The Pecking Order

Every comedy scene has an order, and every comic has a place in it.  I think this is normal of anything involving people, but it is much so in things involving prestige and money.  Every one wants to get higher in that order.  That makes sense right?  You want people to see you as a meaningful part of the community in which you have placed yourself.  The problem, or problems, arise because in show business there is no commission.  There are no reviews that will allow you higher on the pecking order.  Just work, attitude, and how you can maneuver in a sea of other people that want the same thing as you.

Before we go through this order of where people find themselves in comedy, we have to know why people find it important.  It’s kind of like high school, well, without all the acne and awkward dances. It just seems like it is in us to group people together.  Higher on this order means more work.  If you are considered (this is important because opinion and reality can be different) one of the top guys in your area, you are way more likely to get paid work, better paid work, and more of it.  That is why there is so much stress and drama in show business, everyone is fighting for the same limited resources.  There are only so many shows a year and you can only participate in only so many of those shows, so everyone is looking to get the best ones possible. There is also reputation involved.  Everyone wants to be considered good at what they do.  No one, who is serious about comedy,  wants to be the guy no one wants on a show, or respects for his craft, so drama will boil up when people think they are not being respected.  Ok. Let’s not move on to the meat and potatoes of this article.

The highest group on this list I call the elites.  These are the guys that are from an area, but they are hardly around or don’t live here anymore because they are too busy making bank touring the country.  Like one guy that would be considered elite in the Spokane scene would be Dan Cummins.  Cummins got his start in the Spokane area, but he isn’t coming to open mics and stuff because he is too busy working.  He has specials and top selling CDs and tours the country doing comedy.  Another person I would place in that elite status is Jay Wendell Walker.  JWW is a past winner of the San Fransisco International Comedy Competition.  He doesn’t tour as much, but he still get’s top billing wherever he goes.  He has raised children off of his what he made doing comedy.  When you are one of the elites, you are not calling the local club to see if you can get five minutes.  You just show up and get five minutes.  All the other comedians look up to you as the place they (might) want to be in their careers.

The next group are the…well, I don’t have a name for them, but they are the people that can headline. They have the time, but they just don’t have the clout, or want, or need, to do what the elites are doing. This is the group that either got here because they are really good, (Like a Michael Glatzmaier) or because they just have an hour and are put in this place in the pecking order.  They are not looked at as reverently as the elites, but people believe that with luck they could be there.  These guys (and when I say guys I am talking about all people not just people with wieners) have the time and are good and they get work, they just don’t get enough work to leave their day jobs.  This group is usually looked at by a lot of people as obtainable if they can get enough time.

The next group are those that are solid features.  They have 20-25 minutes of good enough material that if they got the chance they could go to comedy clubs and stuff and open for guys.  People like Tom Meisfjord and Josh Teaford (both live and perform in Spokane along with Michael and anyone else I mention). This is where the drama starts to pop up a lot because more people think they can do it.  I say a solid feature because there are a lot of people that can get on stage and do 20-25 minutes, but the key is whether or not someone would pay them for it.  This spot in the order is the most up for debate.  If you can do a decent hour, no one can debate that you stood up there for an hour.  There is more debate though if your 20 minutes is good.  I don’t really know why this is the case.  I have seen people perform an hour’s worth of material, but I would not have called it headline material, but people just tend to let them exist.  Features have a tougher go.  Maybe it’s because features tend to be younger so people can more easily look over them or not show them a level of respect.  Whatever the case is, people fight for these spots and drama exist here.

Ok.  Now this group are the people that are working on their feature sets. There are a lot of people in Spokane that can fall into this group, but two right off the top of my head are Greg Beachler and Michael Evans.  They are stronger at 10-15 minutes so they are usually tasked with hosting shows.  A lot of drama exist here.  I think the reason for that is because everyone wants to start making money if they think they can.  This is the entry point for which a lot of comics will start seeing some kind of money.  It isn’t a lot, but for people just starting out it means a lot.  It means legitimacy.  You are now a paid comic!!  So everyone that is doing open mics every week, and sitting in bars, and working, wants to at some point have something to show for their new found alcoholism.  I don’t know that many people doing comedy that don’t think they can do enough time to get hosting work, so this is where a lot of fighting and clawing comes about.  People will argue about why one person got to host or do time at a big show and you get to see the worst in people sometimes.

