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Monday, July 13, 2015

A funny thing happened on the Road to Emerson Park (Draft2)

A funny thing happened on the Road to Emerson Park

A funny thing happened on the Road to Emerson Park


(The story of how I went from homeless, jobless, penniless and hopeless to owning my own 6 bedroom home in just five short years)


Blaine High School: Track, Theater, and Journalism


In High School I basically kept a 3.75 GPA in all Honors classes, ran track and field for Blaine and also Competed in the AAU for the Spartans.  That was when Bruce Jenner won the Decathalon in the Olympics.  He was a huge hero of mine until I met him when I ushered at the Guthrie Theater in Mpls.  I doubt very much if Caitlyn is very happy.

I was in every Musical that Blaine High School put on.  Ken Knudson was a very good comedic director and he always cast me in a comic character acting role (of course I wanted to do leads). 

During college at the University of Minnesota I had the opportunity to take Character Acting Classes at the Guthrie Theater with people who are now all famous movie actors now like Peter MacNicol and Peter Michael Getz.

Greggo's Gripes: High School Newspaper Humor Column

When I was in High School, I also had a humor column.  I don’t know who’s idea it originally was, probably my journalism teacher, but I began to write about my struggles, foibles, and odd circumstances.  

Anyways, I wrote a weekly humor column every week during my senior year, and when the paper would come out I’d have people stopping me in the hall to comment on it. 

I loved the attention.  I mean, I was in all the musicals as a funny character actor and I never got that much attention from it.  All the feedback was how hilarious my latest column was.

Working as a Non-Union Professional Actor

 I became homeless in January of 2005.  I walked out on a 15 year marriage in Clermont, Florida and 3 left little kids with a monster, and went to live with my parents in California.  At 45 years old, homeless and out of work, it is very difficult to live with your parents.

After 8 months of not seeing or hearing from my kids, I drove across the country to see them again.  When I arrived three days later, I was kicked off the school campus for trying to see them.  I did not learn until years later that my ex-wife had doctored the accumulated files for all my kids to make it look like I was court ordered not to have contact with them.


Some shows I wrote, directed, and produced

MEIN Kampf:  My struggle with Satan's Sister

To give you an idea of the magnitude of the struggle, our case file soon became the largest file in the Lake County court house.   

After trying unsuccessfully several times to see my kids, I was pulled over at gunpoint, and asked where the kidnapped kid was.  Ah, Satan’s Sister…gotta love her dirty tactics.  She was always trying to get me in trouble with the law. 

When I stopped by the Judges chambers to see when my next hearing was, the clerk knew me by sight and did not need to look up my next hearing time.  She knew it by heart.  All the County Clerks knew me pretty well too.

That’s when they started bringing in stacks of files on newly foreclosed homes.  The Great housing crisis was beginning…

I’m pretty sure her and her mom got into the court archives and doctored our case file too.  My judge hated me and frequently kicked me out of his court room for not being able to afford a lawyer.  In any case, I struggled mightily to see and talk to my kids for about 10 years before they all came to live with me voluntarily. 

Press Clippings: From when we did lots of Television and Press Releases

Humor Blog: (Stardate 12092009)

To make a very long story short (for the purposes of an introduction), I started writing this humor blog in December of 2009.  I had met and married a lovely lady that took my custody problems seriously and believed me when I said Satan’s Sister was a monster.  In fact, my wife Lori is the one who figured out that my ex has a personality disorder (or several).  Of course, she had two kids and I had three, so now there were five kids in a family of seven.


Satan's Sister goes to War on me


My ex wife is a narcissistic psychopath.  A Lovely thing to have draining you of your life’s energy.  In short she’s a happiness succubus. In other words, she’d suck the happiness out of a busload of people in a heart beat. 

To give you a brief idea of what dealing with Satan’s Sister was like I will give you some samples of the crap they did to me.  For instance, trying to steal my car and only way to work when I tried to see my oldest daughter Rebecca, and delaying our families flight to California to see my Dad before he died (Separate flights, lost luggage, and my parents 50th wedding anniversary…more about that later).

I knew all along that what my ex was trying to do was to either get me to sign over my parental rights or commit suicide because I couldn’t see my precious children.  It nearly worked.  I had a noose I kept on the porch of my dingy little apartment where a mouse and I lived.  I struggled with suicide every night after getting home late from working two jobs.  More about that later too…

Ten years with no justice from Tavarese


One time I sat in court and listened to my ex lie to the judge about me and caught myself thinking,“That guy should be  locked up…wait that’s me, and none of it is true!”  She tried  her best to get me locked up for something stupid.  It never  worked because I learned to never trust her when she’s  being nice.  That way I always saw the new attack coming.
But, I digress

When I finally found this blog after looking for it for days, in reading it I realized that it was an epic time for our country and for me personally.  And the ‘good’ five years is missing.  Here is why. 

PictureThe people who read my comedy blog invariably said the same exact thing.  You should do stand up.  I agreed.  I should.  
So, I did.

