Stage fright


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I have always been afraid of speaking in public. I avoid speaking whenever possible. However, I ended up becoming a teacher. And now I am a Spanish teacher and a standup comedian.

I was always afraid to speak as a young boy because my first language was Spanish, and I didn’t speak English until I started school. I struggled with both languages through my entire grade school years.

There’s an old joke that goes like this: “What were the worst two years of your life?” “The fourth grade.”

Now, I am still struggling to overcome my stage fright. But now, I am a standup comedian. Each time I perform, I feel a little more comfortable, and a little less nervous. The more I perform, the more confident I feel in myself. All performers admit that they suffer from stage fright, but they have controlled it so well, that is hardly noticeable. I hope to reach that level someday!

DDR

Earl, the rescue dog


Earl, the rescue dog

I apologize for the dog hair. We have a new dog. It’s a rescue. Now my wife refers to me as one of her two rescues. On the plus side, I now have a best friend, Earl, our rescue dog. Earl is a mutt. They scolded me at the animal shelter for calling him a “mutt.” I’m sorry if I offended anyone, Earl is a mixed breed.

After our previous dog Pluto passed away at eighteen years old, I kept hearing, “Dad, can we get another dog? Dad, I promise to take care of him! Dad, I promise to walk him! Dad, I promise to feed him!” And that was just my wife! Guess what! I now get a lot of exercise walking Earl every morning. And every afternoon. And every night.

There are many benefits to having a dog. In addition to exercising every time I walk Earl, I also get to meet new friends. Since we adopted Earl, I’ve met Louie, Stella, Georgie, and Rocco. Those are just the dogs. I hate to say it, but I can’t name any of my neighbors. When you have a dog, you get to walk around with a bag of dog poop. And no one questions your motives.

After a year of mourning Pluto, my wife and I agreed to adopt a dog from a rescue shelter. We both agreed. No chihuahuas! No pit bulls! We came home with Earl, a great rescue dog! Earl was the name he came with. I liked it because I previously had dogs named Duke, Queenie, and Princess. So, Earl fit right in with the previous lineage of royalty.

Earl doesn’t bark or bite. Perfect! Right? My wife decided to have his DNA done. It turns out that that Earl is half-chihuahua, half-pit bull. Ay, chihuahua! He looks like a chihuahua on steroids. I’m going to have him audition for a Marvel Universe movie. Maybe he can team up with the raccoon. Ay, Chihuahua! The Rescue Dog! All he needs is the cape.

My wife signed us up for obedience classes. But I’m sure the obedience classes were more for me than for Earl. But the classes were very useful. We learned a lot of one-word commands like, “Sit!” “Stay!” “Paw!” We made a good team! Well, after six weeks of obedience classes, even my wife will admit that I am now a very good boy!

When the lockdown was over, we suffered from separation anxiety. Well, mostly me. I missed my little Earl. Oh, yeah, and my wife, too. With Earl, at least someone is happy to see me when I come home now.

When I went back to the classroom, without thinking, I started using dog commands on my students. As the students walked into the classroom, I would say, “Sit!” If they tried to leave class early, I would tell them, “Stay!” When I returned homework, I said, “Paw!” The students didn’t like that.

Yesterday, my wife called me from work to tell me to turn on the air conditioning because it was really hot. I told her I was fine. She said, “No! Not for you! Turn the air on for Earl!”

DDR

Unexplainable


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Some things are unexplainable.

For instance, have you ever been sitting in the cafeteria, or the computer lab, and you have a feeling that someone is looking at you? Well, you can actually feel that someone looking at you. You look up and that person is actually looking at you! There’s an awkward pause and usually the other person immediately looks away. However, you feel them looking at you again, and when you look up at them, that person quickly looks away feigning innocence.

My question is: How is it possible to feel someone’s gaze on your person? We’ve all experienced it. How do you prove this phenomenon scientifically? None of our usual five senses detect our being looked at. We just know someone is looking at us. When we get this feeling of being watched, rarely are we mistaken.

Well, to be perfectly honest, I, too, have been guilty of staring at strangers in public places. I find some people attractive and/or interesting, and I find myself observing (probably more like staring at) them. Of course, they can feel my gaze, and immediately look up in my direction! Busted! What can I say? I feel guilty of voyeurism. Especially if I continue observing that person after acknowledging my guilty pleasure.

I don’t really believe in ESP or other extrasensory abilities, but I am amazed that we have the ability to sense other people looking at us.

DDR

Comedian


The Lineup

Well, I’ve started going back to the comedy clubs after more than thirty-three years. Things have really changed since then. So many changes! I think the changes are for the better.

I was surprised by how many comedians go to the so many available open mics in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. And the comedians are so supportive of each other. Of course, that’s not surprising because Chicago is one of the comedy breeding grounds for the U.S. If you are a new comedian, you may perform every night of the week, multiple times per day. And there are no hecklers. I was incredibly surprised by that. I remember always dreading my confrontations with hecklers. Some of my best shows, of course, were when I was able to handle the hecklers.