The last part of the pecking order might sound messed up, but I don’t mean it like that.  The last group is basically everyone else.  These are the guys that just got started, or it is more a hobby than a possible career, or they are just not good enough to get paid to do comedy, but they like to do it anyway.  They really have no dog in the fight so they usually won’t get into much crap with everyone. I did say usually. You can find people that think they can feature when they have been doing it for 2 months.  You may see people that think they can headline after 6 months.  Now, whether it is delusion or possible is another story.  This is usually the bottom and the place where every comic starts…it’s actually not a bad place to be actually.  No one expects anything from you, hell, some comics won’t even bother getting your name unless you blow it out of the water.

Here is the thing about this order.  Depending on where you live it could be more chaotic or peaceful, but this order of roles still exist.  In Spokane, drama will pop up every now and then, but not like a larger market like a Portland or Seattle would see.  I think that is mostly because the city is small enough that you can see 90% of the comics that are doing it.  In Spokane, you can also go up the pecking order faster than in other places.

Some places that I have been work the same way, but with slight differences.  For instance in New York, the order of roles are the same it’s just very exaggerated.  The elites are in the city, but they are in the big clubs and are never seen at clubs that aren’t prestigious.  The headliners and the features are in the same boat just who gets to go up last is considered the headliner.  The lower people that are trying to get up to that point are stuck in basements littered about the city, and have to hope that someone see them and plucks them out of there.  I think New York is so big that the drama is nullified by distance.  If I don’t know what you are getting, I can’t bitch about it.

Seattle and Portland have a pecking order, but it is not as big as New York and not as small as Spokane, so you will see a lot more infighting.  That’s because there is a lot of work, but more comedians.  In Spokane you will get a chance to make that host money if you work and keep at it.  Seattle and Portland are just big enough though that you can be drowned by the competition (not really your competition though, but you understand).

So, you say you don’t want to be a part of this, well, you don’t have to be.  This applies to people that are participating in the comedy scene.  If you are writing your jokes and just going to shows then you are really outside of all of this.  It will be much harder to get work though because there is no one there to vouch for your abilities.  I have seen it done though, where people will show up for about 6 months and then just do private shows or whatnot.

The big thing to remember is that no matter where people see you if you want more then go get it!  Don’t let someone tell you that you are not allowed to do something.  Probably because they are just trying to tell you that so they can get it.  A lot of people don’t seem to understand this, but comedy is an art and a business.  Just like if you were to open a theater and wanted people to see all your artsy films, you would still need to make money to keep the lights on.  If you want to make a career out of comedy you will have to take chances and relying on others to tell you when you can get that chance is just wrong.  Now, you also have to be honest with yourself.  If you can barely stay on stage for 10 minutes, then you should not be bothering people about feature work.  You should develop your act and get better before looking at ways to get paid.  Also remember that being a douchebag negates all the awesomeness you have on stage.  If you can do a killer set, but you are trying to sexually assault all the female comics, then you will gain a reputation faster then if you were just a good comic.  That will cost you just as much work, (in the long run anyway) then just not being that good.

Getting Your Mind Right

This past week has been a weird one for me.  I think this is something that we all go through.  We feel like change is needed or something comes into our lives that make us want to make a change.  I have been filled with these thoughts, as my trip to New York City showed me that I if I wanted, I could do better things in this world then what I have been doing.  I don’t know if I want to be sitting in Spokane any longer, but with finances the way they are I can’t just get up and go.

I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ll be sitting there at an open mic or a show and I just feel alone. Like not even the comics would understand what is going on.  I feel like an outsider even among those that I call my friends.  It’s as though their lives and my life only intersect at comedy.  I also think it may be because their goals at this point in their careers are much different then mine.  I don’t want to get 15 solid minutes or host at the local dive bar.  I want to be out in the comedy clubs or the conference rooms or cruise ships, anywhere I can feel comfortable.  It’s almost a duality going on inside.  I don’t like the person that I am.  I am not outgoing or charismatic.  When I am on stage, I feel great.  My self doubt is replaced with a brilliant confidence that captures a room.  I have tried to bottle that in my day to day, but it is never really the same.  I am an awkward, loathsome person that doesn’t know how to talk to anyone and when I do I second guess the things that come out of my mouth.  I second guess other’s intents, paranoid is the word that would best describe it.

