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There’s No Place Like Home

by Big Daddy Graham

On Thursday night, March 14, I was on my way home from a 94WIP appearance at a club/restaurant in Middletown, Delaware. There was a time when I used to perform at the Wilmington Comedy Cabaret about six times a year. Throw in some one-nighters and some colleges and I traveled to “The First State” so frequently back in the day that the fact that Delaware was only about 30 minutes away from Mullica Hill made it a little more desirable to me when I decided to move there.

It was 9:30 p.m. and I made a wrong turn, so I immediately made a U-turn. The street was dark and I didn’t realize that I was about to drive over a curb. Unfortunately, I also didn’t notice that it was a very high curb. The front passenger side tire hit the curb and smacked it hard and fast. It made a really loud crunchy metal noise and when I went to reverse it off the curb it felt like I was backing up over Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator.

I had definitely done something horrible to the undercarriage. Lucky for me, this happened right in front of a bank and I was able to inch the car into the empty parking lot and out of harm’s way.

What was weird was that there was no damage at all to the front of the car or the tire. But one thing was for sure, the car was unmovable and I was screwed. It was now 9:45 at night and I was in the middle of nowhere because I had never been to Middletown, Delaware in my life. And I was due to be on the air at 2 a.m.

So, first things first. I called AAA. I’ve been a member for years and I must say they have rarely left me hanging. They told me a tow truck should be there in 70 minutes “or less.”

Well, I didn’t know it yet, but this was going to be one of those “occasional” nights when they were not going to be there in “70 minutes or less.” I had to make a decision on whether or not I was going to have to take the night off becauseI couldn’t get to the station in time. It was now 9:50.

I made the call and WIP immediately told me they were just going to go ahead and get someone to cover my shift, which I was not happy about. What if AAA got there in 15 minutes, the problem was easily fixed and I was back on the road heading home in less than 30 minutes? I would eventually arrive at the station in plenty of time.

It’s the uncertainly of it all that’s so frustrating when you break down. If the car can’t be fixed, then it’s going to be towed to the closest station, which means you’re not going to have a way to get home. I knew I was at least an hour away and I figured that’s going to be at least a$100 Uber ride. Not to mention that I don’t have an Uber account because, I, uh, have never taken an Uber. (I know that makes me sound a million years old, but it’s the truth.) What to do?

So I called my best friend, standup comedy compadre and (unfortunately for him) Mullica Hill next-door neighbor, the legendary Spins Nitely. I told him to be ready to come get me, just in case.

Rick, a very nice guy in his 30s, arrived with his flatbed tow truck around midnight, lifted the car, and told me the suspension arm had snapped and it’s going to have to be towed to the nearest AAA service station 16 miles away in Bear. Sixteen miles!

I called Spins, gave him the address of the repair shop and he agreed to meet me there. Thank God for great friends, huh? We’re talking 12:30 in the morning now.

And we still had about an hour drive home from Bear when he got there.

Here’s the point and how it ties into South Jersey Magazine. At the beginning of my comedy career when The Morning Zoo was playing my novelty hits like “Nuns!” and “Let’s Call In Sick,” I was often asked when I was going to make the big move to Los Angeles like all comics eventually do.

But I never moved. I could give you a lot of reasons why. And most of them would make sense to you. But in the end, there was just one giant reason: I’m a homebody.

I used to get depressed when I would move. Even if it was just from one part of South Jersey to another. So here I am leaving my car—not my glasses, not my wallet, not my phone—but something as huge as an automobile in a town that I have never been to in my life and the name of the town is Bear.

As Spins and I drove away from the garage heading back to Jersey, a wave of depression came over me. Like I was leaving my sister behind in prison. Like I was never going to see my car again. And even though Bear is barely an hour away, it might as well have been in Iowa.

Route 299, Route 40 and Route 13 all glided by on the way home. What a long, stinking night. It wasn’t until we got to the bottom of the Delaware Memorial Bridge that I started to feel a little calm, and I was never so happy to see a sign for the New Jersey Turnpike in my life. It was like back in the day when you would be driving home after a long trip and KYW would begin to come in on the radio.

Home. We were now on 322. Hello, Rosie’s. Hello, Wawa. Hello, Caliber Collision and Inspira Urgent Care, which share the same parking lot. (That’s kind of like “one-stop shopping” isn’t it?)

Now remember, this all went down on a Thursday night and my car remained in Bear until 5 p.m. on Tuesday. My poor, lonely car. In Bear! When I picked my car up I swear it was so happy to be going back to Jersey, I thought I saw a tear streaking down its headlights.

I know how lame this all makes me appear, but I love where I live. Always have. Always will. And remember, if anyone ever attempts to bust on South Jersey, always shove it in their face that we don’t have to pump gas.

To read the digital edition of South Jersey Magazine, click here.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 16, Issue 1 (April 2019).

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