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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014

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Readers Blog: Dobie Maxwell's 'Dented Can' Diary

Road Reversal

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Thursday July 5th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   I have come to a humbling realization that I need to change my entire way of doing business if I intend to keep doing what I’m doing. It’s like a restaurant owner realizing a mom and pop joint has to either expand and become a franchise or close its doors. Status quo won’t cut the mustard.

   The same is true with what I’m doing. I have to either find a way to duplicate myself to a much larger audience or find something else to do that doesn’t involve so much travel. It takes way too much energy to be on the road constantly, and decades of doing just that has taken a major toll.

   It was nothing short of an epic swashbuckling adventure to constantly explore the broad stretch of the North American landscape throughout my youth, even though I’m not exactly certain what is all involved when one swashbuckles. Suffice it to say I had a lot of fun touring my homeland.

   I made the conscious decision very early to try and see all four corners of the United States and as much of Canada as I could, and I did. If there were comedy clubs in Mexico and I was able to speak Spanish, I’d have gone there too. I did get to some amazing places in Mexico on my recent cruise ship excursion of the last couple of years, so I’ll consider that a victory too. But I’m done.

   Travel just for the sake of travel is over for this salty old road dog. Gas prices through the roof and higher and the nightmare of air travel having to deal with TSA have turned what used to be a major perk into a maddening chore. If I were told I had to stay within a 100 mile radius of where I live now for the rest of my life, I’d be totally fine with that. I really do enjoy where I’m living.

   I’m glad I saw the places I saw though, and I liked a lot of those as well. If I had one chance to move one more time and then stay within 100 miles of that for the rest of my life, I’d have a hard time choosing where that would be. I loved Salt Lake City when I was there, and even purchased a house because I planned on settling in for the long haul. Those mountains have a magnetic pull.

   I liked Reno too, even though when I lived there it wasn’t the best of times for me personally. I had friends there and it was close to San Francisco which is another place I absolutely love. Why Tony Bennett left his heart there is no mystery. If I had a reason to live there, I’d leave tomorrow and not look back. I loved Los Angeles too. I could settle many places, but I really need to settle.

   It’s not about the where anymore, it’s about the what. What am I doing with my life and career that makes the most use of my remaining time and energy? Traveling to Duluth or Detroit or Des Moines or anywhere else to entertain 50 people is not the business model it once was. That won’t make me or anyone rich, as it’s painfully inefficient. How do I reach the most people the fastest?

   If I can funnel my creativity into cranking out products to resell like videos, books, scripts and the like, I have more leverage than if I do a live show in some random town and just leave. Once a particular show is over, it’s gone forever. I’ve left thousands of those shows behind since 1985, and I have nothing to show for it except memories. They’re mostly positive ones, but which bills will those pay this month? It’s like I’ve had my retirement first, now I have to get down to work.

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