Milt Abel is a stand-up comedian traveling the world, and places closer.

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Florence to Detroit, by way of Lebanon

By Milt Abel | January 22, 2012

| January 22, 2012

“It’s not a fit night out for man nor beast, so there’s no explaining you lot.”

That was my opening line to audiences both Wednesday and Thursday this week. Oregon is having a thirty-year storm; levels of rain, wind, and snow that happen only once in several decades and I drove over half of Western Oregon to see it up close.
It hasn’t been forty day and forty nights of rain, not yet, but it hasn’t stopped me from looking up ‘shipbuilding’ in Wikipedia (When Wikipedia isn’t blacked-out in protest). An awl is not all I’ll need. It’s still raining as I write this Sunday morning.

I got a call Wednesday morning to fill in for a comic from the Seattle area who was snowed in, and couldn’t make it to the Three Rivers Casino in Florence, Oregon with a second night for a venue in Bend. I could stay home and catch up on Law and Order reruns, or drive around in a tempest (not the 1964 GTO Pontaic Tempest) and earn some money to pay my cable bill -so I could watch Law and Order reruns, when no one calls.

I love last-minute calls to make money I hadn’t planned on. It seems like found money, initially. Then you start doing the packing and driving, and hunting for gas stations, and checking in and out of hotels, and driving across flooded rivers, or around sinkholes on major highways, and then the money doesn’t seem so ‘found.’ There’s a line in one of my all-time favorite movies, A Man for All Seasons, where Sir Thomas Moore skewers an upstart who lies and betrays him for promised land and wealth: “Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world… but for Wales?” I’d make no profit at all if I totalled my car… for Bend?

Florence Wednesday, Bend Thursday. The drive to Florence meant heading over the coastal range on Highway 126, which winds along a river that was swallowing doormats and floormats (creeping into homes and parked cars) as I headed out. By Thursday morning the road was closed and I had to reroute, going north up the more steadfast highway 101 before heading east and towards Bend. But that turned perilous too when a sinkhole broke open the southbound lane and poured pavement down the hillside. I saw no car(s) in the shallow drop so the road was gracious enough to fail when no one was looking.

It was unnerving to head north because there was almost no southbound traffic. You feel like your driving to a dead end. Highway 101 is a beautiful coastal drive but it’s not the kind of road that you want to have to back-up and turn around on; at various points its edges drop into raging, rocky surf. My car is from an Asian manufacturer and everyone knows Charlie don’t surf.

I passed through Lebanon to get to Bend. Oregon has some of the most quaint and oddball names of towns; Boring, Drain, Florence, Bend, Sweet Home, Detroit. It got me thinking about how towns are named, the most fun are those names that refer to a physical characteristic or singular event; I passed a town called Burnt Wood, and started wondering if there was a Stubbed Toe, Nebraska or an Ugly Divorce, Tennessee, and maybe a Nothing Yet, Idaho.

The mountain passage was no less relaxing than the coastal business. I made it though; returning home from Bend – with yet another route I hadn’t taken, and was unsure of its pass-ability, I was able to finally relax when I hit Detroit. The snow and ice was behind me and now there was only flooding to worry about.

Saturday night I did a private party in Seattle. Drove up and back for that, so lots of driving once again. I increased my profit by declining the expense of a hotel, but the three-hour drive back after the show was hard. I lessened the burden by listening, through my smartphone, to Cat Stevens musical clips on YouTube.

I had forgotten how much I liked his stuff and how rewarding I found his soul-searching lyrics. I remember him going underground, so-to-speak, during a chapter of his career because all the fame got to him. Then he ended up going a bit too far, for me, by going Muslim and changing his name; passing through incarnations like I did towns this week.

Maybe it was the fame that got to him, but it could have easily been the traveling.

Topics: comedy | 4 Comments »

4 Responses to “Florence to Detroit, by way of Lebanon”

  1. vee Says:
    January 22nd, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    So, I’m wondering where is YOUR radio program on NPR?

  2. Milt Abel Says:
    January 22nd, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    It’s not on the dial. I tried reading one of these out loud for a possible podcast, and it sounded… off. Like you could hear the typos.

  3. Michele Says:
    January 22nd, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Good idea, vee, the cadence does sound like something that would go over well on NPR, and Milt has the voice for it.

    Move over Sedaris.

  4. Milt Abel Says:
    January 22nd, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Thank you, Michelle. You are too generous to mention me and Sedaris in the same month.

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