do my last show in Chalk Hill, PA, than drive another 8 to get home.  I cut it pretty close for a 2 pm start-time, so I had to pee into a water-bottle mid-drive, to shave off some time, just making it barely.  Endurance is part of comedy, and this was no cake-walk !

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The Easter Bunny Strikes Again

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    This is my 2nd time dealing with a disaster on Easter Sunday. The first time was about 8 years ago in Traverse City, Michigan, when I got food poisoning between show-dates. Eager to get home after the last show, I swerved to avoid hitting a rabbit, hit a deer, and crashed my car into a pole on the way out of town.  I was stranded for 3 days, waiting for a part to come from the Ford plant in nearby Detroit for my once-trusted Thunderbird.  Ironically, a year or so later, after I handed the keys into a dealership for another car, the local Sheriff informed me that my car had been used in the commission of a crime. 

     I'm just coming back from a string of shows in Iowa, and it's Easter Sunday, or Passover - depending on who you are. I was in Iowa since Wednesday, doing shows - and came back home yesterday to a leaking water heater. Nothing like busting your ass on the road, only to come home and give back everything you earned to an emergency plumber. I get it, we're all connected on some level, and that's how life works. Fortunately, I didn't realize all this until I took a cold-bath after assuming the hot water was taking the day off. Had I discovered my utility closet was flooded first, I might not have taken the plunge.  Periodically, hot water decides when it needs a vacation, and cold'll be your only option. A hot bath was all I was looking forward to after being on the road, so to be denied that was brutal. Comedy is no different than life, and that's why I love it so much. I just finished up one of the most satisfying runs of my career in Iowa, with Friday night taking the cake.

     I was at a place called Gunderson's in Lake Park, IA. It's not that the audience was terrific, which they were. It's not that the steak I had was cooked perfectly and delicious. The owners & staff set-up everything according to plan, and worked-hard to make sure there wasn't one empty seat. That and the personal enjoyment of doing what now has turned into a solid 90 minute one man show. Of course, I had to wake-up early and drive 8 hours back to Chicago, and do a private party in Naperville - so I kept my canoodling afterwards to a minimum. Wednesdays & Thursdays nights shows were a lot of fun too, and I even caught a break from Iowa's finest. This is now becoming a running gag for me, "Officer, I'm a comedian driving between shows."

    The capper on the Yang-portion of the run, was Saturdays show in Naperville, for a Doctor's wife, and 100 of their friends. I had to tell jokes to the crowd, while 20 % of them wanted nothing to do with comedy, and kept talking.  The birthday girl didn't sit still either, so I'm guessing that maybe gave some people unspoken permission to be rude. They were a nice couple though - and it was their party, and I was grateful to be there regardless. 

I've got a lot of fun shows coming up, and I can't wait to visit what has now turned out to be one of my favorite cities for food, Philadelphia, PA, in a few weeks. At last, something to look forward too ~

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The Lion's King

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Sunday, 25 January 2015
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     One of my favorite things about being on the road, is the drive home. The anticipation that I'll be able to sleep in my own bed when I get there, is a reward in itself. I never get enough rest on the road for several reasons, mainly that I don't sleep well in hotels, and by the last show on the run, I'm usually exhausted & wiped out from the build-up.  Drinking coffee, jamming tunes and listening to Sirius Radio is how I unwind after a weekend of shows.  Stumbling upon something that I never would've - had I not been in the right spot at the right time, is another reason I love the road. A few weeks ago, on my way home from a string of shows in Iowa, I took a wrong exit in Des Moines, and stumbled upon this place called Le's Chinese BBQ. This restaurant couldn't have been more indiscreet, but I had a good feeling about it, so I went in, and got some of the most delicious Peking duck I've ever had. Not to mention at a bargain price. I also got to eat at a place called Archie's Waeside, in Le Mars, IA.  Archie's has been getting high marks for a while, as one of the best steakhouses in the country, and it did not disappoint. I had the Benny Weiker filet, and besides being an excellent cut of steak, it cost way-less than what a big city steakhouse might run you. It is pictured below, above the Le's photo. 

