Friday, November 22, 2013

Robert Nelson, Storyteller, Pt 4/4 "Safety First"

In the early ‘70’s, I moved to Nashville. I was supposed to be a doctor (or at least a dentist) … I ended up being a juggler.
My first shows were at a club called the “Exit Inn”. The place was unique in that the original front door was now in the rear of the stage, it made for easier loading and unloading of band equipment.
Every Wednesday on “Writer's Night”, the Exit showcased young up and coming singer-songwriters. Song publishers and music industry people always packed the house.
Owsley, the manager, thought it might be interesting to occasionally put me (and a young comic named Jim Varney) on between the music sets to break up the monotony.
I did this for over a year, always trying some new trick or prop each time. In those days there were no prop-makers so everything was home made. My pins were glued plastic around a wooden dowel. I also painted, glittered and even rhinestoned a whole slew of tennis balls. I carried every thing around with me in a trombone case.
One fateful day, I got a call from Owsley saying he needed an opening act for Tiny Tim (I shit you not).
He needed 30 minutes but I had never done more than 3.
I panicked but I said I’d do it. 
I figured I needed a finale, so I made myself some fire torches.
I was pretty good with clubs already, so after just a couple of days practice with fire, I felt pretty confident. I did learn (quickly) to shake off the excess fuel before lighting; otherwise, I’d get sprayed with gas as they spun around.
The fire didn't last long, only 2 or 3 minutes, so I knew my torches needed to be dipped just before the end of the act. I put the fuel in a giant glass mayonnaise jar; its mouth wide enough to dip all 3 torches at once.
The night of my first show arrived. I remember walking through the crowd with my mayonnaise jar cradled in one hand, my trombone case in the other. 
Nervously, I set the jar down on the side of the stage. I sure didn't want to spill any of that gas. “Safety First”, I thought to myself.
The show went going pretty well, considering I was sweating more than a Congressional page getting instant messages from Florida.
I dipped all 3 torches into the wide mouth jar. The fuel overflows, spills down the sides and onto the rug. I smile weakly at the people in the front row. The smell of leaded gas surrounds us.
Taking no chances now, I screw the top back on the mayonnaise jar real tightly. “Safety First,” I thought!
I didn't want to get gas on anybody in the audience, so I walked to the other side of the stage to shake off the excess fuel. Safety First!
The fuel droplets sweep across the stage behind me.
I light the torches. A burst of flame, the audience cheers. 
I'm think, “Gee, this sure is a lot of smoke, way more than I'm used to!”
I’d never juggled fire indoors before.
The ceiling's too low for double spins, so I yell, “For my 1st trick … under the leg!"
Easy right? … but I drop.
The torch falls, hits the stage. I watch in slow motion as little blue dots of flame travel across the stage towards the mayonnaise jar.
WHOOSH! The jar turns into a huge fireball!
The rug catches fire underneath it ... the audience gasps.
I rush toward a Big Burning Glass Jar of Gas!
As I pick it up, the words “Molotov Cocktail” echo in my brain.
A soundman rushes onstage. For some unexplained reason he picks up my trombone case.
Simultaneously, we both turn towards the door in the back of the stage.
He gets there 1st and opens the door but can't go though … he is carrying the trombone case sideways.
I have no time to think he's an idiot because my hands are burning.
I throw the jar at the door trying to make it over the back of his head but it's just a little too heavy.
The soundman turns around to see a huge burning glass jar of gas flying towards his face. His eyes bulge in fear.
Luckily, he ducks in time, dropping the trombone case.
A flaming mayonnaise jar flies over his head, out through the door.
It hits the pavement, the glass breaks and a lake of fire and glass spill across the sidewalk.
People are screaming all around me.
Total panic ensues when 33 multicolored tennis balls catch fire and start rolling underneath parked cars.
Someone shrieks, "The car's on fire!"
People are diving for cover all around me.
I run away, thinking, next time for sure,

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Robert Nelson, Storyteller, Pt3/4 "Doing the Chinamans laundry."

I spent almost 30 years as a comic juggler. 
I wore a jesters costume most of my career and could even imitate a reasonable 16th century British accent. Yet curiously, I had never once performed at a Renaissance Faire. 

I first heard about the Northern California Faire when I moved to San Francisco in the late ‘70’s. Several local juggling acts, “Fly-by Night”, “Shawn and Dave” and the infamous “Obscene Juggler”, Greg Dean had just been hired. Word was, you had to audition for the “Queen”, Phyllis Patterson. Her Northern and Southern California Faires were the beginnings of what soon would be called “the Ren Faire Circuit”. Apparently, she had stolen the idea from the Ashland, Oregon Shakespeare festival. Some of “her people” saw me on the street and invited me to come up to Novato to audition for the “Queen”, herself.

