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The following personal essays were written from my experiences doing comedy on the road. While performing in major cities and at premiere venues was exciting, I always found the small towns and out-of-the-mainstream locations far more interesting, and thus far more inspiring. Though these are - for the most part - fictionalized accounts, there is more truth than I might care to admit.

It should be noted for posterity that the stories titled "South Bend, Indiana" and "Island of Doom" are 100 percent true.

York, Nebraska

Insanity is not limited to big cities. Every little town in the United States has at least one crazy person. York, Nebraska has one. I met her during the winter of 1993.

At that time in my life I was making my living as a stand-up comedian and had been booked for a month and a half at various comedy clubs in the Midwest. I had a couple of nights off due to the holiday and I was killing time in the entertainment Mecca of York, Nebraska.

Spending ten or twelve hours a day in a small maroon sports car screaming down the freeways of the Midwest makes you long for the next motel room. No matter how cool you keep the vehicle, there is a certain unavoidable car-sweat that forms slowly over the hours bonding clothes to skin. The smell of stale fast food permeates the car and begins to adhere to your clothing, or more likely, your skin. Soft drinks watered down by melted ice soak through wax-paper cups creating small sticky puddles in the cup holders. The floor on the passenger side is piled high with Styrofoam coffee cups and empty No-Doz packages.

After blasting the car radio for so many hours, I had trouble hearing the motel clerk and he had to repeat himself more than once. That coupled with the road-worn bright red color of my eyes made the clerk more than a little suspicious of this young stranger who had pulled off the highway and into little York.

He charged me a healthy deposit which, he assured me, would be refunded at check out. Didn’t matter to me. All I wanted was a cool shower and a lumpy bed, but I was going to be getting much more than I bargained for.

I had only slept for about an hour when I found myself wide-awake again. I was by no means rested, but my internal clock was completely out of whack from the last couple of weeks on the road. I needed food.

It was sometime between 2 and 4 in the morning and I was dining in a Denny’s, because I value quality. There was only one other patron; a woman eating alone two tables away. On her table were a carton of Camel cigarettes and a box of Hostess donuts. Her coffee was Denny’s.

I ordered my breakfast.

Breakfast, by the way, is best eaten at night. Late at night so that all the calories and cholesterol have a chance to soak in and relax while you sleep.

A bacon and cheese omelet with a large grapefruit juice and a side of bacon. I like to consume as much saturated fat as humanly possible. The meal comes with toast and a side of hash browns, so we had the starches covered nicely. Coffee is a given. There simply is no real breakfast without a cup of strong coffee. When I say strong, I’m hoping for a two-day old strong cup of coffee.

I was thoroughly enjoying my meal when this psychotic woman began screaming, “Stop it, stop it, stop it!” to the empty chair across from her.

Then she looked at me and asked me to tell her friend to stop stirring his coffee. Okay, I was game.

“I think your coffee is mixed,” I told her imaginary friend. “You can stop stirring it now.”

“Ha!” she shouted at the empty chair. “He sure put you in your place.”

I was happy to have ended a dispute and dove back into my meal.

Five minutes later I overheard the lady whispering to her friend.
“ He is not an *******. He’s a nice guy,” she was saying.
I was stunned. I put down my silverware.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Did he call me an *******?” She looked over at me and giggled.

“You’re gonna get it now,” she told the nothing sitting across from her. I was infuriated. No fictional character calls me names like that!

“Did he just call me an *******?!” I demanded.

“Yes, he did! He did! He called you a big one!”

I leapt out of my chair, raced over and knocked her friend’s chair over. I kicked repeatedly at where his ribs would have been had he existed. Then I jumped on top of him, hammering the floor with my fists. My nemesis and I rolled around the floor for some time.

“Stop! You’ll kill him!” the lady screamed. The next thing I knew she was dragging me off of her buddy.

“That’ll teach him,” I said while rubbing my lip as if he did manage to get at least one good shot in.

I strolled back to my table in triumph, fixing my shirt and fixing my hair while Madame Psycho crooned over her imaginary Mike Tyson. I sat down and plunged into my feast once again. You can work up quite an appetite stomping on a phantom. The waitress treated me with much more respect after the bout. She looked almost nervous just to be around me. Small town folks can become awestruck quite easily.