I think I may need a change of scenery. I am awaiting the decision from the VA to see if I will have any money to go to other places this summer.  I have a list of places already, none of which are back to South Carolina.  San Diego and L.A. are the two top places.  Not even for comedy, but to see if that area is something I can do.  Spokane just gets me down.  The weather, the enthusiasm for comedy, my history with the area, all play a role in how I feel about the place.

We have been filming more sketches for this show on the 1st and I am astonished by how good everything has turned out.  This is the bright spot in the in an otherwise down time for me.  I like all aspects of filmmaking…well maybe not the standing.  My feet were killing me after standing up last night!

I think one thing I need to change is just accepting slack ass behavior.  I used to be the guy that would get everywhere early, but what started happening was because I am dealing with comics and theater people they get everywhere late and then a culture of just being slack took a hold of me.  I need to stop doing that.  If they are going to be late then it wasn’t a priority for them.  I try to take people’s time into consideration.  I feel like comedians for the most part do not.

Other than these blogs, I haven’t been writing that much and I need to change that.  I want to write a couple of things to put up on Amazon.  I don’t want to give them away, but I think the ideas are good and the way I want to write them would be great for those that want their stories in sections rather than these huge chunks that takes weeks (or for some people days) to finish.  It might not be a brand new idea, but it is an idea nonetheless.


Turning Your Weaknesses Into Your Strengths

I have always thought, as a human and comedian, that one of the most important gifts we can have is that of self awareness.  The ability to measure ourselves properly without having ego or self doubt messing with that equation.  As people, and comedians, we all have things we wish we could work on. I am going to talk about ways we can all do that.

Almost every comic I talk to has something they want to work on.  Either it’s their writing or their stage presence or their ability to get more work, we all have something that if tackled, will make us better comedians.  Lets talk about writing, a lot of people have trouble with it.  I think what you have to do first is see wether it is your inability to write that is the problem, or your inability to change.  We are creatures of habit.  We tend to keep doing what is comfortable (even if it hurts us), or successful.  If you have a solid 20-25 minutes, and you haven’t been writing then you may just be comfortable with it.  What you would want to do then is take either older jokes and rewrite them to fit what you are doing now (if your style is changed much), and throw it into your set instead of doing the same jokes in the same order.  You can also look at the material you have now and see if there are ways you can get more out of that material.  We all have that material that we could get a couple of jokes more out of, but we leave it as is.

If you are not set in your ways with your material and you just haven’t been writing then check your surroundings.  A lot of comedians don’t live in a beach house or a house over looking the mountains.  Most are in some apartment with roommates and that can really take away from your writing.  Do you have small children? You ain’t getting nothing done with an ankle biter running around with scissors.  So change that!  Go to a coffee shop for an hour or two or if you need more structure, get some other comedians together and have a writing session.  I am not a fan of these because I like to write my jokes without much input, but it may work for you.

Now let’s talk about stage presence.  That is the difference from looking like you know how to do comedy and looking like a first timer.  There is only one sure fire way to get better at this:  getting up on stage.  There is nothing that will make you more comfortable on stage then actually being up there.  What that does is it let’s you see that the stage won’t bite.  If that doesn’t seem to be doing it for you then you can always just work on your material in a mirror.  I know it sounds stupid, but what that does is it puts your material in your head so you will not be using up “head space” trying to get the little details of a joke out.  That way, you are not just sitting there worrying about what people are thinking.  Start going to more open mics.  All this does is get you in front of different types of crowds.

If you are a comedian and looking for work I know it seems like a weakness when you can’t seem to get more than one show a month and everyone you used to do open mics with are doing comedy all over the country.  Look, the first thing you have to do is stop looking at everyone else as a measuring stick.  Not everyone can get the same opportunities.  Not everyone is going to get the same amount of work at the same time.  Now, after you are done worrying, what you should do is be honest with yourself. Do you have the best promotional package you can gather together?  Do you have contacts that can help you get into clubs?  Are you being persistent?  That is my biggest problem.  I am not always consistent in how I get in contact with people.  One month I will be sending out emails like crazy and the next month I am not doing any of that wondering why I am not getting that much work.  It can get you down and you will end up doing less and less until you are a really funny hobo.  Don’t let that happen! Get your head shot and write up a resume and get a great demo of your act and then go out there and start grinding.  People are going to say no and not yet, but that is the nature of the beast.  What you have to do is keep at it, and once the work comes in you have to understand that that isn’t the last of it.  You have to keep going.  Kind of like exercise, but you won’t be out of breath.