 I did … it was horrible. As soon as “Queen” Phyllis saw my head she said, 
“Tattoo’s aren’t period … you’ll have to wear a hat”. 
I was so shocked I couldn’t think clearly. Then I heard the words, 
“Fuck you bitch” come out of my mouth. Needless to say, I didn’t get the gig.

Flash ahead 22 years… it’s 1999. I’m about to turn 50. 
Working the streets had taken its toll. My empty calendar stares back at me … I make some calls. 

I get in touch with Master Lee in New York City. 
I met the “Kung Fu Comic” in Washington Square Park the early ‘80’s. He had developed his act alongside the famous asshole, Tony Vera aka “The Fireman”, Thien Phu, a very friendly and skilled Vietnamese juggler and the legendary Charley Barnett, the funniest black motherfucker to ever live (except Richard, of course).

Master Lee suggests I apply to the Baltimore Ren Faire. 
“Rowbert, I’ll set you up, but first, you wanna rent half my trailer for 200 (quickly adding)… US?” 
Good money, cheap rent. Say no more, say no more. 

I call the Faire; many of my lifelong friends (and also Gazzo) had already worked there. They offer me a 5-week, no travel, no accommodations deal. I accept, mentioning my plans to rent Master Lee’s trailer. I heard a long pause on the other end of the line. I didn’t think too much of it at the time.

Four festivals and three blown VW engines later, I arrive, at the end of a long arduous summer in Baltimore. Prophetically, during the worst rainstorm they’ve had in 50 years. 
I drive into what looks like a cow pasture with a cheap, cereal box cutout castle in the middle. 
I am surrounded by a moat of filthy, muddy, pierced and tattooed hippie freaks. 

I guess that Elizabethan cunt I met 22 years ago had relaxed her standards a bit.
My old friends, sword-swallower Johnny Fox and magician Peter Gross, greet me in the muddy lot. Like the legendary “Puke & Snot”, Johnny had grown to be a star in the Ren-Faire world. Besides having an excellent comedy act, he was a master of sleight-of-hand (think Gazzo pre-stroke). Like Johnny, Peter was (ahem) a good friend too. At least it seemed like he was a good friend because I had allowed him to annoy me for so many years. I’ll admit that if Peter wasn’t trying to molest some prepubescent adolescent, he could be surprisingly entertaining; in an irritating sort of way.We had all performed together at numerous events together in the past and I never ceased to be amazed at how quickly Johnny could get women to sleep with him. Sort of the antithesis of Peter.I’ll always be thankful to Peter for showing me how one might easily adapt one’s act to an Elizabethan theme. Evidently, green tights stretched over a pudgy frame do the trick. In all deference to Peter, I must admit, when I first heard his masterful impersonation of a overly enthusiastic, whiney, British Jew in 1563, I was … how can I say it? … awake. 

Wet and exhausted, I follow Johnny and Peter to a tree-rutted angular patch of mud next to the Porto-Johns. 
They point out a 17 year old, 22 foot long corrugated, dried tobacco juice colored tin box on blocks. 
You can’t imagine my joy at the prospect that this was to be my home for the next 5 weeks. I anticipated being lulled to sleep with the incessant slamming of commode doors while peacefully inhaling the intoxicating aroma of human waste.

Johnny never gets closer than the 10-foot garbage infested walkway and bids us adieu. He had already stopped looking at me and gotten real quiet. I actually think I saw him shudder as he turned to leave.

Peter, however, like a perspiring gazelle, puddle jumps knowingly from mucky clump to muddy cluster of crap. He nimbly leaps over half eaten propane tanks and masterfully negotiates the one of three steps that hasn’t rusted out. He deftly opens a door with no handle, no doorknob and no lock leaving it wide open … calculatingly. 

Words alone could never describe the putrid stench that enveloped me. 
It hit me like an imploded colostomy bag. 
I wanted to vomit but I couldn’t find a place clean enough. 

In the dim light, a truly appalling scene unfolded before me. Filthy duct tape covering broken moldy jalousies made it thankfully hard to distinguish much. 
I imagined Peter, William and myself with flies in our eyes in Darfur standing behind Sally Struthers. 
Up to that moment my only real experience living with a pig was when I shared a room at the Denver Buskerfest with Young Raoul. Apparently, not everyone prefers to defecate in private. But, I digress; The Young One is better suited for a story of his own.

The only light came through the cheap little windup skylight in ceiling above. Brittle now, the plastic had crumbled like a used saltine atop what was left of the perforated rusted out screen. Brownish stains encircled the fissure chandelier-like in ever expanding concentric circles. 
The soaked plasterboard bubbled ominously overhead like a piƱata of gunk and goo. The rain had been pouring in for so many years that the carpet below had rotted away in almost a perfect circle. The mucous laden fiber would simply dissolve to the touch (I imagined).
I guess William just walked around those holes like they were homeless people. 