The crazy lady ushered her injured friend out of the restaurant and wandered off into the night to who knows where.

From time to time I wonder what has become of her since that night. One thing is certain; these days she thinks twice before acting crazy in front of a perfectly sane person like me.

[back to top]


 


The Cow Incident

I had some great times in the years I spent doing comedy on the road. For a single guy with no responsibilities; there wasn’t much to complain about.

I drove everywhere. People used to ask why I wouldn’t fly to my gigs instead of driving.

Flying would have been quicker and the costs would have been about the same after figuring in gas, food, and hotel expenses, but there is something almost religious about cranking down the highway through the pitch black desolate plains of the Midwest; deranged and wild eyed from a lack of sleep and blasting the music of the Doors at ear shattering levels.

I often kept the windows down to let Morrison scream his “Celebration of the Lizard” at the cows. It was the least I could do. After all, cows can’t afford CD’s and are almost never allowed to listen to the radio.

Don’t think for a moment that the cows didn’t appreciate my efforts. I was very well liked by the cow populace. Actually, I became somewhat of a cult figure among the cows. I have always understood the plight of the downtrodden every-cow and they could sense that. Over the years I have introduced the Doors to countless numbers of cows. In fact; if you ever see a cow chewing his cud, chances are that he is actually lip synching “Light My Fire.”

During that time in my life, to be completely honest, if the Unites States of America ever declared war on cows, I would have had trouble deciding on which side to fight.

I tried to explain all of this to the Indiana State Trooper who pulled me over during the late summer of 1994, but I don’t think he understood. He just checked my forehead for a lobotomy scar and sent me on my way. I don’t think he has a very good relationship with cows.

He’ll pay for his bigotry someday. The cows have his name.
I continued on; performing in such exotic destinations as Springfield and Quincy, Illinois; Cedar Rapids and Sioux City, Iowa for a total of nearly 6 straight weeks on the road.

The tour went very well until my ride home. All the shows were done and it should have been a straight shot home to Boston. Two or three days max if I pushed it.
I stopped for some lunch at a non-descript Diner located a mile or so off route 80 just outside of Des Moines. I needed protein and I needed it bad.

I sat down with a good book and a ravenous appetite. I ordered a cheeseburger and fries. I should have known better, but my stomach was doing the thinking for me. The burger was half done and my mouth was full of red meat when I felt it: a presence, the distinct feeling that I was being watched.
I glanced around the room, but saw no on eyeing me. Then I looked out the window and saw him.

It was a cow.

I fought back my terror as I tried to conceal what was on the table in front of me, but it was a futile effort. He knew who I was and had seen one of his brothers, half eaten, on my plate.

The cow’s first look was one of deep confusion and disappointment. This was quickly replaced with fury as his eyes narrowed. His big cow nostrils flared and he was shaking so hard with rage that the bell around his neck was ringing. Pray that you never see an angry cow. It’s a terrifying sight.

The news would spread quickly, no doubt about that. Soon all the cows would know my terrible secret. I would no longer be considered an ally. Indeed, I was nothing less than an enemy. My life wouldn’t be worth spit and let’s face it; spit is worth very little.

The cow turned away in disgust and sauntered off. My dread did not subside, however. I know cows. They can be terrible, vengeful creatures. They would not forgive my transgression.

I sat frozen with fear and within ten minutes the cow returned with three other cows. They stared at me through the window as I sat with the dreadful evidence lying on my plate. The obvious leader shook her head slowly and then all four turned and walked away. I looked down at my meal. The burger was laughing at me and the ketchup seemed as blood. I jumped out of my chair and up-ended the table. I screamed and continued to scream as I ran from the restaurant; barely hearing the waitress’s, “How was everything today, sir?”

I dashed out to my car and was met by a nightmarish sight. My car was perfectly surrounded with fresh meadow-muffins. I had become a marked man. This was their version of sending me dead fish in the mail.