Working the local Stand Up Circuit in Orlando

 I had had a really bad experience the first time I tried doing stand up in front of a crowd Lexington, Kentucky some ten  years before.  Suffice to say I was not readyfor a contest with a padded crowd.  I went up on my  jokes and did 15 minutes of Emo Phillips as Columbo.  WTF?  Afterwards the General Manager  came up to me and said,“Next time, do your own material.” I never went back.

My youngest daughter Michelle used to go behind the curtains in our house to poop her diaper.  The funny thing about that was that the curtains only came down to her belly button.  I should have known then that she was going to be quite a character, and if I talk about her the crowd always laughs, so I talk about her first in all my stand up sets to get the crowds laughing.

So, I was anxious to redeem myself in that respect.  What happened 
was that I went out and started doing stand up on the local circuit.  
I attended open mike nights all over town mostly hosted by Bonkers 
people.  I still remember the first time I took the stage for my first set.  
It was at the WhyNot Lounge in Altamonte Springs.  The same place 
Carrot Top started out at.

One the night when I returned to the stand up stage after 10 years, I was a little nervous about how I looked and came off on stage.  I went to Michelle's room and asked her, "Honey, does this shirt make me look fat?"  She put her artwork down, and came up to me and put her hand on my arm, looked up at me and said gently, "Daddy...EVERY shirt makes you look fat!"  I always begin with that story.  It never fails to get the first laugh of the evening.

I did sets at every place that would let me from The Other Bar on Church Street, Austin Coffee House in Winter Park, The Social downtown, the PourHouse in Metro West, the WhyNot Lounge in Altamonte Springs, Holly and Dolly's in Longwood, Red something in Casselberry, a little dive in Apopka, and Bonkers in Ocala...just to name a few.  I basically went to open mic nights all over town and put in appearances at various clubs on Friday and Saturday nights.

One time David and I were standing by the busy cash registers in Target while Michelle played hide and seek in the racks and my ex wife tried to find her.  It was very amusing to us, so I told him a Viagra joke my Dad had just told me over the phone.  He laughed, and then in a really loud voice Michelle (who had been hiding behind me) said, "Daddy.  What's VIAGRA?"  Everyone within ear shot came to a stand still and you could hear a pin drop.  I felt like I was in an EF Hutton commercial, you know...EVERYONE listens to EF Hutton!

I realized immediately that Michelle (the little devil) had trapped me into trying to answer a very politically incorrect question in public...again.  Thinking quickly I said, "I don't know Honey. (then turning to the crowd)  Do you guys know what Viagra is?!?"  Everyone went back about their business.  I'm telling you.  That girl is comedy gold.  Thank you for that Michelle.  I expect her to be an Artist/Character Actor/Stand Up Comic when she gets older.  I taught her imrov games at a very young age.

Comedy Magic show at Murphy's Pub on International Drive

Eventually I started producing little comedy magic shows and landed for about 10 months at Irish  Pub on International drive where we did Friday and Saturday night shows with local comics and  magicians. 

The Comic Improv at the WhyNot Lounge in Altamonte Springs

After Bonkers pulled out of the WhyNot Lounge I became an MC for Tight Mike who took over  next.  Another guy named Gio Rivera was an alternate MC and soon he stopped coming so I was  it.  When Tight Mike pulled out I was ready with a troupe to do shows.  

While I was waiting for Tight Mike to pull out of the WhyNot Lounge, I had put together a  group called The Comic Improv.  We did 45 minutes of improv followed by 45 minutes of Stand  Up including a regional headliner.  

We ran shows on Friday and Saturday nights there for 8  months.  I wrote new jokes specifically for the Fat Guy in the corner who I knew would be there  EVERY NIGHT!

In fact, at one point I ran an open mike night at an Irish Pub in Longwood, at the same time I ran  an improv group at the Stardust Coffee and Video in Winter Park (with a scene writing class on  another night).  At that time The Comic Improv and I were doing shows in Lake Mary, Deland,  Ocala, Metro West and three or four clubs in downtown Orlando.  So we got around.  Didn't make
much money...but, we got around.


Then suddenly Bonkers made a deal with the WhyNotLounge and decided to come back.  The House Manager waited until after my last show of the week to tell me we were out.  I felt like I had been blind sided by Bonkers.

I was  so disgusted at the dirty dealings that I quit doing Stand Up and got a real job...At Disney.


At the Disney Reservation Center


At the Disney Reservation Center I eventually landed in the ecommerce department.  I was one of a handful of people who midwifed the Magic Band rollout.  I manned the Internet Help Desk, chatted with guests on the new website, and answered email questions from guests. 


We worked mandatory overtime for the first year and a half and had anywhere from 80 to 120 people waiting to yell at us at any given time from open to close.  After a while it became all about wether you could get, or how you might get Anna and Elsa or 7 Dwarfs Mine Train Ride fastpasses. I became an expert on the Disney Fastpass+ system and all it's quirks and how to get around it to get what you want.  I knew exactly how many days out you could get fastpasses for any given ride. 


