I just got back from the Ft. Lauderdale Improv yesterday. I was down there working with Steve Byrne and Gareth Reynolds.
Its a beautiful club and the Hotel accommodations were at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (Yes the one where Anna Nicole Smith died). As soon as I got there, I could'nt help but be grateful.
I remember back when performing on the road meant driving to Carlisle for a one-nighter at a pizza shop, where the stage was literally a wooden box built in the shape of a slice of pizza. I remember staying at a crappy motel on the side of the highway, several miles from the gig and opening for some road comic I had never heard of and getting paid $150. I was grateful for the work then, but it wasn't exactly promising.
Now I am lucky enough to be on The DVE Morning Show and get the opportunity to travel the country doing stand-up. I woke up early on Friday and I walked outside to the Hard Rock pool and took a pic...
There were huge private cabanas, waterfalls, 20-person jacuzzis and a waterslide. Probably one of the coolest pools I've ever seen. I never went in.
I did drink quite a bit. Gareth Reynolds and I roomed together. (Side-note: Gareth is a college buddy of mine from Emerson College and one of the funniest people I've ever met. He had me belly laughing all weekend)
Steve Byrne is really trying to iron out his 3rd hour special, which is being taped at a Theater in NYC in February, so he didn't really hang out after the shows.
Gareth and I compensated for that with the amount of drinking we did. Here's a pic I took of Gareth playing in the fake snow surrounding the Hard Rock Christmas display that is safe for work. Can't show the one of him having intercourse with the Christmas Tree, but lets just say he went Jingle Balls deep.
Ok, now the stage is set for the story.
I never gamble. Maybe once or twice in my life, but that's it. Gareth doen't really either. Our mutal College friend Todd Miller came down from Tampa to hang with us this weekend. He gambles. A lot. After the show on Friday night we got drunk. Like College drunk. 2002 is the last time we all hung out so we were all that age again. (I accidentally dropped my pants on purpose several times during the night)
I took my 6th or 20th shot of whiskey and it all but ruined me. I left Gareth and Todd and went to the food court. I ate 4 peices of pizza and was stumbling back to my room through the casino when I ran into them sitting at a Black Jack table.
They just laughed at me. I was in awful shape. Gareth was up a few hundred, but he was about to make his most questionable move of the night. He gave me $100 worth of poker chips and pulled out a seat for me. I could barely speak. Todd was basically coaching the whole table and telling everyone what they should do. It was us and a group of 3 young guys that looked like the Ying Yang Twins. (You might have to look them up to get that reference)
We went on an epic run of winning hands. I think it was about 20 in a row. We stood up with a couple thousand in winnings and laughed all the way to the cashier and then all the way to our room. We woke up laughing. It didn't make any sense.
Flash forward to the next night. We went to the bar after the show, but nothing like the night before. We were back at the food court after a few rounds and standing in the line to get our food when Gareth decided to place his head on the shoulder of the old man wearing a US Navy hat in front of us. I laughed and looked down at his wrinkled and spotted hands because I thought there was an outside chance he wouldn't find it funny and punch one of us in the face.
He was cluctching a five dollar bill and a bunch of change. We started talking to him. He told us that he was a Veteran and he was staying in a shelter. That he was 78 years old. His name was John. Someone had stolen his coat. He told us that he felt like the youth and the country had forgotten about him and other Vets. We told him we would take care of his dinner and he refused. He didn't want a hand out. We insisted. He thanked us repeatedly and it was a nice moment.
Gareth and I started walking through the Casino and we just couldn't stop talking about him and thinking about what John said. We looked back and he was sitting and eating. Totally content. Our exchange was complete. We started talking about all the money we had won and how it was Christmas time and we decided to go back and each give him a One Hundred Dollar Bill. He cried. We cried. It was maybe the most human moment I've had since the birth of my children and it was with a total stranger. I felt so good about it. I told him we cared about him and he wasn't forgotten. I thanked him for his service and told him to go buy a coat.
We woke up the next day still feeling great about our random act of generosity, but for the rest of our trip, everyone we told this story to thought that we had been scammed. What do you think?