Only a ripped, torn, worn to shreds Naugahyde couch adorned the dark & dismal front room. It looked like a ninth grade science project gone bad. It had an oddly velour coating that on closer inspection revealed a layer of growing fur. I never saw multicolored mold before. 
There was a can of Raid on the kitchen counter, empty, of course. The only chair, a greasy bucketseat. I half expected to see a NASCAR schedule poster somewhere. 

Master Lee had bought the trailer 9 years ago from Johnny’s ex-wife (the 1st one). He had paid her $500 bucks Canadian after his first Halifax experience. Since that day, he had never bothered to fix anything. The electricity worked but nothing else, not even the water. All appliances had died and been left to rot. 

A corroded grease covered stove was now a nest for a family of mice (one of 5, I found). A hive of wasps lived in the exhaust fan above. Inside the rust pitted refrigerator lay a bug cemetery. They were the lucky ones.I knew if I stayed in this ecological cesspit very long, I’d die as well. 

I bolted back to Johnny’s trailer and begged for a one-night stay. He acquiesced, I’ll be forever thankful for that.
For the rest of the evening, I watched in awe as William, Peter and the rest of the indigents slept wherever they fell. 

Most of these longhaired heathens, I was soon to find out, spent the week drinking and fornicating with whatever could provide friction. Rumor has it, the word “Skank” was coined right there at the Baltimore Re-Faire. It is unclear as to whether the speaker was referring to Master Lee, himself, or to the company he kept. 

I had coupla days before shows started, so I blatantly told William my intent to disinfect the dump in lieu of rent. The first thing I did was to tack plastic sheets over the broken, cracked and split, plastic vents in the roof. It sealed the water out but the fetid air in, so I pried, pliered and wrenched the frozen gunk crusted jalousie windows open. 
I then tried to focus on anything already decayed and decomposed. 
Rotting, unrecognizable items were tossed indiscriminately outdoors, simply adding into the already atrocious mess. Bags of garbage were intentionally left open to give anything still alive and ambulatory a chance to escape. 

I held my cool pretty good the first night. I initially pondered getting some sleep on the foul mattress in the back, until I found a desiccated condom attached to its headboard. 
Six open packages littered on the floor around the bed. I never found the other 5. Instead, I wrapped myself in a plastic parka and sat upright on the recently bleached couch. My eyes stinging from the fumes, I spent hours listening to rustling noises in the dark. Back and forth, up and down, I tried to follow them with my fading flashlight. Mercifully, the rain started pounding down so hard, I heard nothing else.

I was relentless the next few days. I sprayed, brushed, wiped and swept every inch of that hellhole. I even rented a steam cleaner and attacked what was left of the rug. Before I did my first show, I had spent $117 on cleaning products, traps and pesticides. Master Lee, rightly so, never said shit to me about rent.

What the Faire billed as “comic juggler Butterfly Man” became a 4 times a day, one-way vent of my personal frustrations. 
I simply couldn’t control it. I’d come out both rant barrels blazing. I might have done some juggling in there somewhere but I don’t remember any of that. I’m pretty sure anybody who saw me doesn’t either. 
I ranted about mud, muck, rain and mold, all the things I had been swimming in for days. 
I did a whole show about a piece of pubic hair, peppered soap I found in the one and only shower available for the hundreds of grubby, muddy hippies that lived on-site. 
I took the audience on a journey uphill, through ankle deep mud, to a stained, non-shower curtained stall of pitted concrete encircled by a mucous membrane of sulfur. 
I told them what it was like to shower in cold water that was 13% rust, with your shoes on. 
I was closer to suicide than El Glenno Grande sharing a pitch with Bill Ferguson.

Then, just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore … a goddamn hurricane hits.Its name was “Floyd”. I don’t think it was named after that goofy barber on the Andy Griffith show. I don’t know anybody who thinks killing 77 people and making disaster areas out of 7 states is “goofy” … except maybe Hilby, but he has the luxury of being German.

Everyone bailed. I was left alone inside that place, alone I say, for three days. 
I had to beg for food at what was left of the remaining hippie campsites. Something about being in a disaster brings people together. Either that, or I looked so disgusting and smelled so awful that they took me for one of their own. 

Their fashion trend seemed to favor grunge with accessories of muck and slime. I swear, neither Peter nor William washed their costumes the whole time I was there. 
In Master Lee’s case, the word “costume” meant the crusty, black, grimy, fake karate outfit he wore all the time.

Somehow I survived.
William’s trailer started to become inhabitable by about the end of the third week. Everything had been disinfected, scrubbed, washed or painted. I even got the water going and the gas stove working but, alas, I never did get that goddamn refrigerator to work. 