I wasn’t alone there by the car. I sensed a new and different presence. It carried the unmistakable air of a mouth-breather. I snapped my head around and saw a teenage boy standing close by. His head was shaved, he had bad teeth, and he was holding a banjo.

“The cows gonna git ya,” he told me solemnly.

I jumped in my car and drove off, not looking back. I just kept driving. I passed a field full of cows. They all stopped grazing and looked up at me as I drove by. It was bloodcurdling.

I turned down the Doors and rolled up the windows.

[back to top]


South Bend Indiana

The first time I stepped up to a microphone in a real comedy club was in 1987 at the original Stitches on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.

I don’t remember the actual date, but it was a Sunday; the night Stitches had perennially allocated for the amateurs, and universally known throughout the industry as Open Mic Night.

That night wasn’t much fun and it took three years before I dared step back up on a stage.

I had dreamed of being a comedian since the first time I heard a Bill Cosby album at the age of 7. My mother brought the album home one day because the cover had a drawing of Fat Albert and the Cosby kids. It was entitled “When I Was a Kid” and she didn’t necessarily know that it was a recording of one of his stand-up acts. It was the funniest stuff I had ever heard and I wanted to know more about it.

“What does this guy do for a job?” I asked.

“This is it,” my mother told me. “He makes people laugh.”

“And there’s no heavy lifting involved?” I asked. “That’s the job for me.”

During high school, I made every effort to get on stage as much as possible.
The only production being done in my freshman year was the musical “Oklahoma.” That presented a potential problem.

I possess not one iota of musical ability. I can’t even play a jukebox.

I was undaunted by this handicap and tried out for a part anyway. Fortunately for me, they didn’t have enough students to fill all the parts and I was in. We were two days into rehearsals when it was decided that, while everyone else sung their lines, it might be best for all involved if I just went ahead and spoke my lines.

The production was excellent. We actors were dressed in old western clothes with straw hats and everyone was singing about the tremendous beauty possessed by the great state of Oklahoma with impressive ranges of falsettos and baritones. I lip synched along as the talented people sang:

“ Brand new state. Brand new state gonna treat you great!” everyone, but I, sang out proudly.

Things were going well. Everyone sounded great. The audience was smiling.

“ Gonna give you barley, wheat, and pertaters,” sang a young man.

“ Pasture fer your cattle, and spinach and termaters,” two young men sang in perfect harmony.

My solo was coming soon.

“ Flowers on the prairie where the June bugs zoom,” a girl sang angelically.
Then it was my turn.

“ PLENTY OF AIR AND PLENTY OF ROOM,” I shouted at the top of my lungs.

I could see the audience wince. Not only had I spoken/screamed my lines, but I had also rushed through them creating an uncomfortable silence before the next guy could come in to save the song.

I don’t think I can take full responsibility for this, but no more musicals were produced during the remainder of my tenure at Wilmington High.

It was in January of 1990, nearly three years after my initial plunge that I stepped back on a stage, this time at Nick’s Comedy Stop. It went fairly well and I kept going back eventually working my way into the ranks of Boston’s professional comedians.
I’ve been on stage thousands of times since then in hundreds of cities, but I’ll never forget South Bend, Indiana.

It was 1992 and I was on a tour originating out of Louisville, Kentucky called “The Comedy Caravan.” It was a three week string of one-night engagements in bars located in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan.

South Bend had very recently been added to the tour and the booking agent wasn’t entirely familiar with the venue by the time we got there. The bar itself was situated in a strip mall and looked, from the outside anyway, like it should have been occupied by a video store or GNC. The inside was much bigger than one would expect and it sported a décor resembling Saigon circa 1974. Exposed brick was, and still is, fashionable. Exposed cinder block, however, still has yet to come into style.
They must have really liked the cinderblock look, because they had tossed a couple of broken and crumbling ones on the back of the stage. The audience, of a hundred and fifty or so, sat in groups of 8 or 10 at round banquet tables and the stage was made of unpainted, unfinished plywood.

It was legal, at that time at any rate, in Indiana to serve Everclear. Everclear is 190-proof grain alcohol. For comparison sake; typical vodkas are 80-proof, as are most tequilas.

