Category Archives: Biography

Timeline of the Bagatelle

I posted my first blog here in 2011. I joined Twitter about the same time. I cross post whenever I put a new piece up, some I’ll put on the Face. The difference is that I view Twitter as a public/political forum whereas I view Facebook as a private/apolitical venue. Friends already know what I think, the public at large may find what I’m writing worth a look, it’s a choice. 

Coffee in Barcelona

Early on I was careful about what content I covered, I was still doing a lot of summer library programs and sexual innuendo and white-hot political spear throwing could blow back on the librarians that supported my act, so I held my fire.

I remember workshopping at a writer’s conference, there was a social media breakout session, the presenter was sure the best path forward was to build your platform. Building a platform had to do with gaining followers, you would find followers on Facebook, Twitter and so on and so forth. 

Lacey retired to Oregon

Nonfiction writers’ currency of value is stored in their subject matter, fiction’s value is stored in the emotional power of the story told. Search Engine Optimization’s (SEO’s) are made for facts, they do much less well conveying emotions.

Back in the early days of social media readers observational skills were in transition, having a cup of coffee while pouring over the pages of the New York Times produced a style of reader that took their time, those old school types would read from start to finish, then choose another item and then another. 

The blizzard of stories a reader encounters online overwhelms; fewer and fewer readers can aim and sustain their attention on this whirligig digital publishing platform.

This has happened over time, not for all of us, but many if not most hardly have the same reading habits. If you were born at the turn of the new millennium, you are a person born into this current mashup of digitized platforms. In some sense you are trained from the beginning in modern day digital literacy, you are fluent in this system, know how to work with it, many times it isn’t the written word you use, instead it is a picture, audio or short video. 

Road and Dog

While I may remember the fads and fashions of the decades of yesteryear, born in the 50’s, coming of age in the 60’s, owned the post adolescent world in the ‘70’s, then dove headlong into the ‘80’s as I misappropriated my adulthood by clinging to the hope of being forever young. 

Our daughter was born in the early ‘90’s, that put an end to my completely dodging my adulthood. I fumbled through the go-go-90’s as the prime street show years in San Francisco closed out and what might come next was still far from visible.

Once I’d moved to Oregon and struggled through the offseason, then figured out how to work festivals with the help of a local event producer— one of my life’s great alliances. In short order I created a circuit that was loosely based on my being in Arizona in winter and the Northwest in summer. I took that plan across half of the 90’s and most of the next two decades until the pandemic hit.

My father was a computer buff, in 1995 he taught me how to use a dial up modem and link to a server at Oregon State University. It was awkward, there was no browser, we figured out how to write down various addresses, one was to a portal supported by NASA. Netscape just weeks later was released and was soon loaded onto my personal computer.

Leaves are not forgotten

I had written a first novel in 1980 on a manual typewriter. By the turn of the new century, I was soon to be afforded the opportunity to revise and finish the book. There would be another three more produced, all told these four novels were completed between the years 2007 and 2020, this timeline tracks the release of the iPhone and then the development of all the myriad social media platforms that soon followed. Mobility was the key. 

Bookstores were closing right and left, Amazon shouldered most of the blame, but in fact it was more than just Amazon, reading habits were changing.

Once upon a time an author, and his publisher would work to get their book onto the shelves at a bookstore. In the before times, you would go into the biggest bookstore in the world and maybe you could choose between a thousand, perhaps as many as five thousand novels. Today you surf over to Amazon where you will find millions of titles to choose from.  

All of this has happened in less than two decades, the previous system has been supplanted by this new one, what is sometimes obliquely referred to as the attention economy. 

I’m making my way through a terrific novel by Susan Gee Rumsey, Why You Must that will eventually be seen by a few hundred, no more than a few thousand I would guess, and that has nothing to do with the novel’s quality. Gorilla marketing will only take a book so far, ultimately this inanimate object loses its momentum lands on a shelf and that is where it will ride out its days, years and decades.

Blogging I use for research, it is my public facing sketchpad, where I’m sharing the underlying facts that I will use to build my fiction. On my desk now is a screenplay, a comedy about climate change set in the American Southwest and loosely to do with the scarcity of water coming out of the Colorado River. 

In the months ahead I’ll complete a full-length screenplay. What I can make happen after I finish with all the probabilities that entails are a very steep climb. 

Hotel Majestic where I was holed up working on a blog

Into this cauldron of change is the bizarre turn that our digital landscape is undergoing. I’m especially grateful that I have maintained my own website, that I can post what I want as I want. If your business model depends on Elon Musk’s mood, Facebook’s tweaking their algorithms, or whether Google will continue supporting Google Plus well you have been taken on a ride you were never going to be in control of.