I guess having lost all hope and not giving a fuck any longer does have it’s advantages because my show started getting better and better. Those two days a week were my only outlet. I remember having a strange experience that I’ve never had onstage before or after. 

I found myself doing three different shows at once. It seemed tri-leveled in a way. 
There was my act (to me, the most boring part), then the comments that I made about how I felt about doing it (got the most laughs), then a professional explanation of what I was doing (type of joke, reversal, understatement etc.). 
Must’ve been interesting, I would’ve liked to have been there.

I was exhausted and exasperated at the end of the run but I felt good about the shows I had done (surprisingly so did the owner). I felt even better that my friends William and Peter would now have a nice clean place to invite sluts over for Sunday brunch. 

Master Lee thanked me profusely. To show his deep felt appreciation as a parting gift, he bought me a small amount of cheap marijuana.The day after I left, I heard he sold the trailer to some hippie chick for $800 … US.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Inexorable wigglewagglosity!

What do I love about this cover?

It's got that 'we're not here to make money, we're here to party' brass section.

It's got that polynesian funk thang lightly salting the mix.

It's got everyday Auckland unpretentious cross section dancing.

It's got that NZ, 'we'll take it and make it about celebrating ourselves' vibe.

It's got a 'kids aren't the end of your hip shaking social life' aspect.
It's got "In the know, tip of the hat", Supergroove' callbacks.

It's got subtle little editing gems, [Love the cut to pigeon walking]

It's got "Damned if I haven't just played it twice in a row I'm going to play it again!" addictive appeal.

It's got, "In on the ground floor -- colour me hipster", early youtube hitcount cred.
It's got, "marinate me in chipper" antidepressant qualities.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Robert Nelson, Storyteller, Pt 2 of 4, "Road Rage"


I hate airports, even nice ones. The same goes for hotels ... they all suck.

I never liked being on the road. Always traveling to some goddamn place to do some goddamn show. Just give me the goddam check and let me go home.

It’s particularly difficult for me to travel because I have a peculiar abrasive quality about me. I don’t get along well with people I first meet. They immediately don’t like me. My wife says I act as if I’m better than everyone else. I don’t think that's true, though in most cases I am.

I remember I once landed in Pittsburg (appropriately named) ... the airline, of course, lost my luggage. I do the wait wait wait, blah blah blah and the “It’s a big propcase with stickers all over it, you can’t miss it shit”. I got the same ol’, same ol’,“We’ll get it to you as soon as” and the “Here’s a number you can call that will always be busy or we’ll never answer”.

Problem was, the gig was several hours away at Grossingers up in the Catskills. I was showcasing for the east coast college circuit … which meant I was the one paying all the bills. Leaving the delivery of my prop case up to an airline delivery guy was like trusting Gazzo with your jokebook.

Reluctingly, I leave, propless, in a rental car.

Several hours later, I’m completely fucking lost going up and down dark unmarked roads in the Catskill mountains trying to find the goddamn hotel. I swear to God, in the middle of all that madness, I drove right onto a golf course. I turned around when I saw the flag for the 15th hole. Shit!

It’s way past 2 am when I finally find the hotel ...
they politely tell me there are no rooms available.
I show them my reservation and they say “check-in time is noon”. Fuck! 

I sleep in the backseat of the rental car. I wake up freezing, aching. Nothing sums up the glamour of show business like watching the steam of your own urine as you pee in a parking lot at dawn. 

My breakfast is a bag of peanuts from the vending machine. 

I have no room, so I have to call the airlines from a payphone. Seventeen quarters, two hours and forty three minutes later, I find out they have my case! I beg them to leave now, my sound check is at 10. I’m first up.

I go back to the front desk and tell them where to send the delivery guy if he shows up and I’m not there. I threaten to sleep in the lobby and look like ten pounds of Young Raoul’s shit in a five pound bag. They offer me a storage room to just get rid of me … I accept.

I fall asleep hungry on a bare mattress and wake up in a panic just after 10. 

I rush to the hall … on my way I see another juggling act warming up. They are the “All American Mini-Circus” from Baltimore … never heard of them, the girl juggler had a great ass though.

The sound guy pushes my sound check back … they always do that to jugglers, they think juggler’s don’t talk. They are serving box lunches back in the exhibit hall but I can’t go because I’m first up and I still don’t have MY GODDAMN CASE! 

I pace back and forth backstage … once in awhile I go outside to stare at the parking lot. “I’ll bet it’s a white van … it’s always a white van. Is that a white van? Shit, no it’s just the greens keeper.” Apparently, some tire tracks over on the 15th hole were keeping him quite busy that morning.

