Friday, July 06, 2007

They Can't All Be Great...

Summer has officially arrived!

Hi, everyone. Mike Giusti here, hijacking the blog while Paul takes some time off to be with his family. He promises to return next week with details of Max's car and his Fourth of July experience. Let's just say that Max is very, VERY happy.

As for me, this Summer has proven to be more than I can handle. At least so far. I'm looking at the temperature right now, and it's already 100 degrees well before noon! Allow me to explain when I say this Summer is proving to be more difficult than I anticipated: The Fourth of July had me performing two different gigs in the late afternoon and late evening. The first gig was a Fourth of July Celebration performing magic and comedy and the other, a Fourth of July party involving playing music.

Same place, two years ago and 10 degrees cooler!

Now, the third of July was a nice 98 degrees. It was bearable. Performing outdoors that day would have been uncomfortable, but do-able. As fate would have it (or God has a sick sense of humor), the next day, it jumped a whole 10 degrees to a searing 108! Very uncomfortable and incredibly difficult to perform outdoors. Since it was at one of Fresno's most prestigious country clubs, dressing your best is expected, and I will be truthful: I was dreading the time that I had to start my set. Not because I don't like performing, I just don't like performing outdoors in this kind of unfortunate weather. But, I put on a positive mind-set, set up in the heat a couple of hours beforehand, and when I was finished, I knew that the actual gig would be difficult; my shorts and short-sleeve shirt were soaked with sweat and I had to abandon a couple of the effects I was planning for different ones. This meant I had to drive back home and get the props and myself ready. Since the closer I had planned would not work in the heat and wind, I had to abandon it for something far more challenging, especially in the heat: the strait jacket escape. It never fails to get laughs. "I can do this," I thought to myself, "Just forge ahead and not pay attention to the heat." Can you see where this is going?

The gig starts. It's hotter than Hades, and the turnout is less than expected because of the heat. People's attitudes are much less tolerant because of the heat. Performing and coming up with frantic energy (which is what my act revolves around) is proving to be incredibly challenging; the heat zaps everyone's will and energy, BUT the show must go on! Throughout the act, I am sweating so profusely, my eyes are stinging as the sweat drips into them. My nose looks like a faucet as the sweat drips off of it like a broken spigot. My voice is going fast as the heat takes every drop of moisture from the back of my throat, despite the quick swigs of water and iced tea I take in-between tricks. The lines, gags, and bits of business flow from me much like the liquid which is being sucked out of my body. But there are barely any hints of laughter or hands being raised for volunteers because no one has any energy left.

Finally, after what feels like an eternity, the end is near, and the strait jacket must be donned to end the show. What was I thinking? I get the burliest guy I can find with the words, "Hammer Strength" on the front of his sweat-soaked shirt, and he goes to work strapping me in. And strap me in he does. The heat must have really ticked him off, because I can't remember the last time I was strapped in so tight. Plus, I was soaked with sweat inside the jacket so movement was limited. Forget about grabbing all the props I had lined in one of the sleeves of the jacket; the only thing I was able to procure was a fake hand after my right arm was almost locked in place while trying to escape. The fake hand drops out from the collar, and no one laughs, despite the look of false horror on my face. I look out into the crowd and people have begun to leave the show to take refuge underneath their umbrellas and watch the show from 100 feet or more away. Finally, I slam the jacket onto the ground to smatterings of applause, thank everyone for coming out, and end the show.

Almost immediately, I begin to feel dizzy and nauseated. Plus, my stomach is looking to quickly evacuate the charred hamburger I ate an hour before the show began. I sit down behind my table and breathe deeply. My girlfriend, Julie, immediately taking pity on me, rushes to my aid with iced tea and water, and like a real trooper, sees my utter exhaustion and begins to pack up my things for me while I am flooded with kids and adults, all telling me what a great show it was! Huh? Where were all these reactions while the show was going on? What planet was I on? What dimension-altering drug did I accidentally ingest before the show started?

I do have to say, throughout all this, the country club staff and entertainment director are incredibly friendly, professional, helpful, courteous, and completely understanding. They knew and understood the conditions were very uncomfortable, and they thanked me profusely for coming back this year.

Oh, but wait! I can't relax yet; I have to go back home, unpack the car and get my music gear packed and ready for the other outside show! At least, I think to myself, I won't have to be in the spotlight this time because it will be shared with three other people. At least a little pressure is off. But that's the only relief for me.

With my appropriately-named band, Train Wreck!

Julie, insistent upon going with me (although I can't imagine why; she's been with me in the heat all day), and I arrive at the party where a plethora of fireworks is going off, and there are plenty of people watching and having a good time. Perfect. This gives me time to sneak by and set up on the stage. I hear all the oohs and ahhs and anticipate a great show. Although near dark, it is still 102 degrees outside, but at least the sun is down and hopefully, there will be some relief in sight. I strap on my 20 lb. custom Alembic Series 1 bass (not pictured, by the way -- that's my Musicman Stingray bass which has a great sound but not nearly as nice and full as the Alembic), and my back cries out in agony. After twisting and turning and running around in the heat, my body is rapidly shutting down without my consent. I'm hoping this gig goes by quickly, but I realize that I still have an hour and a half of playing and singing left to go on the Fourth of July.

The fireworks are finished, and the people file in to have a seat and enjoy the music. All three of them! Everyone else has decided to leave immediately after the fireworks as the heat is much more than anyone is used to. I can't say I blame them; all I want to do myself is go home to my air-conditioned house and turn it down to 30 degrees! The music begins and we do a couple of sets with a break in between to cool off and drink something. We talk to our three biggest fans for a while and finally pack up and go home at around 12:30 AM.

Oh well, they can't all be great...

As I finish writing the blog today nearing 12:30 PM, it is already 105 degrees with no relief in sight. The thought of staying indoors and relaxing next Fourth of July sounds more and more appealing the more I think about it. On a serious note, Paul and I both hope you all had a much happier and fun-filled Fourth of July, and again, Paul will be back next week with another installment of "From the Desk of Paul Gross."

Until then, stay cool.


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