The front table at the show was jam-packed with 12 Notre Dame Students; each one doing shots of straight Everclear and chasing with beer. Most of them were not sure where exactly they were, but they seemed to be enjoying the first comedian.
The bar served the shots in little plastic cups which looked very suspiciously like the ones that come with Nyquil cold medicine. I couldn’t fault the bar for that move. Everclear probably doesn’t mix real well with breakable glass shot-glasses.

I couldn’t have been on stage for more than 5 minutes when one of Notre Dame’s finest students of the day, who could very possibly be a doctor or a lawyer today, came up with the brilliant idea of doing flaming shots.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw this droopy-eyed-polo-shirt-wearing-malcontent flick his bic with a smirk and bring it down to his drink. The alcohol caught fire immediately and the plastic shot-glass melted into nothingness, enabling the flaming liquid to spread out over the top of the table. Within a nano-second the flames had engulfed the other 11 shots on the table and two foot flames remained trapped on the top of the table searching for a new source of fuel.

I stood on stage, momentarily at a loss.

The students’ instinct for self-preservation had kicked in and they had backed all of a foot-and-a -half away from the table and stared at the flames. The rest of the crowd didn’t move and in that instant, which seemed to last for hours, I wondered if it was up to me to get everyone into an orderly single-file line – last one out close the windows – or what?

Meanwhile the largely disinterested bartender casually hopped over his bar, grabbed the fire extinguisher and PHHHHHOOOOOSSSHHH - - took care of the fire.
Everclear must burn very clean because I really don’t remember any smoke at all and I can’t recall any lingering odor. I just remember the foam of the extinguisher, which seemed to become powder at the moment of its release.

We were all stunned by the mind-bending events of the last three seconds. No one moved and no one said a word for the next couple of moments, except for the bartender.

I looked down on him from the stage as he methodically replaced all of their Everclear shots free of charge. He held out his hand and the original pyro dejectedly placed his lighter in the bartender’s palm, which signaled each of the foam covered college students to dive back in.

I looked at my watch, which also had a healthy spattering of extinguisher excretion on it, to find that I still had to fill another 25 minutes before I could bring the headliner up. There was no bailing out – I wanted to get paid.

Straight material wasn’t going to work after an experience of that sort. No joke starting with a phrase even remotely similar to, “Have you ever noticed that…” or “Women and men sure are different because…” was going to suffice after a communal experience like the one shared that evening. I was forced to spend the remainder of my time on stage adlibbing only about what had just happened.

People always ask if I still get nervous before going on stage. I nearly always think back to that fateful night in South Bend, Indiana and answer, honestly, “No, not really. Everclear is not legal in this state.”

[back to top]



Island of Doom

During the majority of the 1990’s I worked all over the country as a professional comedian and I use the word “professional” not only because I earned my living that way, but also because I always made a concerted effort to carry myself in a professional manner. But no one is perfect.

I regret that the names of certain people and places will have to be omitted from this story due to my lack of knowledge relevant to the statute of limitations laws within the state of Massachusetts.

I will concede that one summer night, not long ago, I was booked to work on one of the two small islands off the coast of Cape Cod. I prefer not to disclose the name of the island; but it wasn’t Nantucket.

The gig was at a club in Edgartown and I was working with two other comedians. We’ll call them Jimmy and Mike.

The three of us walked off of the ferry after a calm twenty-five minute boat ride. Enough time to catch up and share stories of recent shows and of life in general. We walked onto the dock past a couple of kids diving for coins - a scene that one might expect to find coming off of a ship onto Jamaica or Haiti, except that these kids were undoubtedly enrolled in private schools and had their own sonar equipment to help find any of the coins that got away.

There are not a whole lot of starving children hanging around those. There is no “bad side” of the island, unless you want to count the nude beach; a beach to which no one was willing to provide me with directions, incidentally.

We quickly spied a cabbie holding a sign that said “Comedians.”

People love comedians until hit with the disappointment of meeting us offstage. Comedians have a normal side; what a letdown.