No word … and it’s pushing noon.

I approach the Mini-circus jugglers and introduce myself. A very polite young man introduces himself as ‘something or other’ and then introduces his hot young girlfriend as Mardene. 

I ask whatshisname if I could borrow some juggling stuff for the showcase while trying to figure out a way to look at Mardene’s butt again. They give me some balls, clubs and even a six foot unicycle … they save the day and I pull off a weak one, but better than nothing.

Coming out from backstage soaked with flop sweat, I see my prop case being delivered ... it has only 3 wheels. A guy is dragging it toward the stage.

I lug it shaking and rattling to the front desk to get a room. I’m so hungry I feel the amalgum ringing in my teeth. I just want to get rid of this fuckin’ box, eat and sleep. 

As soon as I get in the room, my agent calls.

He’s booked a last minute show in St. Louis ... I have to leave immediately to make the plane back in Pittsburg. 

Waaa? 2 hours back to the airport! … IF I don’t get lost! … IF! 

I checkout and drag the crippled case back to the rental car. 

No time to eat. I see a discarded box lunch in the lobby on my way out … it only has a bag of peanuts left. They tasted like bile … good though.

My brain is spinning … Gotta make the plane! ... Gotta make the plane!

Stomach growling, looking back and forth between the speedometer and my watch. I make some rough calculations.

I need to average 72mph …
It was gonna be close. 
An hour passes … I know where I am. No cops yet.

I reached the city limits with 20 minutes left before my scheduled departure.
Traffic starts to slow … Oh No! 

Jesus Cheerist ... they’re starting to board!
Sign says “Airport 3 miles” … All right, I’m close!

I screech up to curbside check-in and unload my (now considered overweight and oversize) 3 wheeled prop case. I hand the skycap a stack of tickets, “It’s in there somewhere”, I tell him, “I gotta go return the rental car, I’ll be back” ... 17 minutes left.

I drive to return the car to Avis … there is no one behind the counter … no airport return bus either!

I spy a guy washing cars at the end of the lot ... 
I drive straight up to him and speak my over anxious unintelligababble. He jumps in the drivers seat. We speed back to the airport as I fill out a "Rapid Return" form for the first time. 

We pull up to curbside with 7 minutes until takeoff.

I pull out my wallet, take out $10 and offer it as a tip. 

He refuses saying “No problem man, it’s part of the service”. I guess they do try harder.

The skycaps sees me and is waving the tickets. I jump out. 

Monitor says my flight leaves from Gate 25.
OK, Run!

Pre 9-11 security run ... whoosh!

Get to Gate 25 … nothing … no one! Whaaa?Check monitors again ... Gate change to 26!Agggh, Run!

One gate more ... door closing … Wait!!!!

Agent stops closing and opens the door. With a smirky smile he says, “No problem, plenty of time, sir!” 

Breathing hard .... eyes wild … I get on.

I run the gauntlet of accusatory stares for my lack of punctuality as I find my seat.

I sit, start to relax … only an hour to Atlanta with plenty of time to eat before my connection. 

Yeah, eat … (quick check for wallet) …

FUCK! it’s not there … PANIC… (look through everything at frantic pace). 

Try to retrace my steps.

I remember the refused tip in the rental car. FUCK! FUCK-FUCK-FUCK …FUCK!

No money … no credit cards … no food!

Then, just when I’m down about as far as a juggler can go, a flight attendant offers me some peanuts! I gag reflexively but ask for 2.

I get to Atlanta but I have no way to buy food ... it’s all around me … a conglomerate of fast food franchises hearded together like the cattle they fed. I weigh the consequences of robbery vs. cannibalism.

Weakly, I pull out the contract info. on the gig my agent had given me ...the student activity office is closed, so I call the listed “home” number.

“Hello! My name is Robert Nelson, may I please talk to William Shitforbrains.”

“Oh, you must be looking for Billy ... he was here Thanksgiving and we expect to see him again @ Christmas but he goes to school in St.Louis.”

This kid gave his HOME# … his real Home! (as in where he grew up with his goddamn parents!) What a fuckin’ retard!

I scramble for my life: 
“Ma'am, my name is Robert Nelson, your son hired me to perform tomorrow at his college… he is my only contact ... I have lost my wallet, all identification … I have no credit cards … I have no money ... I will be arriving in St. Louis at 11 on flight so and so this evening .. I have no place to stay … I have to go now they are boarding my flight.”

Another bag of peanuts later, I land in St. Louis. 

I get off I see a sleepy eyed guy with his girlfriend … her hair is everywhere.

“Are you William Dumbfuck?”, I ask. 

“No, I’m his Sigma Alpha Male roommate … his mom called and woke us up.” 

Cold stare from the girl.

“Billy's playing miniature golf and should be back by midnight or 1.”

