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A small crowd, a free Mookie and 40 shades of grout

I like to try and explore a bit whenever I'm in an unfamiliar city. I still have a lot of exploring to do in my new surroundings down here. They call this area The Triangle - referring to three neighboring cities, each home to a major university. Raleigh, home of NC State University, Durham, home of Duke University, and Chapel Hill, home of University of North Carolina, are all 30 minutes or less from each other. I was all over The Triangle this week.

I headlined a bar show in Chapel Hill on Thursday night. Google Maps led me down a hip strip of downtown just across from the UNC campus. If the bar I was at last week resembles The Pink back in Buffalo, this bar is the Nietzsche's of North Carolina. There is a big stage in back, wired for small concerts with a capacity of up to about 250. It's a cool place that I'm sure has seen many a wild night.

The only problem with our comedy show that evening was that we were well below the 250 person capacity. We didn't even have ten percent of that. In fact, at the start of the show, I don't think we even had ten actual people. No fire codes were tested that night. Maybe the town was collectively hungover from the Tar Heel game the night before. Maybe the circus was passing through. Maybe there was a very successful boycott of spoken word performance art taking place, but hardly anyone was at our show. Apparently I'm not a huge draw yet in this corner of the triangle.

A perfect day to play outside between shows

It's too bad because the comics on the show were funny, and the handful of people we did have there were into it. One bright spot, however, was that part of my pay for the night included a free cheeseburger from Al's Burger Shack next door. I went with the bacon and onion jam-topped "Mookie," so it wasn't a total bust.

Friday was a big day back in Raleigh for me and my main squeeze. We spent two hours in a design studio picking out the style of floors, cabinets, countertops, bathroom tile, and so much more that would eventually make up the interior our new house. I was mostly enjoying myself but started to run out of patience when we were asked to choose from 40 different shades of grout to put between each different type of tile. That should be the name of the design studio, just to mentally prepare customers upon entry - 40 Shades of Grout. At a certain point, I’d rather have someone else make these important decisions for us.

We powered through and felt so good about all of our choices that we decided to go out and celebrate. Our celebration was equally successful, and we overslept for the NC State basketball game that we were planning to attend.

Temps were in the 70s most of the weekend, so on Sunday we took a drive to Durham to check out Duke Gardens on the Duke campus. Most of the campus is beautiful anyway, but the gardens are the main attraction. Now, the flowers aren’t exactly in full bloom halfway through February, but it was still an impressive sight. People were picnicking and children were playing at every turn. It felt like a typical mid-Summer day. On the way out of town, we also caught a glimpse of the Durham Bulls AAA baseball stadium and landmarks of the old tobacco industry, highlighted by the Lucky Strike water tower.

With my journey to all corners of The Triangle complete, this week was just what I needed. My next two weekends will be busy with travel and shows. The Triangle teaches me that I still have many paths to explore, many corners to travel to, many audience members to gain, and many shades of grout to live with.

Brian will be writing about his stand-up life for the next two months, culminating in his March 25 appearance at Shea's. Visit buffalonews.com each week to follow along.

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