After the Break

February 22-Off the Bus

by Lenny Hughes

"You're either on the bus or off the bus" -Ken Kesey

After a long, sometimes bizarre break, we were back on the road last week in the good old Chicago area.

I had to miss the California romp, though, in January. The Bus cruised the entire west coast, from Seattle to San Diego. Our friend Zeke rejoined the circus, fortunately, and the Black Market stayed alive, with new T-shirts and drastically obscene bobble heads that practically sell themselves (with a little help from John Bowman who's been bringing one on-stage to debate with a talking Donald Trump pen he picked up somewhere).

John Bowman moderating the debate

The January tour hit all the high spots, including Portland and L.A. They barely escaped the mudslides, when Santa Barbara was planned to be the first stop. The original date had to be scrubbed, but they rescheduled it for a later time in the run.

I got back in the game last Thursday, just in time for Columbus, Ohio. Wu-hoo. Actually, Columbus is a nice place, and we've been to the Palace Theatre several times since I've been doing this crazy gig. The show, of course, was great, but we had to hit the road next morning to make it through Chicago traffic in time for Skokie.


Palace Theatre

Halfway there, something creepy happened on the bus. The Canon printer started spewing out pages of hieroglyphics, apparently computer code. We laughed, until Lewis's laptop started coughing up ancient files and photographs from his storage bins, somehow transmitting them to the printer, which began vomiting them all over the console.

Tour Manager Ben came to the rescue, and purged everything that was backed up in the offending machine, and things quieted down, so much so, that Lew -apparently exhausted by the crisis- promptly fell asleep.

Print crisis

Post-crisis exhaustion

He rallied for another grand performance in the North Shore Centre theater in beautiful downtown Skokie.

Downtown Skokie

Lewis in Skokie

One nice thing that happened over the break was the 100th birthday gathering for Lewis' dad Sam. A few of our high school buds, including Ray Larson and George "Smitty" Smith, showed up for the party a few weeks ago. We were joined by some other close friends Lew and his parents accrued over the years, including John Bowman, and of course his lovely wife Jackie; plus that wonderful actor Joe Grifasi.

Smitty, a professional photographer, took some nice shots of the soiree.

Lewis' dad Sam

Lewis with Pop

Lewis with Mom

Sam with actor Joe Grifasi

Sam was showered with gifts and kisses. I gave him a 100-year-old fifty-cent piece from my childhood coin collection in honor of his "first 100 years."

Sam hasn't missed a beat after all those decades, and of course, neither has his lovely wife Jeannette, who also turns the century mark this year.

"Sam, tell everyone thanks for coming," Mrs. Black told him, after she held court from her chair at the end of the evening.

And after a long pause, the characteristically quiet Sam announced, "I've been told to tell you all thanks for coming."

So off they went, leaving us laughing.

Meanwhile, the reason I had to sit out the entire January west-coast tour was an incident of some un-cosmetic surgery. A little bump on my arm turned out to be a rare form of cancer, so they cut a sizable slice under my skin just to be sure it hadn't had a chance to spread. The good news is, the doctors at Kaiser Permanente are geniuses, and the "cure" was fast and complete.

But that extended holiday break gave me the chance to spend a few months with my friend Zina's rescue cats. Almost every day, she drops off Luci and Chloe (named after characters in the TV show "Lucifer") and I become part of their clowder.

Chloe is a gorgeous patchwork quilt of a kitty: a combination tabby cat, tuxedo cat- and a raccoon. Luci is a tiny gray kitten- part calico and part monkey. She will pick up an object in her front paws, stand on her hind legs and pop it in her mouth before carrying it around.

I've taught Luci to fetch. Or rather, she has taught me to toss a plastic bottle cap across the room, while she decides whether to bring it dutifully back, or to run off with the thing, hide it in another room, and follow me around while I frantically try to find it.



Chloe fetches, too, but her thing is to bat it around like a hockey puck, and shove it under a lamp or anything else that stands close enough to the floor so as to make it nearly impossible for anyone to get it after she's scored her goal.

They are adorable. But they're exhausting.

I'll miss them this weekend, though. Right now, I'm aboard the Amtrak, heading for our home-away-from-home Secaucus, New Jersey, where I'll hit the Bus and head out through Sunday for shows in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

Then, it's home to the cats.