We drive silently to the frat house … I’m in the back of a convertible with my three wheeled prop case. I watched as restaurants of all sizes and shapes fly by … I wonder if I could ask this guy for some money … just a hamburger maybe … see, there's a place right there ….

The hostile couple drop me off in the front of the frat house ... a keg party is underway. 

I dump the box on the lawn and go inside … semi-drunk obnoxious males litter the place … I make my way surreptitiously toward the kitchen ... I’m thinking, FOOD!, FOOD! 

I run inside … the refridgerator is full of beer … fucking beer! 

What’s the only edible food they’ve got … You guessed it … peanuts! 

A huge bowl of PEANUTS!

… this is where my story starts.

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you just can’t take it anymore.It’s a different situation for everyone, I’m sure.
Maybe it was that bully in grade school who did it to you … possibly, an angry parent pushed too much … perhaps it was a noisy neighbor or simply a nagging wife … whatever … you go just a little over the edge … and then you...SNAP!
The chaos all around me … looking at that small round table … that huge bowl of peanuts ... that was MY moment. I just lost it.
The loud blaring music continued all around me but I heard nothing anymore.
Drunken frat boys and their sycophantic pledges became like crickets in the background.
I felt my coping composure collapse. My sanity imploded upon itself. I became socially numb.More to avoid eye contact than anything, I opened the refrigerator door and pretended to look inside.
The stacks and stacks of horizontally placed beer stared back at me. There were no bottles … just those big 12-ounce cans. Individually balanced on top of one another so as to maximize beer storage capacity per cubic tallboy.My options gone … I started to drink.

Quickly, I discovered that with my head tilted back, I wouldn’t have to look at anyone or anything, especially that bowel of peanuts.I skulked backwards to the side of the fridge and wedged myself in a broom closet sized niche between it and the back door. This became my womb for the next hour or so. I came out only to suckle more beer.

I don’t remember the actual time when Billy Alsodrunk showed up after his miniature golf game, but I do remember his surprise to find “The Butterfly Man” at his frat house. I kind of also remember him being even more astonished that I was even drunker than he was.

"Man, I thought you were coming in Tomorrow at 11am."
"Rebashlatz mick allen shuh!"

Dude, we got no room for you tonight.

"Waah! Shich me con beshsheet coroge bunshh."

Things got kind of blurry around this point.I kinda remember a fight broke out … I’m pretty sure I started it.Some big guy said something to me about my head while I was talking to Billy WhatthehellamIgonnadowiththisdudenow.

Honestly, I have no recollection of who he was or even what he looked like. I even don’t remember what exactly it was that he said to me. What I do remember is how unfortunate it was that he was so much bigger than me.

It had to be the way he said whatever it was, that made me take a long swig of beer, smile (grit my teeth really) and spit a mouthful of beer into his face. As his hands rushed up to wipe it off, I hit him in the gut.
I tried to run but apparently, I didn’t get very far. The next thing I remember it was dawn and awoke laying face down near a pool of vomit on the back porch of the frat house. No worries though, the vomit was probably mine. It looked very peanuty.

 It was very quiet; the loudest sound I heard was the pulsating in my own temples. I had a headache, sure, but I didn’t feel that bad really, considering someone had just beaten the crap out of me a few hours ago. Maybe it was because, at that point, there wasn’t much crap left in me.

I made my way indoors to find a bathroom and, hopefully, some aspirin or Tylenol. Cautiously, I tip toed to avoid empty beer cans. I certainly didn’t want to wakeup anyone up who might want to finish me off.

A door opened behind me causing me both mild heart failure and a slight loss of urine.I whirled to find Billy Lookedworsethanme standing there in his underwear. I fear the worst and imagine a Lambda Theta Epsilon (whatever) gang rape. After all, it was pledge season.

He grabs some clothes and keys from his room and hustles me out of the frat house licitly split. We throw my abandoned 3-wheeled case into the back of his beater station wagon and head for the motel. On the way, I beg him to stop for food … I’m ready to blow this motherfucker for a cheeseburger.

The golden arches of McShits appeared like Shangri-La in the distance. He graciously buys me several burgers & mcbreakfasts at the drive- through. On the way to the hotel, I started to force feed myself and unluckily catch a glimpse of myself in the rear view mirror.
Food was splayed all over my face, hands and lap. My loss of dignity was all too apparent. Ashamedly, I stuffed what was left of the half-eaten food back into the bag as we pull up to the motel.
It’s early am but Billy Ibegyouplease gets the clerk to allow me an early check–in. I look forward to gorging, being alone and getting some rest … in that order.
Billy You’vegottomekiddingme bids me adieu with a

"I’ll be back in 4 hours to pick you up for your sound-check."