To give you an idea, Anna and Elsa fastpasses+ disappeared generally 45 days prior to a vacation date within 5 minutes of being available (they went to guests with a 14 day stay who got 30 days prior plus their length of stay.  7 Dwarfs mine Train fastpasses generally were available until 25 to 30 days out.  If you called me to get one of those two fastpasses the day of your trip to Magic Kingdom you would have to wait while I had a good laugh and recovered my composure.

I had a ‘nervous breakdown’ at Disney about a year into it.  I had just been stabbed in the back by my ‘friends’ in an HR investigation that assured there would be no leadership position in my future.

My Dad had just died, my oldest daughter Rebecca hadn’t spoken to me in a year, and my youngest child Michelle I hadn’t seen or spoken too for the same year. 

I cried at my desk every day and tried to talk on the phone.  A Leader took me aside and told me in no uncertain terms to get some help.  I cycled through three or four therapists. I quit the last one during the Obama election because the last three sessions she just lectured me on how dangerous he was.  You know,  Standard  Republican Party Propaganda that I could get from my mom for free.


Anthony De Mello

Luckily a co worker at Disney, a short fat balding gay man, gave me a book and CD that  changed my life.  I was crying at my desk one day and mentioned that I was struggling with  depression.  He said, “Really, your depressed?”  I wanted to say, “No, I sit here and cry for  attention you idiot!”  He turned me on to Anthony De Mello and I still listen to his CD every day in  the car. 


It has made my life better.  Much better.  I have learned to take what happens more stoically,  and to not let other people control my happiness.  I need to be in control of that.

Change Happens
As I sit now, in my big 6 bedroom house, in my new office, at my new desk, at the helm of my  new business, I reflect with joy that all three of my biological children eventually came to live  here with me. And the two girls are already helping with Daddy’s little business.

I know, it’s a lot to cover.  But here is how it all started…


I basically conned her into coming over to my dumpy apartment so I could
cook tacos for her.  The problem was that I had spent my last dime on that meal,
and had no money to go to the restaurant.  To make a long story short, she saved my life
because at that time I was working two jobs and paying 95% of it in child support (illegal I
 know, but Satan's Sister had a good lawyer - which of course she never paid).  
I literally kept a noose on my porch to hang myself at a moments notice.
I nearly used it one night, and didn't because of a small note my daughter Michelle (now 15)
stuck to my dingy apartment wall.  It just said "I love you Daddy."



After that night I took the noose down, resolved to live just because
my daughter needed me, and I started dating Lori.  We were married in the historic white church in Altamonte Springs with all five kids present in 2009 (The year I started blogging).  It was time to build a family out of the broken pieces of my life.  I was coming up from below rock bottom.

Michelle did in fact need me after she started cutting herself (living with
Satan's Sister makes you want to kill yourself).  Michelle came to live
with us on Thanksgiving day of last year (2014) and boy was I thankful!  

She was committed to an Acute Care facility (if you don't know what that is,
 it's the locked hotel with no shoelaces), then released to a Partial
Hospitalization facility.  I got in her face and worked with her day in and
day out to get her mental health back.  At the time of this writing she is
at home with us, no longer on suicide watch, and going to summer school
for Algebra I.  Next year she will be a sophmore in high school, and she
has joined the drill team for ROTC. Her grades aren't that great, and she
failed a whole year of chool.  She'll bounce back next year, I'm sure of it.

 I am very grateful that I saw that little note in the dark as I was on my way
to end my life.  I'm glad I got to be here to return the favor and save her life.
She's a great kid, a lot like me, and she's doing great now.  

So, lets take you back to December of 2009.  We were living in
Lori's house and we had just gotten married.  For the first time we
had five kids and we started going about building a family.

I was out of work again, so I started blogging about my daily life. 
I went from being homeless, lonely, and suicidal, to having a great
wife and five wonderful kids. It was a heck of a journey for all of us.

It was a tough road filled with tears, lots of shouting, and anger against
the system that almost crushed us.  I credit my lovely wife for getting us
through it.  Without her steady hand on the till, and my kids suddenly
coming around, I would have surely died.  So, I pretty mush owe it all to 

Today, I own a brand spankin' new 6 bedroom house in Emerson Park,
and I am starting a new business working from home. Lori is also
working from home and now we get to be together all day long.

God bless her for saving my life, and one day I hope to make enough
money so that she can retire and we'd like to sail around the world for
a few years (she's been working 2 and 3 jobs this whole time).

Oh, and our house is being appraised today for the refinance at a lower
interest rate (VA loan). The one just like ours around the corner just sold
for $275,000 (We paid $215,000).  I believe it will reach $400,000 in the
next few years, at which point I want to get my wife a small farm with 
horses and a 35 ft sailboat with the extra equity. Sounds like another
blog, doesn't it?  I'll let you know how that turns out.

Read Greg's Blog about the Greater Apopka Area:
"Apopka: Life in the Fertile Crescent" at: