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


December 2018
« Aug    

Recent Comments



[twitter-feed option="value"] [twitter-feed option="value"]

Florence to Detroit, by way of Lebanon

By Milt Abel | 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 »

Nebraska and Extra Atmosphere

By Milt Abel | December 11, 2011

Nebraska and Extra Atmosphere

It was a week of last minute work. Wednesday I received notice I’d be doing some Extra work for an Oregon Lottery commercial on Thursday. Thursday I received an offer to work a private party in Nebraska on Saturday. As I write this Sunday morning; in the air on my return from Nebraska, perhaps as I touch down and turn on my phone, I’ll discover an opportunity to work on way home from the airport.

The Extra work (background people in film and television production) was for outside work; we supposed to be people running after a pot-of-gold. A contagion of greed, spread by magical music from a leprechaun, causes all sorts of people to pour from their workplace and taxis and run towards the ‘end of the rainbow.’  It was supposed to be funny, and I was asked simply to run down a street in one shot, and a sidewalk in another. Because of my background in comedy, I know how to look funny running; exaggerated arm reaches, a contorted face, clomping feet. Maybe too funny. The director told me to back it off and run normally. (sigh) I was the only one told to do so.

It was during a week of unusually cold weather for Portland, so if we were going to be outside, good that we were running. It turned out to be a fun day -despite my admonishment to ‘tone-it-down’ because of the other five ‘Extras’ that were in the van where we huddled between takes. Three women and two other men. One lady had recently produced a small-budget feature length film, we watched the trailer on our smart phones, and was doing Extra work “for Christmas money” Another woman was a housewife whose husband was a lobbyist and was working on pitching a politically-themed reality television show, and the third gal was an attractive but somewhat down-on-her-luck struggle actress/dating counselor. She taught seminars about how to flirt and date, and ran a dating service for a while in Seattle and Los Angeles; but what was interesting was that she herself seemed to be constantly dating. As we drove from location to location she would point to a residential window and say, “I have an ex-boyfriend that lives there.” This happened a couple times and the day starting turning into a somewhat emotionally perverse, relationship pub-crawl.

While huddled in the van for warmth I got an email asking if I was still available Saturday night to work as a comic for a private Christmas party. It was for a veterinarian  supply company on the Kansas-Nebraska border, with the event itself held in the town of Hubbell, Nebraska (pop. of 73 in 2000 census). Yes, I was available and yes, I would fly to the hinterlands of Nebraska to make some money instead of staying home and watching Law and Order reruns.

Here’s a photo I snapped from the car as I drove from Lincoln to Beatrice, Nebraska. Nebraska in December is redundant. As I got closer and closer and the towns got smaller and smaller, and in complete darkness by the time I got anyway near Hubbell. Other traffic was so rare on the road, it felt like cars weren’t free to drive in these outer regions of Nebraska. You had to have a purpose to be out, a hall pass. Or be lost.

I joked in my performance that night: “I’m not saying Hubbell is a small town, but you know how large towns have signposts indicating how many miles remain to drive, the larger the town the greater the distance. Hubbell’s only sign is a guy with a cardboard sign that reads, ‘Entering Hubbell’ and before you get to him he flips it over to read, ‘You missed it’.”

It was a surprising bit of slipping under the wire to make the gig. I didn’t get a flight arranged until late Friday afternoon, I didn’t get my rental arranged until Saturday morning, and I had to pull over into a all-night Wal-Mart around midnight to get a car outlet charger so I could read the email about what hotel I’d be staying at for four hours before shuffling off for this flight I’m on now. The itinerary started at 6:35AM.

But the money from the gig means Santa’s sleigh will be a little heavier as he lands on our roof. Elves don’t just work in the North Pole, but other places as cold and bleak.

Topics: comedy, humor, travel | 1 Comment »

« Previous Entries Next Entries »