The Creative Process

Helping a couple of local comedians with sketches for a show they are putting on in April.  I love watching and being a part of the creative process.  Even though these are short, five minute sketches, a lot of work goes into making them great.  A lot of planning and shooting and editing are involved in maybe getting a couple of jokes across.  It is a process, but one I enjoy being a part of.

I have a big show coming up in April at my alma mater, Eastern Washington University.  I was so excited that I forgot to ask how much I am even getting paid.  See, here is the thing about being at the level I am.  Everyone just expects a deal from you.  It happened when I opened for Jeff Dye at the Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane.  The guy called me and told me something about the budget.  He said he could only pay me a certain amount.  Granted, I took it, but I know that it wasn’t because of a budget crunch or anything, but it had more to do with the fact that because I was local, they figured they could short me.  The thing is, the people that they have had in that spot have no more credits than I do.  It’s just that because they are out of town, they seem more exotic.  Again, I am not blaming anyone for me taking the work.  I took the work!  I just don’t want to be low balled because I am local.  I know how much an act is getting to come to EWU. I am not saying I am worth 5-6 grand.  I do think I am worth half that.  I was just to stupid to make it known before I accepted.

Comedy is on an upswing in Spokane at the moment.  That seems to happen every 3-4 years.  I have seen it twice in my time doing comedy here.  It is always good to see fresh faces and new venues welcoming comedy.  Unlike before, however, I look for signs that say the bubble is about to burst.  I think the biggest issue  with Spokane comedy right now is that we have a crap ton of open mics.  The logic seems sound.  Have an open mic or a show every night of the week for people to work out their stuff.  The problem is that it thins the talent down.  The big open mics continue to be Uncle D’s Comedy Underground and Chan’s.  People flock to Uncle D’s because it is the only REAL club we have in Spokane.  Chan’s still gets comics to come out, but not at the level that it used to be.  I think that is because early on, Chan’s was hard as hell.  If you didn’t get their attention they would talk over you and yell at you.  Now, it is a little more tame.  It can get wild, especially if it runs over and the regulars start creeping in, but it isn’t a bad place to work out.

Now, there are about 4-5 more places, but they don’t get the love as much as the top two places.  See, what happened before all these places popped up is that if you wanted to get stage time, you had only two options.  So people would pack those two places.  Now with more options, they are less likely to go to any because they know they can just go tomorrow, then tomorrow, then the week begins again and they still haven’t gone out.  I can understand why people wanted more mics.  Uncle D’s is packed to the gills and Chan’s can be hostile.  Uncle D has certain restrictions and a lot of people want more options in which to do and say what they want.  What happened though, is that no one talked to anyone else and all these places sprang up.

I don’t have the time to go to ever open mic, even for the documentary.  I am focusing on the ones that were around when I first started filming.  It might not show all of Spokane’s comedy scene, but the same people go to all of them so there is nothing different.  Just different scenery.

Finally got off my ass and made a Facebook page for my photography side gig.  I haven’t finished it though.  There are still pictures I need to put up and I need to put up my pricing.  I have just been working at it little by little.

My podcast is now moving into the planning stages (from the “just a thought” stage).  I think I have a name, I just need to get a graphic done and get the site and hosting done.  When it comes to starting new stuff I am always slacking.  See paragraph above for more info on that.

As always thanks for reading my musings.  I appreciate it and I hope it gives you something to do while you pretend to work.

When Your Crappy Life Ruins Your Comedy

Comics are a very weird bunch of people.  Almost every comic I have spoken with has some hangup, something that has turned them from a normal upstanding citizen to someone that wants to tell jokes to drunk people.  Nothing wrong with that, right?  There is. When the crap in your life messes with your comedy.

The most common affliction with comedians is drug and alcohol abuse.  I don’t know how many performers I have talked to that have had their careers derailed because they couldn’t stay away from the stuff.  If you are addicted to drugs at least when you get on stage you are away from it for a bit.  If you are an alcoholic you are basically looking at a room full of people that are indulging in the thing that is crippling you, not to mention that performers usually get free booze.  It is hard to keep yourself straight when after every show people are shoving drugs and alcohol down your throat (or up your nose).  I know of comics that are so damn talented, but because of drugs and booze, they spiral out of control and mess up everything they worked hard to get.  It is sad.