We passed sand dunes and tall green grass waving in the warm summer breeze alongside houses, all of the same color. Benjamin Moore, I can assure you, did not get his start anywhere near Cape Cod or the islands. Houses on the Cape are not painted. They are all left au-natural in order to achieve that gray sea-worn look that New England is famous for. I had a friend who lived in New Hampshire who tried to achieve that look with his house. He sided it and then refused to paint it in an attempt to get that same Cape Cod look. Whether he used the wrong type of siding, or just wasn’t close enough to the sea air, his house just kept getting browner and browner.

“That’s just a stage it has to go through,” he convinced himself for more than a year and a half. He finally broke down and covered it with paint when his wife was all but out the door.

We arrived at our hotel and checked in. The headliner, Jimmy, got his own room while the opener; which I was, and the middle act shared a room.

It was a nice little club that sat approximately a hundred and fifty people or so and it would end up being packed to the gills that night. Mike and I arrived early enough to enjoy a beer and a nice meal of fresh seafood before the show.

My act went well that night. I did my twenty minutes and then introduced Mike to an appreciative crowd. Comedians have good nights and bad nights. Sometimes we blame an audience for a bad show that was entirely our fault, but one can never underestimate the importance of the mood of the crowd. A good comedian can usually bring a sluggish crowd around if he’s on his game, but a crowd that starts out strong can mean a magic night for a comic. Without exception; the more energy a comedian gets from the crowd the better he is going to perform. There are just no two ways about it.

Many comedians, including myself, also enjoy repartee with the audience. Repartee, by the way, is not heckling. A heckle is an aggressive remark made in a competitive spirit.

It has always been my theory that hecklers fancy themselves the funnyman of their group of friends and that they become envious seeing so many people focusing on someone doing something that they had always dreamed of doing, but lacked the courage to try. The heckling is an attempt to massage their ego, even if it means making a fool out of themselves and receiving lifetime’s worth of verbal abuse in one night.

Heckling is not fun. It’s not generally fun for the comedian – whether he’s being viewed as winning or not - and prolonged heckling is never fun for the audience. Audiences enjoy a jab thrown here and there, but some hecklers, primarily the drunk ones, don’t know when to quit. They seem to be convinced that the audience paid a cover charge to see their pitiful attempts at outwitting someone who makes a living at being funny. In those cases, the audiences are robbed of hearing material that the comedian has labored over; material that the comedian has spent countless nights on stage working out the kinks to determine the best wording and the right timing.

These points become null and void if the comedian sucks, and there is no shortage of pitiful comics making their way around the circuit.

I walked from the stage to the bar and ordered another beer and a shot of Cuervo; no salt, no lime. A single shot of Cuervo after a successful show has been a longstanding tradition.

“Hey, I really liked your show,” the bartender told me as he put down my drinks.
“Thanks a lot,” I replied. I tipped my head back and poured the tequila slowly into my mouth. I chased it with my beer as he watched.

“You really like that stuff, huh?” he asked with a dangerous look in his eye.
“What’s not to like?” I shrugged.

He smiled as he walked away.

After the show ended, and the majority of the crowd filed out, I was still at the bar. My friend the bartender was taking good care of me (two more Cuervos, which I hadn’t asked for, and several more beers, which I had requested) and I was speaking with a very attractive waitress. Doing very well, I might add.

The bartender came over, grabbed my empty beer glass and stuck it under the tap.
“No thanks. I’m all done,” I told him.

His eyes scanned the room and then he assured me, “You’re going to need this.”
How could I argue with that kind of logic?

He put the foaming beer down and told me he had something else for me as he reached under the bar. He came up with a jelly jar filled with, what looked like, cloudy gasoline.

“Try some of this,” he suggested.

“What the hell is that?” I demanded.

“It’s booze,” he said, obviously confused by my question. He took another quick look at the jar to as if to make sure he hadn’t grabbed the wrong item. Apparently the type of people he generally favored with such an offer didn’t tend to make a whole lot of inquiries.

“No, you’ve got the wrong guy. I don’t play with that stuff.” It was true – that stuff scared me. People have died from drinking moonshine. The lucky ones just go blind.
“It’s not that bad. It’s not as bad as tequila. Have one shot,” he coaxed as he poured some into a shot glass.