Gone are the smoke-filled comedy rooms since smoking was banned indoors, which is great for me since I have always been a non-smoker. But I miss the ambience. However, the audiences are nicer now that they don’t smoke.

Back in 1986, I occasionally earned money as a standup comedian. Now, many clubs have a two-drink minimum for comedians who want to participate for the open mic. Yes, I understand that this helps keep the clubs open, but I remember getting paid five dollars and getting two drinks for performing at the open mic at the Higgins Street Cafe.

Back in 1983, all the open mics started at 9:00 or 9:30. Now they start much earlier, often as early as 6:00 PM. This is much more convenient for aspiring comics who must get up early for work the next morning.

There are so many comics attending all these open mics. Yes, I’m one of them, too. Last night, I went to The Comedy Shrine and there were forty comedians signed up! And about half of them were very funny. Not only do I perform, but I also enjoy watching the other comedians perform.

When I started performing this go-round, I wrote all new jokes. I had my friend Vito look over my jokes and he contributed some very funny jokes, as he did for me back in 1983 and 1986. Most of the jokes went over very well. Afterwards, several comics would ask me, “How long have you been doing comedy?” I suppose you can take that both ways: 1. That I sound like I have some previous experience as a comedian, or, 2. You must be new to comedy!

Well, I am finally overcoming my stage fright and getting more comfortable on stage. My new jokes are getting laughs at all the right times. Plus, I have been inserting my old jokes in there from time to time. At first, I was afraid to tell the old jokes, but I told one or two from time to time. Some of my biggest laughs come from jokes that are more than thirty years old!

I’ll keep working at standup comedy for the near future. I enjoy hearing the laughter. Maybe I’m crazy, but I finally found my true calling.

DDR

I’m back!


I’m back! At least, I think I am. Or, rather, I want to be. I have such a guilty conscience since I stopped writing blog posts. I could list hundreds of excuses for not writing, such as too busy, not enough time, I teach too many classes, I correct too many compositions and/or homework, etc, but I won’t list any!

I really have missed writing this blog, so now that the semester is almost over, I’m beginning to think about writing again.

Secrets


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“A secret is something you tell one person at a time.'”
“Three can keep a secret if two are dead.”

I know how to keep a secret! A while back, my brother told me he was getting divorced after thirty-five years of marriage. He prefaced his announcement by asking me not to tell anyone. I promised not to tell anyone.

A few months later, my brother posted his plans to get divorced on Facebook. I saw the post and thought he phrased it in such a way that blamed neither party for the divorce. My wife was surprised by his announcement. She asked me, “Did you see that your brother is getting divorced?” “Yes, I knew about his divorce. He told me a few months ago that he was getting divorced.” My wife was surprised I knew and then asked me, “Why didn’t you tell me?” “Because I promised him not to tell anyone. So, I didn’t tell anyone.” She insisted that I could have told her because she was my wife, and she should have been privy to such information. Well, I did not–and will not in the future–tell her or anyone a secret someone shared with me in strict confidentiality.

I know how to keep a secret!

Fitbit friends


I hope I don’t sound obsessive about my Fitbit tracking device, because I’m not, but I do happen to think about it a lot. I mean so much that I always have it on my body, especially when I run. I have rarely forgotten to bring it along. In fact, before I go out for a run, I make sure my running shoes are tied properly, I have my house key, and I have my Fitbit.

I’ve had it for a year now. My wife Beata gave it to me for my birthday last year and I’ve been using it ever since. At first, I did it to appease Beata, but then I gradually wore it out of habit. I am, after all, a creature of habit.

In order to use Fitbit, you need to set it up on your computer so it can keep track of your activities. Since I love computers, that was an added incentive to use it even though I never felt the need bring along any device on a run. But I’m not obsessed by this Fitbit tracker. Really, I’m not. Soon, I discovered that you could have Fitbit friends, similar to Facebook friends. I thought that was a great idea because running is much easier when you have running friends even if you don’t actually run with them in person. The camaraderie of runners is always inspirational. Sometimes just talking about running with another runner makes you a better runner.

Of course, my first Fitbit friend was my wife Beata. I found her first. I always told her that I was pretty sure that walked and/or ran the 10,000 steps recommended by Fitbit, but she didn’t believe me. Even before she first gave me the Fitbit, my running was gradually improving and I was slowly increasing my miles from the 4.5 miles I thought should be my minimum daily requirement. I was exceeding 10,000 steps on a daily basis and Beata was surprised. She became competitive and upped her mileage. I also gradually increased my mileage, not to surpass her, but to compete against myself. I wanted to return to my former running form.

I didn’t expect to make new friends on Fitbit, but soon I discovered that my cousin Sandy was on Fitbit. And she is occasionally at the top of the leader board. Then my cousins Nancy and Jane became my Fitbit friends. I think we all feel encouraged to have this sort of camaraderie.

And then one day, I became friends with Lianne whom I know from my old neighborhood, the Back of the Yards. I didn’t actually know her when we lived in the old neighborhood, but we are now friends on Facebook and on Fitbit. However, I did meet her once at our Back of the Yards reunion party three years ago. I always enjoy meeting people from my past unexpectedly.