    I started my Missouri run on a Thursday, in a town called Owensville, which is slightly off the beaten path. I wanted to do a show prior to my performance at the University of Missouri at Rolla, on Friday. The place was called Twisters, and they were a motley crew. The audience and the staff were both great. The next night, local comedian Nick Nichols did a great job opening for me on campus, and since they were just coming back from the holiday break, the students were eager for some laughs.  I did a 2nd show in Rolla on Friday as well, to start after the early one, at a place called the Locker Room.  While a few audience members were clearly not interested in seeing a comedy show, those that did enjoyed it. 

     On the drive home Saturday, just outside St. Louis,  I saw a billboard for a place called the "Lions Choice" that advertised hot roast beef sandwiches. I'd never heard of them, and turns out, they're a small chain that's been around since 1967. I was surprised I'd not heard of this chain, given my love for roast beef sandwiches, but goes back to what I was saying earlier.  The "King" is pictured below, and was comparable to one of my favorite places for roast beef in Minnesota called Mavericks. It's not everyday you discover a new food chain that you like.   I also stopped at this place called Iron Barley, in St. Louis, and got me some schnitzel & spaetzle, which is breaded pork tenderloin with German dumplings, good stuff. pictured below. It's only fitting that the best show came last. I performed in Wyoming, IL at a place called Spoon River, on Saturday night, and not only was the crowd great, but the owners & staff as well.

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Looking Back

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Thursday, 01 January 2015
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     I was fortunate to end/start the year with a 4-show run, beginning with a NYE gig in Valparaiso, Indiana. I rung 2015 in, while driving home from my gig, cause I had to be up early to drive to Waucoma, Iowa for a New Years Day show.  You can tell you're driving thru Indiana's backroads when all you see are smokestacks and run down buildings. Only one thought comes to mind - please don't let me break down here. The party was great though, and the lady who put it together did a great job cooking some serious grub. The Iowa gig turned out to be a lot more fun than I thought, and I'm exited to have 2 more shows Fri/Sat in Buffalo & Owatanna, MN.

     I'm trying to find some solace with 2014 in my rear-view mirror - no doubt it was a tough one for me. Probably one of my hardest ever. My girlfriends demise, and my Dad's cancer diagnosis were just a few of things that made it one I'm glad is over.  But I'm trying to be grateful for all the good things as well. One of them being the Paul McCartney concert this past July at the United Center, here in Chicago. I also got to perform at multiple colleges in the Midwest, as well as a few in/around Philadelphia. It was my third time thru Philly, and I enjoy it more each time I go. Getting to see my Dad twice in Las Vegas, where he lives, was another highlight. The second go-round was in September, when I also got to perform in the World Series of Comedy. While I was disappointed with how things transpired, I will learn from my experience. It was also an honor to entertain the US Navy at the Great Lakes Naval Base for their holiday party.

     It has been amazing to see the Bill Cosby drama unfold, with more to come, I'm sure. And the whole thing with the movie "The Interview," with Seth Rogan, and James Franco, couldn't have been scripted better. I finished reading my second book on the gulags of North Korea, and I can't think of a bigger Ponzi- scheme, than North Korea. Current leadership- beginning with Kim Jung-un is brain-washing, torturing, and working to death/killing any citizen that doesn't adhere to their "philosophy." It's a shame the world isn't doing more to free the country of this Hitler imitator.  He'll fall eventually, let's hope it's sooner than later. 

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Au Revoir, Doug

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Sunday, 05 October 2014
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     These last three weeks, I have been all over the place. I was fortunate to have a string of great college shows - Silver Lake College & Lakeland College in Manitwoc & Plymouth, Wisconsin. And Fond Du Lac Tribal Community College in Cloquet, MN. Sandwiched between these shows, I was in Las Vegas for the World Series of Comedy. Although I was disappointed with my performance, I was happy to see two comics that I respect and like -Spencer James & Jeff Scheen get first & second place honors. Besides being able to see my Dad who lives out there, it also gave me the opportunity to deconstruct my act into smaller chunks, giving it better structure. 