There are people out there that can perform really well, but they have a mental illness that prevents them from achieving greater success.  I suffer from major depression.  When I am in a down spell it is basically 1 or 2 months of wasted time.  I don’t push for shows.  I stop sending emails.  I may even not go to open mics and stuff because I feel like such crap.  1 or 2 months might now sound like much, but you have to understand that you are booking for months in advance and if you are in such a depressed state that you didn’t do what you needed to do to book those shows you will then feel bad that you felt so bad that you didn’t get shows booked and so it is just a tired, depressed circle.

There are also a couple of comics I know that suffer from bi-polar disorder (manic-depressive illness).  That is when they have extremes spells of ups and downs.  I have seen some of these guys when they are in the upswing trying to take over the word.  They are writing new material and thinking about releasing albums and then they disappear for a couple of months and you don’t hear anything from them.  That has to be so bad.  I mean at least in my case, I kinda have a solid disposition.  To go from thinking you can carry the world on your back to can’t get out of bed must be so painful.  Also painful for a successful comedy career.

Then there are the self destructive people.  They may have an issue like the ones above, but they mainly just can’t seem to get their shit right.  They will do things like burn bridges with people that could probably be good for their career, for no other reason then they just had to do it.  I have seen guys that are married or dating and just throw everything away just to mess with some crazy person that any normal person would have avoided.  These are the type of people that just can’t seem to get out of their own way.  Whenever they are doing great in comedy they have to go on a cocaine bender and mess everything up.  Some people let their arrogance or confidence mess up stuff.  Like if they don’t get a booking they will burn every bridge just to show everyone they are worth it.  It doesn’t solve anything.  In fact when the dust settles you have not only lost one booking, but several more down the road.

What I try to do is anticipate when my crap is about to get in the way of my career and I brace myself.  I try to get bookings done when I am feeling great.  I try to keep myself busy as well.  It seems like when you are idle, your brain starts to throw doubts out there and the next thing you know you haven’t gotten out of bed yet and you need to call people about shows and stuff and so they have gone to other people.  If you are suffering from a mental illness, I suggest getting some professional help.  Drugs and alcohol will only deepen the problems.  If you are a self destructive person that just can’t help, but be a douchebag…STAHP.

Random Notes On New York City

So I am back to Spokane and I have had a little time to sit down and think about the things that make NY so unique as a city.  So here are a couple of things that I noticed.

The city is old!  Almost all the places I went to was “vintage”. The bathrooms were small and just dirty looking.  The streets had trash on them.  New York is like an apartment that has 9.5 millions shitty roommates in it. The subways look like they need a major overhaul.  They have a very crack den like feel to them.  You could smell the pee, and this was in the winter.  Just imagine how bad it is when the temps get up to the 90’s.  People spend way to much money for want they get to live in.  2k for a room is crazy to me.  The people are way nicer than movies like to show.  I never got stabbed or anything.  We were on the subway at the most insane times and we never felt endangered.

New York made me realize I still have a lot of work to do.  I have to get my shit together.  I have the material.  It works.  I just don’t have the other things that make for a successful comedian.  I think Spokane made me complacent.  All I had to do was show up and I could get work.  To get to the next level, I will have to improve my networking skills and my promotional skills.  If I want to get to that next level I need to get off my black ass and make it happen.

Now that I have almost all the lenses I need, I will get to work on the rest of the documentary and get more clients for photographs.  This part is very exciting for me.  I want to get the photography part off the ground and keep focused on comedy.

I am still looking for a venue to produce my comedy cd.  I think I will name it King Peppersnake.

New York State Of Mind

My stay in New York is coming to an end.  I have seen things. Smelled things, and with everything that I have seen and smelled in mind I know one this is for sure when it comes to comedy in NY.  People like the idea more than they like the reality. It seems great at first right?  You’re in the largest city in the U.S.  Some of the best comics on earth have graced the stages here.  People have become famous here.  The reality is a lot harder for most to swallow though.  Most of the people we see on TV and in movies are in NY.  Few of them, however, got their starts here.  A lot of these guys were grinding somewhere else and work or other opportunities got them here.