I enjoy seeing everyone’s name in the Fitbit rankings. I find it inspirational. Let’s see how many more Fitbit friends I will make.

Fitbit


I have never needed much motivation to go running. I enjoy running even on the days when I feel aches and pains during the run because it feels so good when I stop. And I also feel this great sense of accomplishment.

I have never needed much equipment to go running, either. As long as I have a good pair of running shoes, I don’t need much of anything else. As far as running clothing, I wear running shorts, but I have also run in cutoff blue jeans and any old t-shirt or tank top will do in the summer. In the winter, I wear layers under a good running suit.

I have never run with music because I like to travel lightly. Besides, I really enjoy the view as I run. Although I usually run the same daily route, I try to find something new every time I run. I like greeting other runners whenever I encounter them, especially in the winter when there are less of us out there braving the elements. I enjoy running for what it is in all its simplicity, without any other distractions like music. Well, it’s not so much the music, but the delivery device that I have to wear that restricts my freedom of movement. I like to concentrate fully on running and not on which song is playing or how do I skip to the next one. I want to be fully aware of my surroundings. I want to be one with nature because if I’m not, I might get hit by a truck and become one with the pavement.

Anyway, last year for my birthday, my wife Beata bought me a fitbit for my birthday. She got a Fitbit through her health insurance and if she walked 10,000 steps she would get points toward her health plan. Then, she decided that I also needed a Fitbit. I told her that I was pretty sure that I walked and/or ran at least 10,000 steps per day, but she didn’t believe me. It’s been a year now that I have this little Fitbit and for the most part I do log in 10,000 steps per day, except on rest days when I only log in 5,000 to 7,000 steps.

This fitbit is a tiny little device, so I decided to give it a try. I normally don’t like to carry anything when I run because I don’t like to feel that extra weight on me and it always impedes my running in some way. I once measured the circuit I run with my iPhone 2 and I didn’t like carrying it because I was so self-conscious of it during the entire run. I was afraid I would drop it. I did the same last year, measuring my new running circuit, only this time with a Samsung Galaxy Note 2. Even though it was cool enough to wear a running suit, the size and weight of the phone in my pocket made for some very uncomfortable running. But I wanted to have some idea of the distance I was running.

Well, the Fitbit is so small I carry it in my pocket all day long. When I run, I clip on the waistband of my shorts or put it into the pocket of my running suit during colder weather. I hardly notice it. However, I’m not so sure that it’s very accurate. Last summer when I increased my mileage, I found a comfortable and enjoyable running route. As I was increasing my mileage for the first time in years, my pace was excruciatingly slow. With time, my running form and endurance improved, and so did my pace. I noticed that on my Fitbit the nine-plus miles I ran gradually became less than nine miles as my running improved even though I was covering the same distance. I believe this happened because Fitbit counts steps and not distance. The number of steps also declined because as my running improved my stride lengthened a bit.

Overall, I think I would still be running the same distance and with the same motivation even if I didn’t have this Fitbit.  I don’t really need it. Perhaps some runners need it and that’s fine. I know my wife enjoys the encouragement she receives from Fitbit and she runs more often because of it.

Driving


My sons are now driving. They now have their driver’s license at age seventeen because they took driver’s ed. At first, they were enthusiastic about driving, but now that they have been driving awhile, the excitement has worn off. Especially since the car wouldn’t start up twice and I had to help them get it running again. I told them that part of driving also involves having car problems and getting stranded far away from home. They told me that driving wasn’t much fun anymore.

I remember when I first learned to drive. I took driver’s ed in high school Indiana, but I couldn’t get my license mailed to me because I had moved back home to Chicago, Illinois. So, I didn’t drive until I was eighteen and I had bought my own car. Not that I’m complaining. I always enjoyed walking and taking public transportation when I was in high school.

After high school, my friends and I all had our own cars. Whenever we went anywhere, we all drove to our destination separately, in our own cars. If we had to car pool, Each one of us wanted to be the driver. The driver would drive his own car. There was an unwritten rule that no one was allowed to drive someone else’s car. Unless, they were in no condition to drive.

Now that we’re older, my friends and I don’t see much of each other. When we do, we still argue over who will drive. However, the dialogue goes like this: “You drive.” “No, you drive. I drove the last time!” “If you drive, I’ll let you drive my car!”

Just do it!


Just do it!

Nike’s slogan was always very effective for me. Whenever I made excuses, I would simply tell myself, “Just do it!” I often told myself this even before Nike coined the phrase, but perhaps not in those exact words. You can waste a lot of time dreaming up excuses for not doing something. In the end, I realized I could have accomplished my goal in less time than it took to make up excuses.

My former excuses for not running

  1. It’s too hot.
  2. It’s too cold.
  3. It’s raining.
  4. It’s snowing.
  5. It’s too nice to go running.
  6. I don’t have clean socks.
  7. I’m hungry.
  8. I’m too full.
  9. I need a few more rest days.
  10. Who’s going to know if you don’t run?

So whether you are going out for a run, exercising, studying for an exam. graduating, going back to school, or anything you want to achieve, don’t make excuses. Just do it!