While I was in Minnesota - near Duluth, I also did a show at the Green Door for the Beaver Bay Municipality, which was established along the shores of Lake Superior in 1856. Unfortunately for me, the Packers/Vikings game was on the same night, but the 12 or so people that came were a great crowd, and I had a blast with them. One of the ladies in the crowd happened to be at the same Foo Fighters concert at Lollapalooza in Chicago, 3 years back, that I was at. I knew she was telling the truth, cause she described the same torrential downpour that day that I mention in one of my jokes. What are the odds on that ? 

I didn't start off my run on a good note. While driving out of town Wednesday, near Rockford -  I got pulled over for speeding & texting while driving in a construction zone. He also accused me of driving with my right knee. How he knew that, I'll never know, but he was right on all 3 counts. From the officers demeanor, it seemed like I going down big time.  However, after telling him I was a comedian and was doing a show for police officers Saturday in Elk River, MN - his attitude toward me changed. What I didn't tell him, was that I was texting the lady who organized the show - after she cancelled it for lack of attendance from police officers. They were probably all out pulling people like me over.

     My last show was at Four Daughters Winery in Spring Valley, MN. The show was difficult because the room was cavernous and about half a football field long.  I needed way more power from the amp, and the wattage just wasn't cutting it. Those who did hear me were appreciative, and it turned out OK. Below, you'll see a pic from Hot Doug's - my favorite hot dog spot in Chicago, which closed its doors this past Friday, after 13 years in business. Doug Sohn, the owner, decided he'd had enough. I've been eating there since they first opened up, but the place had grown iconic, with wait times up to 12 hours in the end. You're looking at a char-dog with everything, hold the relish, next to cheese fries. A bacon-sausage dog is in the background, along with a diet Dr. Browns black-cherry soda - a classic way for me to rationalize my eating habits !

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Cheez-steak Love

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Monday, 01 September 2014
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     I was exited as could be, to make my return to Philadelphia, otherwise known as the "City of Brotherly Love," which gets its name from the literal meaning of the city's name in Greek. Backtrack to the Wednesday before Labor Day, I had to first drive to Tiffin, OH, and perform at Heidelberg University. Due to the lack of businesses in town that were open, I was surprised that the town supported not one, but two full-times colleges - Heidelberg & Tiffin University. I was glad they moved the show from Rickly Chapel to the student union. The former is one of 3 designated sacred places on campus, according to the schools website. Since I'm not that religious, this was a win for me.  They were a good crowd, but I had to head back to the hotel, so I could catch a few hours of sleep. 

     The plan was to wake-up at 3:45 am the next morning, drive 8 hours to do an afternoon show, check into my hotel, and do another show. My afternoon show Thursday was a bit problematic...because even though the contracted start-time was 1 pm, they'd advertised it on campus as starting at Noon.  That and the fact that it was "Welcome Week" for Bucks County Community College, in Newtown, PA... meant that students were eager to get to class.  Towards the end, it dwindled down to 5 students, and an IT employee. After the show, I was starving, so I stopped at "Lorenzo's Pizza" in Philadelphia for a cheesesteak. It came highly recommended by Roadfood.com. There is no better trusted source for food, than Micheal Stern's website detailing the best eats, based on whatever town you're in. 

   I was stil hungry, so after Lorenzo's, I made a brief stop at Tony Luke's, and had a roasted pork with provolone, and broccoli rabe. While the sandwich was delicious, I didn't enjoy it as much, since I only had a few hours to spare before my next show. Finding parking in downtown Philadelphia was a lot harder than I thought. The main problem was, not one of the garages could give me a straight answer on how much it would cost me to park. At one garage, the 2 employees couldn't agree amongst themselves how much I'd have to pay. One garage quoted me $72.50 for the privilege.  I was scheduled to perform at University of Science, in SW Philly that evening, so I was able to find temporary parking, check into my hotel, rest for a few hours, than head on to campus. It happened to be "Welcome Week" at this school too, and I was grateful they were a fun bunch. The faculty/students in charge couldn't have been nicer, and they treated me to a cheesesteak after the show. 

 

     I hit "John's Roasted Pork" on the way out of town to to Jefferson, PA, for my last show at Thistletwaite Vineyards. JRP had come highly recommended by various sources, and my expectations were high. The roasted  pork, with sharp provolone, and garlic spinach was fantastic. Out of the 5 cheesesteaks I tried, this was the winner for my favorite Philly sandwich to date, and is shown above. The crowd was a motley group...several of them thought it was OK to blurt stuff out during the show, or talk throughout...but I still had a blast with them. The place was family owned in part by Annette, a sweet and smart women who was wise beyond her years. Below is my reward for driving over 1700 miles in 4 days to do 4 shows. It's Greenhouse Smoked Meats in the West Loop, Chicago. You're looking at brisket, chicken, potato salad, and coleslaw. It was great ! 

 

 

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Reason To Live

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Sunday, 13 July 2014
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     The weekend started early with a concert at the United Center, where I got to see Paul McCartney live for the first time. The last time he came through, 3 years ago at Wrigley Field,  I remember listening to the show outside the stadium on Waveland Ave, cursing myself for not buying a ticket. He played for over 3 hours, mixing in songs from his vast catalog, including the Beatles, the now disbanded Wings, and solo material. He played tribute songs, "Here Today, " about John Lennon, and for George Harrison, a ukelele version of "Something." The pyro on "Live & Let Die" was out -of- control, and overall it was a great concert.  You might recall, I'd been reeling from the death of my girlfriend, and was in dire need of a pick-me-up. This concert was the perfect remedy. 

I was fortunate to have two really fun shows this weekend, with Friday's show being the highlight. I got to open for Taylor Williamson, who came in 2nd place last season on America's Got Talent. I'd met Taylor down in Tampa about 7 years ago, and found him to be a likable and funny guy. This time around the show was for about 300 people in Metamora, IL at the public golf course. The crowd was red-hot, and everyone had a blast. Hosting the show was Kansas City native  Alan Grafton, who did a
great job of setting the stage for me & Taylor. 

     Saturday, I had a corporate gig for Rachel Allen, a designer of specialty dresses for women, and it was held at the Sheraton in Rosemont.  They were putting on a fashion show, and needed some end of the day humor, and I was happy to oblige. I got to pretend I was a runway model for the evening, and it was a blast. My feet are still killing me from the high-heels. Kidding, of course, and they were a fun group.

     Below, are two sandwiches from the giant Italian food emporium Eately, in Chicago. Located upstairs, one of the food stations is called the "Rosticceria," and  I'd say the prime rib is one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten. From Diamond Creek Ranch in Kansas, the Angus beef came thinly sliced, on crusty french bread, with porcini rub, extra-virgin olive oil, and a touch of sea salt. The porchetta sandwich was sliced pork from Bensmiller's Ranch in Iowa, with a similar rub, on the same bread. While not as good as the prime rib, what makes these sandwiches delicious is the simplicity of them. 

 

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Goodnight, Sweet Love

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Saturday, 12 April 2014
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     I thought I'd experienced the gamut of pain in my 10+ years as a comedian, but this past Thursday, I received an email from the best friend of my former girlfriend that said that she'd died.  I requested that she please call me, so I could ascertain if it was true, and unfortunately it was. It brought upon me a level of pain that I'd not yet experienced in this life. After talking with her friend, I found out she ended her own life. Even though we'd stopped seeing each other a few years back, we'd kept in touch up until about a year ago, and I still loved her as much as when we were together, and told her so often. I'd called her "Peach" amongst other names, and whenever we'd get together, it was always a special event.  It felt like we never got to spend enough time together, due to my time spent with comedy, and her battles with alcoholism. I knew she was a tortured soul, and that was part of my attraction to her, being one myself. She always said to enjoy our moments together, cause we both knew we were on borrowed time. 

