Today is my three year anniversary.
On March 5, 2017, I was awakened at the crack of dawn and taken to the operating room at Emory University for surgery. Dr. Sharma removed a 9 centimeter tumor from my large intestine, a damaged part of my small intestine, and forty lymph nodes. Since that was the first step in my getting better, the start of this process of healing, I mark today as my anniversary.
But today’s post isn’t about that.
Today’s post is about Dubuque, Iowa.
One of my favorite things to do is perform out of town. I’ve been lucky to get to do it a lot of over the course of my career. Much of my stand up life was spent doing weekends in Connecticut and New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I’d get there on Friday, do the show, get drunk, and then Saturday explore the town. That night I’d perform once again, get drunk once again, and head home the next morning after a breakfast of hotel lobby waffles.
These were not glamours cities. The fanciest was San Antonio. That should tell you something. But there was something wonderful about being a tourist in a place I would never choose to visit. It taught me to look for beauty where I would least expect it.
And it worked. I’ve had the best times! I spent the most incredible spiring day wandering around downtown Syracuse. I marveled at abandoned buildings in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania that stood as testaments to a once thriving city. That stood as the magnets that would bring people back. I’ve hung out on the edge of Lake Ontario, sipping gourmet coffee in Sackets Harbor, NY. I’ve walked through the park on the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock the day after a major thunderstorm. The rapidly flowing water was filled with branches. I sat on a rock and watched the river rage on my way to eat dinner at Gus’s Fried Chicken.
So many towns. So much cool shit. None of which I would have seen if not for performing.
The past two weeks have been particularly exciting. I got to do STAGES at USC Aiken. I stayed at a historic bed and breakfast right downtown. I drove through parts of South Carolina I rarely get to see. Then I’ve spent the past ten days in Iowa City. I’ve loved being in this funky little college town. I’ve eaten the most delicious shawarma and stayed in this Historic Writer’s House three blocks from the theatre. And then on Tuesday, after hanging out in front of a giant inflatable colon, (see yesterday’s post) Adam and I drove to Dubuque, Iowa to perform STAGES at Clarke University.
That’s right. A trip WITHIN a trip. Both to towns no one wants to visit. Was this heaven or what!
The trip had an ominous beginning. Monday night I could barely sleep. The pain in my hip was unbearable. I kept taking medicine but it was like throwing a rock a tidal wave. At 4am I was pacing the hallway begging for some relief. At 5am I gave up and started watching The Bachelor. Luckily it was the Women Tell All episode so after 30 minutes it did what Oxycodone and Morphine could not- it put me to sleep.
Not for long, though. At 7:30 I was up making tea. I figured starting the day would be better than trying to make it through the night.
Adam picked me up at about 9 and we we headed to Dubuque at 11. Because of my hip I couldn’t really sit, so I put my stuff in the front seat and stretched out in the back. He kept commenting on how beautiful the countryside was. I’d pull myself up, take a quick gander, and then flop back down.
We stayed at the Hotel Julien. It’s a wonderful hotel in downtown Dubuque, right on the Mississippi River, that used to be owned by Al Capone. My room had two bathrobes. TWO! It was so comfortable I slept the entire night wrapped in one.
All the old buildings in downtown Dubuque are covered with murals. It was a project sponsored by the city to beautify downtown. According to my friend it had been met with much trepidation, as most good ideas are. I’m glad they did the right thing and went ahead with it. It’s amazing the way art can turn a wall into a masterpiece.
After the show we headed back to the hotel bar and had drinks with my friend and graduate school classmate Joe Klienbriel. I hadn’t seen Joe Klinebriel in 18 years. A lifetime. We took a long over due walk down memory lane.
The next morning Joe’s wife, Jill, called the hotel and bought Adam and I breakfast. We each grabbed a copy of the local paper and read it cover to cover over eggs and potatoes. I think going back to getting our news from the local paper every morning would solve about 100% of our country’s problems. It’s so easy to hate people who disagree with you on Twitter and Facebook. It’s much more difficult to work up that level of rage reading stories from the AP over grits and pancakes.
Then we headed back to Iowa City. Despite the pain, I showed up. It was a great way to spend this odd anniversary…doing what I’ve been doing this entire time. Despite the diagnosis, I’ve always shown up for my life.
What other option is there?
Not that I believe that every thing happens for a reason, but if it does, then maybe that’s what my time on the road as a comedian was for. It taught me to find beauty in Scranton, PA. If I can do that, then no wonder finding the beauty in these past three years has been such a piece of cake.