It is hard to see that when you are looking at NY from the distant dystopian landscape that is Spokane, WA. Spokane doesn’t have a 1/3 of the comics or 1/3 of the comedy rooms, but we do have way more love for the random comic.  The guy that makes up about 85% of all comics on the planet.  The guys that are just working and trying to catch a break so they can leave their idilic upbringings so they can get seen in NY.  That is a terrible way of looking at it in my eyes.

People want to run away from the Spokanes and the Boises, and hell even the Seattles and Portlands of the country to get famous in NY or LA.  Time after time, however, all you see if them doing the same shit they were doing in those other cities, just now they have to pay triple in rent (if you are comparing Spokane to NY) and you have to play in front of other comics in basements.  The people you hear of or see on TV are the 1%.  They worked.  They caught breaks, but mostly they WORKED.  They networked and push through all of the lazy sacks that just thought that if they did their 15 minutes about Mike Tyson that they would be discovered.  The reality of the situation if much more grim then people want to admit.

See, the thing is, no one wants to admit that they are just an average comedian.  No one wants to admit that they do not have the work ethic to actually get the chances that the 1% get.  That is the problem. Humans can talk themselves into any corner, but rarely do we talk ourselves into reality.

Every comic that I met on this trip said the same thing.  That they play in front of other comics and the only way out of the basements are to get lucky and save a famous comedian’s life, or you somehow end up on a showcase because someone saw you.  Do you know how rare that is?  Out of the thousands of comics that means only about 10-20 might get seen and thrown up on a bigger stage and if they don’t work that right they are back to the basements.  Hell, in Spokane you can get paid a couple months after doing comedy if you are good enough an not a massive asshole.  That same comic in Spokane travels here and he won’t see work for at least a year.

Another thing I noticed is that comedy isn’t a regional thing.  If it is funny and well written it will play anywhere.  A joke about blacks might not play as well in the midwest, but it will still be funny (I hope that made sense).  I have done my stuff on several stages here and they have laughed every time.  That tells me that it is good stuff.

Does that mean I should sell all my shit and move here? Hells nah!  First, I don’t think I have the work ethic to make it in a town this big.  Maybe I do, but I try to be real with myself.  Second, this place is so fucking expensive that it is a miracle that people have time for open mics!  I know of at least 4 comedians in this area that can barely afford where they stay and they are not even in New York City.  The reality to me is that if I were to move to NY I would need to have all my ducks in a row.  If you are not already a traveling comic with enough work to substain staying here you are better off not coming.  Unless of course you just like the lifestyle of living in a shitty apartment with roommates.

This place is so expensive that if you didn’t over estimate the amount of money you were going to spend you would be broke.  That is what I did.  I thought about how much I would spend and then added 500 bucks.  I didn’t spend as much as I thought (because I am a cheap old black man) that I am actually feeling fine.  This place is not for the people that like to stay in bed until 2 and then think they can hop on an open mic or a show and make a little cash.  There are already 300 comedians up and waiting before you have brushed you teeth.  That is the reality.  The 1% that make it here are the 1% that make it anywhere.  It’s just that the 1% in Spokane means about 3-4 comics and the 1% in NY is about 100 comics.

Habits that are learned in a smaller town like Spokane will destroy you here.  You can’t call an open mic 30 minutes before and say, “Hey, add me to the list!” You spot has already been taken, probably days ago.  You can’t sit there and bitch about why you didn’t get on a show or why you didn’t get a spot.  They will tell you why.  Unlike in Spokane where we really don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  Comics in Spokane have it good.  You don’t have to pay for open mics.  You don’t have to sign up a week before an open mic.  You can get guest spots in front of real paying audience!  You can do open mics in front of real paying audiences.  Yet.  All I hear is how if they can get to NY they can start making money or be famous.  I won’t say you can’t, but with the work mentality that I see most comics (unless your name is Greg Beechler, Steven Tye, or Michael Evans) they would not make a red nickel in this city.

It sounds kinda messed up, right?  I seem so doom and gloom this entire time.  I am just talking though.  Do you feel as though you are the exception to the rule?  Then go for it!  Nothing can stop you if you really want something.  That is how I got work in the first place.  I just kept plugging along until stuff happened.  That will happen everywhere.  It’s just harder here.