      Ultimately, I fell in love with her, and we dated for 5 years, and I couldn't be more grateful. In retrospect, it wasn't long enough. She was the sweetest, most beautiful person I've ever met in this world, both inside & out. We bonded over books, food, and music. For my birthday one year, she got me the "Great Brain" series of books by John D. Fitzgerald, which I told her I loved. I referred to her hands as "magic" because whenever she touched me, it would make all my aches go away.  When I was in the hospital for breaking my arm/leg, she visited every single day.  We both were always there for each other, when we needed to be, and she's had a profound impact in my life. 

     Of all the people whom I am close with, she probably knew me better than anyone. She believed in me, and was a big supporter of my comedy. It takes a special girl to deal with all the sacrifices a comedian makes, and she was one of them.  She had two cats, that she loved more than anything. From what I heard, one of the cat's days was numbered, and she ended-up taking him with her before she left. Her Mom passed away years ago from cancer, and her Dad from Multiple Sclerosis. Her only surviving relative was her brother. She wasn't feeling well mentally or physically, and she'd been suffering from depression, and bi-polarism amongst other issues.  The thing I'm most proud of her for, was that she was able to hit the 5 year mark with her sobriety, even as she left this Earth. 

   She wanted to be with her Mom, and I'm sure if I could ask her, she'd say she just couldn't take it anymore. I'd do anything for her, so if taking her life means she can be free, even if it means hurting those who loved her, I can accept it. I've withheld her name, so she can rest in peace. I will carry her spirit with me always & forever, and do everything I can to make her proud of me in my lifetime. I love you Peach. 

 

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All Roads End With Beef

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Saturday, 15 March 2014
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     A few weeks ago, I was at the Comedy Room, in Wyandotte, MI...so I stopped at one of my favorite spots in the area - Slow's BBQ. Their sandwich, "The YardBird," won runner-up, for Best Sandwich in America, a TV series hosted by Adam Richman. It has Amish chicken breast slathered in mustard sauce, with sauteed mushrooms & cheddar, and topped with Applewood Bacon, all on Texas toast or a kaiser roll.  It was fun working with comedians Bryan McCree, and Steve Lind, and the audiences were great, as always. 

I had a date to perform at Western Iowa Tech University in Sioux City, Iowa...so I decided to stop at Jeremiah's BBQ in Des Moines, to see if it could hold its own. I was tempted to order the Adam Emmenecker, a sandwich that has so many ingredients, it'd be easier to say what isn't on it. They have a deal that if you finish it in 15 minutes, along with a pound of waffle fries, you get it free. No thanks. Knowing I still had to drive 3 hours, I settled on The Jethro, which consisted of pork tenderloin, bacon, and pulled pork


      I left Chicago at 6:30 am so I'd arrive to the hotel around 3:30, because the show was scheduled for 7 pm. When I left, it was 20 degrees in Chicago, but when I arrived in Sioux City it was 70 degrees. It was a good thing I packed some t-shirts, cause that's what I wore on stage. They were a fantastic group. I had to leave town at 4:30 the night morning, to be at my next gig at noon, in Janesville, WI, so that's exactly what I did. It was a tough ride, but as always...coffee got me through. I did the show at Blackhawk College, than on the way home stopped at one of the all-time great spots for Italian beef in Chicagoland -Johnnie's Beef, in Arlington Heights. This place is so good, I once convinced one of the owners to make me a beef before they officially opened, which I think is 11 am. He informed me that many have tried the same thing, but few have succeeded, me being one of em. I also got a pepper & egg sandwich, and both were terrific.

  Closing out the run on Saturday night, I had fun working with Comedian/Magician Glen Gerard at the Olympia Resort in Oconomowoc, WI. The last time I was here, was 30 years ago with my childhood friend, Marc Jacobson. All I remember is mauling my face on the tow-rope for the ski-lift.   