Wow, a whole four fuckin’ hours... in a one star hotel ... with all this fine cuisine … all this … just for ME? What a privilege it was to have chosen such a rewarding profession.

But sometimes, it’s all about the show, isn’t it? The show can make it all worthwhile. All the crap you have to go through, all the bullshit of traveling and lugging heavy shit everywhere … all of it can disappear when it’s “Showtime”.

I get only a few hours of gaseous bloated stomach slumber when Billy Ican’twaittogetridofthisguy picks me up from my fast-food franchise decored motel room.

 As he drives me away from the slowly decomposing stench of my own reality, he tells me the show’s in the cafeteria … big fuckin’ surprise.
College gigs seemed always to put my kind of act in the student cafeteria. I hated performing there but, in a way, I was also kind of grateful.
Good jugglers had to be in the gym.
Personally, during a show, I’d rather smell leftover meatloaf than the sweat of a jockstrap.

Towards the end of my college career something miraculous happened right around the $1750/show mark.
It seems that, at that price, you get some sort of platform with curtains or, at least, plastic flags.
Apparently, jugglers share the same career benchmark as used car lots.

As we carry my three-wheeled case inside, Billy I’mnotreadyforthis says he hopes it’s OK that a student film class uses my show as their mid-term video project.

Grimacing internally, I don’t complain, still needing Billy Gotthewallet to stay happy and food friendly.For the next several hours adolescent would-be Altman’s and wanna-be Coppola’s cage me inside a full 3-camera, head-phoned electronic wire maze all connected to Herr teacher/director’s 18-wheeler size communications truck outside.

I tried everything to be left alone. I tried to look busy preparing for the show, stretching, even something I never did before … practicing.Nothing worked, that is, until Dale Jones showed up.
Dale was a young, very professional local juggler. He was also a good friend and while we spoke, they mercifully left us alone.
Dale was unique in the juggling world at the time because he had only one good arm. His other arm looked more like a fleshy, elongated lobster claw. He could juggle by grasping a small tennis racket in it and bounce the balls to his good hand … it was his hook, so to speak.
Like I said, Dale was a pro, so I asked for any local humor stuff … blah blah blah … at the end of which he quite unexpectedly says to me,

"Hey Robert, if you think you can work me into the show, I’ve got this new Christmas bit I just wrote for a big gig and I’d like to try it out before I do it for real … Whatdoyasay, it’s only about 4 minutes long?"

I nod OK, just as my apathetic, white, urban middle-class, 18 to 22 year old crowd starts to filter in.
Of all the audiences in the world, I don’t think you could find, in one place, a greater concentration of indifferent dipshits.

The student film crew all take their places and freeze.
I thank everyone for coming...

Right off the bat, some guy yells out,“Gallagher was sold out”
 It gets a laugh.Great! All the shit I’ve been through … all the 3-wheeled, lost wallet, peanut beating crap I had to take to get here ... and NOW THIS!

I respond … foolish me." Oh yeah, How much did he cost?"
 Him: "$17.50"
 Me: "How much to get in here?"
Him: ".75 cents … and worth every penny!"
Audience laughs again … the bastards!

OK!! … So you wanna play?!!! You want a piece of the Butterfly Man, eh?!!! OK, kiddies … Let’s dance!!!
A vein in my forehead starts to bulge. I tell them what I really think of them … their fraternities … their college … and then … for some reason … I say something to a guy in the front row who has purple socks.
Everyone laughs … but … one woman’s laugh is way louder than the rest … it sounds more like a very amused hiccup.
“Whoop” … “Whoop” … “Whoop”

Her laugh makes everyone laugh.Like a comedy virus, “funny” spreads throughout the room.
Everything in my act starts working better than usual.They love everything I say and do … and then, I try a callback ... I mention the purple socks guy again.Again … that peculiar laugh!
 “Whoop” … “Whoop” … “Whoop”

 The place goes berserk with delight. I have so much confidence, I decide to find out who is laughing like that … make it part of the show, you know.I stop ... listen intently... wait ‘til it’s silent then say,
“Can you believe it … purple socks!”?
Again, a big,
“Whoop” … “Whoop” … “Whoop”

I look around trying to find the laughing culprit … I scan the audience … nothing …Another purple socks comment, and I see why. The laugh is coming from behind the camera on my far right.
When I move … she moves.She’s slightly bent over, looking into the lens but I can see her lurching shoulders when she makes the sound.
“Whoop” … “Whoop” … “Whoop”

Then just before it actually happened … I felt it.
The energy in the whole room changes when … bang; the sound of the steel exit doors open the door to the parking lot and in bursts Herr director!!!
The truck and monitors are visible for a second … then SLAM the doors close behind him.
With a brisk walk and a stern look, the teacher-director crosses the entire length of the cafeteria and heads straight to Camera #1.
He bends over and whispers something to the girl. She stands up and hands him her headphones. He takes over behind the camera as she skulks away.

