Living the Dream (Sort of)

With my friend who also happens to be one of the best newspaper columnists in America, Bob Kravitz.

My grandfather was Irish. He took being Irish seriously, being a mainly functioning alcoholic I believe most of his time on this earth. His wife, my grandmother, was I believe a undiagnosed narcoleptic. This posed a problem because she was a 2 packs per day smoker, so she would often fall-asleep with a butt in her mouth and nearly burn down the house. These were the people that my parents chose to be my primary babysitters.

What posed a greater problem was they lived right on Highway 6, which was the main thoroughfare through the US until Interstate 80 was built. With them often checking out, I would wander down to the corner store to try to hustle penny candy. Considering I would do this as young as the age of 4 years old, it seems pretty crazy now, but at the time I guess it didn’t seem like a big deal, as it was small-town in Iowa in the 70’s. The kidnappers and pedophiles were more underground, since this was the time before John Walsh and Nancy Grace had a platform to publicize and monetize these crimes against society.

I mention these things because one thing my Grandfather used to like to do when he got shit-faced was ask me a question. So Scott, what are you going to do with your life? Seems like a fair question, but he might have been asking a little earlier than needed since I remember the first time he posed this question I was 7 years old.  I can remember my answer was, I want to be a basketball player.  His response was pretty direct.  (Drunkenly roared) A basketball player! Aren’t you a little short to be a basketball player? And have you ever looked in the mirror? Basketball is game played by Niggers.

Now let’s go over this in detail.

  • I was only 7, so the jury was still out a little on my height, but since no one was much taller than 6 feet in my family, he might have had something on that front.
  • As you might guess, I didn’t grow up in a family where no one saw color. Skin differences were often pointed out to me with very colorful language.  At that point I hadn’t stopped to consider that most of the NBA was Black. Sure Grandpa could have stated it a different way, but once again he was factually right on some level. He also did what a lot of family did for me.  Demonstrate the wrong way to look at life and strive to do the opposite.
  • Final Note: Don’t know if I should be capitalizing Niggers or not. Racist grammar is not my strong point.

It could be argued that killing someone’s dreams at the age of 7 is kind of harsh, but it did get me thinking.  It made me a realist at a young age. I loved sports, so to be connected to it I would have to go a different way. My dream changed to wanting be a sports columnist or host my own sports radio talkshow.  So for the next 15 years that is the path I pursued.  I used to write detailed previews in a spiral notebook of each team in every sport. I ended up being the editor of my school newspaper my junior and senior years in high school. My columns I wrote in it were rarely about anything about the local high school team. I wrote about what I wanted to, like major college and pro sports, all done with comedy and attitude. I won some state journalism awards. I was also called on the carpet a couple times by the district superintendent of schools, but my high school journalism teacher gave me a lot of free reign, which I will always be grateful for.

So I end up following the dream to the next level by attending the University of Iowa J-school.  That didn’t turn out the way I totally wanted it to.  I was a financially poor college student barely scraping by while working 25 hours a week at some Burger joint, so I never had time to work on the school paper. I couldn’t afford to pursue internships, as they don’t pay the bills. I had no guidance in taking a path that would get me a job in journalism, so when I left Iowa, I basically had a worthless piece of paper to show for it.  (I had a great time there, though.)

I bounced around Chicago for a year trying to find a job. First real job is a Marketing position that was going to pay big bucks with the potential of commission. I was to go around selling ads for a Local Welcome Wagon type Magazine.  How it was explained to me was people move into to a new area and these magazines would be passed out to them by real estate agents. So after a couple of weeks of cold-calling I show up to the office, as it was my first paycheck day.  The office was empty, well except for my 15 other fellow rubes who had helped this con-man to a lot of money for a magazine that would never be produced. Welcome to the real world.

Next gig I get is working as a Portrait Studio manager for Marshall Fields. Good news, I got paid. Bad news is how much and how many hours I had to work to get that pay. Not quite sure how my college education came in handy trying to sell family photo packages, but it paid (barely) my bills. It’s a sad life when the highlight of your day is eating Sbarro at the Mall Food Court. One day I had to fill-in for the photographer which also happened to be the same day my old college roommate showed up. I’m shaking a rattle and trying to get some 6 month-old to smile, as my friend, who was making almost double what I was as a pharmacist is laughing his ass off–at me and my pathetic life.

I’ve outlined before why I quit Marshall Fields as I was not cut-out to deal with customer service work.  I moved to Indianapolis soon after, as my girlfriend’s family lived there and I needed to find a cheaper place to live. For the next couple years I kicked around trying to get freelance writing jobs with a stack of rejection letters to follow. I did have a chance to write for some small-town paper, but I just couldn’t see getting any fulfillment out of that. I waited tables at this time and applied to be a manager for a Honeybaked Hams and a manager for Terminix. Yes, your comedy hero could have never hit the stage because he was busy glazing meat or bugs. It’s chilling to think about, isn’t it?

I never truly gave up my childhood dream of being a sportswriter or sports talk show host, though. While the main source of my income has been standup, I’ve also been a guest on hundreds of sports radio shows. For 5 years I wrote a highly-received blog titled the Juice Blog, with my great friend Will Carroll. I’ve written for the NFL on FOX pregame show for 9 seasons now.  I guess in some ways I’ve come closer to achieving my childhood dream than most, which I am proud of.

Recently I’ve become good friends with the face of the Indianapolis Star, sports columnist Bob Kravitz. Bob is the only person in the state of Indiana who totally lived my childhood dream. Besides being an award-winning writer, he has hosted his own radio talk show, as well.  He’s a great guy with better stories than anyone else I know. Despite all these great things going for him, he still at the core is a neurotic, conflicted person.  I’m happy to report that even though he is living my dream in many ways, he still seems to be just as miserable and as unfulfilled as myself.  That comforts me.  The more famous people you meet the more you will realize that very few are truly happy, despite their outward sense of success. Like myself, I don’t think for a minute that Bob would want to trade his life with too many other people on this planet.  So why does he feel unfulfilled on some levels? Because if you are satisfied with your current status in life, it’s hard to motivate yourself to go further.  This last paragraph is about as close as I’m going to get to motivational speaking. Take it whatever way you want or need.

I always loved standup comedy, as it was place for me to escape the abuse I was suffering from my father.  While it was never my dream to be a standup, I’m not sure I could have found another job where I would have so much fun doing it, not to mention having a gig where I nightly would have a chance to test my creativity.  So maybe I am living the dream.  I just wish it paid better.

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