 

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Pitts-Stop

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Sunday, 23 February 2014
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     When I signed-up for comedy, I didn't realize what an endurance test it would be. I did a show in Dallas, PA at Misericordia University on a Friday night, than woke up at 5:30 am to drive 10 1/2 hours back to Chicago, showered and headed up to Milwaukee to do a private party with only a couple of hours to spare. Backtrack to Wednesday, Feb 19, where I left home at approximately the same time to do another private party. The show was for the Senior Bowling League at St Claire Lanes in St. Clairesville, OH. Gary Holubeck, the proprietor, had informed me that one member of the group had died recently, and they were in a somber mood. The show wasn't well attended due to do that, and the fact that they'd been bowling for 3 1/2 hours prior to the show. The problem was that the venue didn't have a seperate room to do the show, and while it was agreed in-advance that all the lanes would be shut down for the show- a few of the lanes were occupied by special needs groups, making that impossible. Those that stayed enjoyed the show, and Gary couldn't have been nicer about it.

     Luckily for me, and thanks to roadfood.com, one of my most trusted resources for food on the road, a place called Mehlman Cafeteria happened to be across the street from the venue.  Discreetly located off the main road, and almost the size of a football field, this place doles-out 12,000 meals of comfort food a week. What's more impressive, is the menu still offers pricing from the early 70's. Pictured below is stuffed chicken breast, homemade chicken gravy, deviled eggs, scalloped potatoes, roll, and dutch peach pie. I actually went through the line twice, and got salad, fried chicken, and beef stew as well. 

 With a day to kill in-between shows, I drove-up to Pittsburgh, and stopped for oatmeal banana pancakes at the Dor-Stop Restaurant. Than I cruised down to the strip-district, near downtown, and had a fried cod fish sandwich from Robert Wholey & Company. Both were equally satisfying. I decided to spend the night in State College, PA, which is the home of Penn State University. The town has some pretty good Asian cuisine/buffets, so I tried Chen's, and a place called Ni Hao for lunch the next day. Both were tasty, with Chens getting the nod for their sauces, and Ni Haos for their extensive selection, including dim sum, hibachi, and sushi.  

     When I first walked into the Cougars Den on campus at Misericordia, the place was packed with students playing bingo. I got exited, thinking at least some of them would stick around for the show. I was wrong. As soon as the last letter was called, the place cleared-out line a hurricane. If there's any group that was hooked-on bingo, I would've guessed it to be Wednesdays Senior group, not students. A small group materialized prior to the start, and they were a good audience regardless.  I had a show scheduled for Saturday in Moundsville, WV that got cancelled at the last minute, so fortunately I was able to find a replacement gig at the Bamboo Lounge in Milwaukee...which turned out to be a lot of fun.

    

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Walmart Wins & the Nighthawk Foundation

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Sunday, 02 February 2014
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           I had a show Friday night in Seymour, Indiana at the Starlight Lounge. With me was journeyman Erik Monical, originally from Alton, IL. Unfortunately for us, the main entertainment in town on Friday nights, is Walmart, so my show came in 2nd place in attendance. We performed for 4 1/2 people, essentially the family of the person that booked me. The "1/2 person" was someone who kept getting up to wait on people, since she was on the clock. Regardless of audience size, I still had fun. On the way down, we stopped in Indianapolis, at the famed Shapiro's deli for a pastrami sandwich.

     I received a call from Henry Sembdner, early Friday morning, from the Nighthawk Foundation. They are a non-profit organization, comprised of all volunteers, who help out disadvantaged children (nighthawkfoundation.org). Henry explained that a high percentage of donations goes straight to children in need, which is what you want to see when you're donating money. He explained that the featured entertainment had backed out at the last minute, and they needed a replacement. I'd previously been booked on the date, but it got cancelled, so I was happy to oblige. I'm glad I did, cause they were a great crowd and were very appreciative of our efforts. I'd brought along rookie sensation Anthony Bonozzo with me to break the ice, and he did just that. 

    

 

 

 

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