The audience & I watch this whole scene go down … nobody had made sound the entire time.
The comedy bubble just burst … the pin prick of reality had left everyone in a laugh-less void.
The cameras were still rolling.

I guess it was up to me to bring it all back again.Or was it?
Was I responsible for what just happened?

I stop the show and got serious. It shocks me more than the crowd.
Me (talking to camera 1): “Now wait a minute here, that young lady was simply enjoying herself … and all of us were enjoying her laughter with her.Now, just because she enjoyed herself, you’re going to ruin her day, possibly her career and maybe even her entire life. Well, I’ll tell you this … Then thinking to myself: Uh, Where do I go with this? … I got nothing.I panic … Then, out of nowhere, I pull something out of my butt. “You know ladies and gentleman … about 10 years ago when I was just starting in this business, a little boy came up to me after a show and said
“ Mister, when I grow up I want to be a juggler just like you.”
I smiled at the little boy and told him,
“Son, when you grow up, you can be anything you want to be … just believe in yourself.”
 But, then, as I reached down to shake the little boys hand, I noticed he had only one good arm … (deliberate pause here)…Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you tonight … that little boy 10 years later, doing his first performance in front of a live audience … please welcome … Dale Jones!”

I knew Dale was a pro and would be ready to go on … I figured I’d apologize for my fabricated intro. later.
Dale gives me a brief incredulous look as he takes the stage.
I disappear into the back and watch.

 You could feel the emotional charge in the air. The audience had been way up … then totally bummed … now, thanks to me, they were supposed to be pulling for a cripple.
Me, I just felt relieved to be offstage.

Along with everyone, I watched as Dale masterfully executed a new routine. His discomfort with the new material made him look a little nervous and that just added credibility to my bullshit introduction.
His routine finishes and he gets a standing O.

I smile as I take the stage. I’m thinking maybe Dale won’t be pissed … after all; it’s kinda hard to be pissed when your getting a standing ovation, isn’t it?

 Dale hustles his crap off but not without shooting me a semi-dirty look when his back is to the crowd.
Oh well, I think, there will be other crippled friends in my life.

 The hard work over, I went back to playing funny man again … but the audience wasn’t going up as fast or as high as before … that laugh was missing. We all missed it.

Then, I don’t know why … maybe just to get back at Herr director for ruining my moment in the sun, I turn and face Camera #1,

"I think you should give that girl her camera back."

 What are you doing, Robert?This guy’s the TEACHER! Audience tentatively cheers but there’s no movement from Camera 1.I move to the side … he follows me with the camera but does not respond.

"Come on … she’s learned her lesson …how about it?"

 Damn, he’s not saying anything … I should’ve just finished the show.!
The audience gives a rather under enthusiastic applause, fearing another meltdown.

"So you’re not gonna move, huh?"

Man, I almost had THEM … Wha’ am I gonna do? Wha’ am I gonna do? The hunched shoulders show no emotion they just follow my every move behind the camera.

"Trying to make a point are we?"

Jesus! …Do SOMETHING … somebody, DO SOMETHING!Motionless shoulders stare back at me.

"OK, We’ll see about THAT!"

Without really thinking, I grab an 8-foot bullwhip from my prop stand.I walk around the back of hunched shoulders prancing, threatening, menacing.Where is THIS going? …You have no fucking idea, do you?

I crack the whip in the air… KKKKERACK! Herr teacher’s shoulders un-hunch and he shoots straight up to a standing position.

The crowd roars with pre-cripple enthusiasm.Now what …? With a look I usually get only from women, Herr director glares back at me.
I spy a cigarette pack in his shirt pocket. Thank God and cancer!

"Ladies & Gentlemen … I’d like to show you how to quit smoking in just one move."

I take a cigarette out of his pack and stick it up my nose. It gets a decent laugh.I take another and place it between his lips.

"Whatever You Do … Don’t MOVE!"

Herr director is petrified. So is the audience. So am I.
Just don’t hit him … remember that kid in Florida.
While pretending to be judging the distance, I step back and crack the whip twice. My hands are shaking … I have no confidence. The audience senses my fear. A line of sweat appears above Herr director’s lip. The cigarette is shaking between his lips. We are all anxious to see how this is gonna end.I go for it. I let fly. I pray for blind luck.

The cigarette flies out of his mouth. I can’t believe it!
The audience applauds wildly.Then … from way in the back … like a laughing nightingale singing away all my fears … I hear,
“Whoop” … “Whoop” … “Whoop”

What a beautiful sound even an ugly laugh can make.
-The Butterfly Man -2006