“My friend drinks this stuff whenever he comes in here,” the waitress added.
Great. That was all I needed. The waitress had some macho, alcoholic friend that guzzles this garbage like chocolate milk. My male ego had now entered the fray.
I took the glass in hand.

“Why not?” I mumbled as I surveyed my drinking area. My beer was just beside my empty left hand - I would need it the moment this vile liquid was down my throat.
I threw down the shot and chased it. The moonshine immediately evaporated every trace of moisture in my entire body. I became aware of every inch of my esophagus as the moonshine burned slightly all the way down, and then I could feel it land in my stomach with a thud that no liquid should ever make. But the worst thing was that in some sick and moronic way; I liked it.

“That was horrible,” I admitted. I pointed to Mike who was sitting at the other end of the bar talking to a young lady and paying no attention whatsoever to what was happening at our end. “Give him one of those suckers,” I instructed the bartender, who was more than happy to oblige.

He put a shot glass down in front of my friend and poured.

“What’s this” the comic asked.

“Steve wants to buy you a shot,” the bartender told him.

He took one look at the jelly jar and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, to anyone who was keeping score, that he was far smarter than I.

“I’ll drink that only if Steve does one more.”

The shot I had just downed must have started to kick in. Otherwise I have no explanation for why I said, “Okay, set ‘em up.”

The second shot was not quite like the first. It hit me like a house landing on my head. I quickly realized that within five to ten minutes I would become a blithering idiot. I didn’t want to make a fool out of myself in the club that I had just worked, so I decided to call it a night and go back to my room. I excused myself, with some difficulty, and walked out the door into the soft cool New England breeze. The hotel was, oddly enough, situated right in the middle of a very quiet and residential area, which is probably why the show had to be over by ten o’clock and patrons had to be out of the club no later than eleven. Many parts of Martha’s Vineyard turn in early and enjoy quiet evenings and this was one of those sections. Not at all a good place for a twenty-one year old comic bent on moonshine.

The sky was clear, the stars were brilliant and the salt from the nearby sea filled my nostrils. The hotel was surrounded on all sides by wealthy homes and was no more than one property back from the ocean.

The moonshine was really kicking in now and I decided to head for the beach. A nice walk on the beach with the calming sights and sounds of the waves breaking on the beach might help to sober me up a bit.

It would have been a two-minute walk if I had walked down the hotel driveway (which ran parallel to the beach), took a right onto the little country road, and followed it down to the beach. A two-minute walk. Two minutes, I reasoned, was far too long to wait. Recalling my high school science teacher’s dissertation on the shortest path between any two points, I opted for a straight line, which resulted in my taking a shortcut through someone’s back yard. I was very happy with myself as I staggered through this person’s property.

Then I hit the underbrush. It started out light; just heavy grass and then some kind of hedge-type vegetation.

When I got to the thorns it became extremely annoying. That’s when I considered turning back, but as I surveyed my surroundings and progress, I decided that I should just push through. It became very dark very quickly as I made my way farther away from the hotel. Occupants of the houses had long since gone to bed and turned out their lights. No need to keep outside lights burning all night in this quiet little neighborhood, it couldn’t have been safer. I glanced back at the hotel and determined that I had passed the point of no return.

The thorns seemed to go on forever and they just kept getting worse. They started down by my ankles, but eventually started tearing my Levis to shreds all the way up past the knee. I kept going.

My legs were bleeding. I kept going.

I was drunker than I had ever been in my life. I kept on going.

It was pitch black and I couldn’t see anything aside from the stars and a hint of a crescent moon. I kept going.

There was no more land. I kept going.

I had walked off a cliff.

True, it was a small cliff, but it was a cliff just the same. I ended up free-falling for approximately ten feet before I hit the slope, which forced me into an involuntary head-over-heels roll down the embankment and subsequently into a river.
I stood up in the middle of the river, feeling no pain. The water came up to my knees and I was covered from head to toe in mud, seaweed, and gook. It was the dirtiest slimiest river I could have ever dreamed of. If not for the slight current and long narrow appearance, I would have had to describe it as a swamp. I decided that maybe the beach was not such a good idea.

