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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thunder Bay to Green Bay

Yesterday I was musing to myself how insane much of the traveling days of youth really were. I guess the most grueling trip was the time that I opened for Jerry Lee Lewis in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and then with the help of my Superior, Wisconsin friend Gerald Fitzgerald (God rest his soul) we hauled ass all the way to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to do a luncheon engagement at 12:30 PM.

Much of it was then a blur and still is now as I cannot recall the group I was entertaining for in Green Bay except that it was some sort of rural-oriented youth group.

We arrived in Thunder Bay well in advance of the performance time and I remember observing Lewis and his band of "yes" men sitting around smoking cigarettes and playing cards. They totally ignored Gerald and I which was just fine with both of us as Jerry Lee et al were high on something - and from the rapidity of the conversations I would guess it was most certainly uppers not downers, but then Jerry Lee is/was famous for being a "speed-freak".

I do remember being a bit more nervous than usual as I had never worked for Canadians before but they turned out to be a great audience, with a similar response that I got in Wisconsin (but then, Thunder Bay is almost directly north of the Badger State so that makes sense).

After I finished my half hour, I went back stage and found Gerald shaking his head in wonder at the behavior of Jerry Lee. He told me that Lewis was a "pretty frightening dude" and made a vampire reference.

We went around to the front of the theatre and watched him perform two tunes, then mounted up for the long run to Green Bay. We left Thunder Bay around 8:45PM and fortified with our own version of speed (coffee and more coffee) we alternately spelled one another and drove continuously, watching the sun rise in the rear view mirror - 520 miles, 9 and one half hours of driving, stopping only for the kidneys, breakfast, and an exhausted nap along Highway 29 somewhere between Wausau and our final destination.

By the time I did my second show I was running only on adrenalin and got a might silly which seemed to go over okay.

The next tuesday I got a letter post marked Thunder Bay, Ontario, containing a note an a clipping from the Thunder Bay newspaper. It had been sent by the newspaper entertainment editor who had been at the show. The note said something to the effect that I had done an outstanding job and thought that I should have the review. His opening line was along the line of "Jerry Lee Lewis could learn something from his opening act about relating to his audience".


Some of us Packer fans amuse ourselves by scaring every Minnesota fan
we see strutting down the street with that obnoxious purple and gold
"Viking" on their shirt and/or hat. We swerve our vehicles as if to hit
them, and swerve back just missing them (not that I condone such an
act - of course not!).

One day, while driving down the road with my wife, I saw a priest
walking. I thought I would do a good deed, so I pulled over and asked
the priest, "Where are you going, Father?"

"I'm going to say Mass at Our Lady of the Hills Church, about 2 miles
down the road," replied the priest .
"Climb in, Father. I'll give you a lift."

The priest climbed into the rear passenger seat, and we continued down
the road.

Suddenly, I saw a Minnesota fan walking down the road, with that
irritating "Viking" shirt on, and I instinctively swerved as if to hit
him. But, as usual, swerved back into the road just in time.

Even though I was certain that I had missed the guy, I still heard a
loud thud. Not understanding where the noise came from, I glanced in my
mirrors, but still didn't see anything.

I then remembered the priest. I turned to him and said, "Sorry Father,
I almost hit that Minnesota fan."

"That's OK," replied the priest, "I got him with the door!"



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