I wasted a good thirty minutes trying to scale the levee, which, from water to thorns, stood approximately eighteen to twenty treacherous feet, almost all straight up. I finally became discouraged and took the long way around.

On my way back to the hotel I was struck with a brilliant idea. Through the cobwebs in my intoxicated skull I remembered someone telling me earlier that this hotel had a pool. Beautiful. I would just take a quick dip in the pool to clear my head and to clean my body and clothes of all the muck. I had a new mission: Find the pool.

The hotel was made up of one long two-story structure that formed an “L” shape. The club was in the short side of the “L” and the other side was made up of rooms, but the hotel also included a number of small buildings in back of the main structure. Each small cottage-like structure housed two separate rooms side by side and it was obvious that the pool would be located in amongst those cottages, although it was not immediately apparent where.

I staggered around undeterred for some time before spotting a small building abutting a large rectangular fence. My intoxicated brain put two and two together and came up with seventeen. I deduced that this building was most certainly the cabana, which would lead to the pool.

I approached the building and opened the door, which, in my defense, was carelessly left unlocked, and then I walked into pitch darkness. From somewhere deep within the dark murkiness I heard snoring.

I had walked into someone’s hotel room.

My brain was too fuzzy to immediately recognize this tragic mistake so I just stood there gaping into the darkness trying to see what kind of an idiot would fall asleep in the hotel cabana. As my eyes began acclimating themselves to the darkness I spied the small college refrigerator on the bureau. That’s when I realized how hungry I was.

I lumbered over to the refrigerator and opened it up. The snoring had become little more than comforting background noise that I was barely aware of. My priorities had changed. Inside the refrigerator was a half-pound of sliced ham - perfect.

Somehow, through my stupor, my morals seeped back to the surface and it occurred to me, as I stood there holding someone else’s cold cuts, that if I took the ham out of this man’s room it would be stealing. I didn’t want to steal anything, so I began to eat the ham one slice at a time at the foot of this stranger’s bed. He snored; I chewed. Occasionally I glanced over my shoulder at the figure sleeping happily, but I felt not the smallest sense of paranoia as I defiled the sanctuary of his sleeping space. I felt sure that if he woke up he would sit there and listen very calmly to my sad story, after which, he would be more than happy to ration his ham with me.

When there were three slices left I decided to be fair to this man who had shared so much with me. I put the three slices of ham back into the refrigerator and noticed that the cellophane was now caked with mud. I saw the mud dripping from the handle of the door of the refrigerator and then the muddy footprints all over the carpeting. Until that moment I had completely forgotten what I looked like. If my gracious host had awakened he wouldn’t have seen anything that resembled a human being.

I slipped out of his room and stumbled back to my own. Not having my key, I was forced to pound on the door until Mike finally woke up to let me in.

He screamed when he saw what was at his door. He was still shaking noticeably when I finally emerged from the shower.

It has been a number of years since my island adventure and I never went back for more moonshine. It didn’t exactly hook me in, but I often wonder what ever happened to that jelly jar and if it is still being pulled out from beneath that bar.

I’m not proud of that episode, but I will reiterate that every word of it is true, from the first to the last.

I have long since recovered from the thorn inflicted wounds and the cliff inflicted bruises, and even from the dreadful hangover that lasted for more than a day. But somewhere on this Earth lives a frightened shell of a man who has sworn up and down to his friends and family that one moonless summer night on Martha’s Vineyard, some kind of swamp monster broke into his hotel room and ate nearly all of his ham.

He doesn’t tell the story anymore; he is tired of being mocked, but he feels a strange kinship to those who believe they were abducted by aliens. He knows that there is something not quite human lurking out there in the night, hungering for sliced ham.

I’m willing to bet that he doesn’t sleep as well as he once did; and I guarantee that he never sleeps without checking the door lock several times.

There are by the way, two very important morals to this tragic tale of human frailty. Never, never, never drink anything that is served out of a jelly jar and don’t ever go to sleep with your doors unlocked.

You never know when I’ll be performing in your hometown.

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