Keeping a public facing blog alive, pulling some readers along, bouncing about riding from topic to topic, doing work that won’t get you dragged into court, producing material that gives some pleasure to your readers, that’s something like what I’ve been doing over here.

Much of the very best sentences, paragraphs, pages and chapters of my writing have been captured in my long fiction. A short piece here on my blog is cranked out with a sensibility of being breezy, offhanded, of the moment, not too much care, kind of let it go and move on, life is short, and anything can be improved upon, but to what end and to what difference—

The madness of the new Twitter owner, Google’s downturn, Facebook’s fated decline is proving to be game changing, we’re on our way from one place to another and none of us are sure what that next digitized realm will be. What is certain is it won’t be this, the world is moving on, there is a better next set of platforms and formulas to experiment with.

I’ve tried to drive my engagement by earnest qualities, as best I can, as honest as I can, giving some of you a chance to see other more bohemian perspectives, sharing what I find and giving voice to all those likeminded misfits I’ve come to meet along the way over the course of time. You all do know I’m onto you right— and you have found me out too. Thanks for hanging around now and again­— 

The Golden Gate Garbage Company

Mike Stroud and Dana Smith circa 80’s

The burn rate was high, and the hits were few. Most of the routines washout even before tested in front of an audience. Still the new material offers clues. You’ll take this add that and try it out.

My two dogs always are at the top of the mind of people who have seen my act. Because so much of the material was an odd mashup of various elements it was often difficult to explain what might have caught the attention of someone.

Songwriter on road in Homer, Alaska 2005

For some years I opened with ball spinning and fire juggling and then finished with the dog. Unpacking the details isn’t often much help when prodding the memories of audience members.

Someone would offer— He did something with the dog— Fair enough. So, there was a dog in the act? Yeah, the dog was good—

Vancouver British Columbia 1990

I’ve written lyrics and music for ukulele throughout my years drifting town to town doing shows. The ukulele was quite the constant companion. Sometimes I admired a particular piece of music and would put my own farcical lyrics to the tune. My originals where I did both song and lyrics are hardly jewels, but a few turned out, they’re not too bad.

I was influenced by Tin Pan Alley, Cole Porter, Sammy Cahn, Rodgers and Hart, Ira Gershwin, Frank Loesser and so many others. Chord changes to a tune like My Funny Valentine twist and turn at a quicker pace. When you only have four strings the chord change tempo helps.

Lacey Christmas Show San Francisco 2003

Both dogs provided the on-cue barks to How Much is that Doggie in the Window. The tune provided a sentimental touch to my act, softening my personality, helping to add another dimension. I’ve played this tune in performance well over 10,000 times. You can see one version with Sunshine on my posted videos at this site.

Sunshine Miami, Florida 1987

The Golden Gate Garbage Company never got much attention. Both Mike Stroud and I had more polished solo shows, but we banged out more than a few sets in front of audiences. While working dates in Montana in 1988-1989 we got a chance to play this material atop a flatbed truck trailer to an enthusiastic remote and isolated wheat growing community along the border of Canada and North Dakota.

That was then and this is now. Here for your pleasure the shows signature tune…

Garbage Man…

Her Name Was Lola…She was a Dancer

Alex and Dante

 

Alejandro and Dante Loading Up for Shows

Today in Playacar, Mexico was shopping day. Stand-up comic roommate Ted Holum and I walked across town into Playa Del Carmen and replenished the cupboards. Teddy’s a month younger than me, so he’s the kid in our odd coupled family. We share an apartment here. We share the same stages too.

He’s the old pro really. I am the green “gringo” from San Francisco taking a bite of show business by way of playing the stages and bars at the resorts along the Caribbean here in the Yucatan. They are all targeted to tourists. We do our show in our English. The language we speak translates well to people from the United States, Canada and England.

Ted’s strictly stand-up. I’m a juggling comedy act and so the English kind of have something to hang onto while trying to fathom the mystery of the American mind playing with comedy via the mother tongue that they know.

I’ve survived the first action packed week. Six different shows, six different nights, six different resort stages, six different supporting staffs, and as you might imagine six different results. First night was like learning to swim. You have to trust the water, learn to float, trust. Night two kind of other problems arise not anticipated after the first night. By the third night I’m realizing this isn’t going to be an easy gig. On the fourth night I finally hit the ball and almost knock it out of the park. Hey! I connected pretty good even if it was right over the middle of the plate.

I’ve got the shows running order figured out. I got the piece I improvise. I got the closer. I got pretty much the whole enchilada dialed in. And then there is the utter unpredictable nature of each room, each night and each resort.

Alex

 

You Got to Love this Guys Face…

I come from San Francisco. It is foggy, but its California, we don’t have this thing called humidity. Humidity is what other parts of the world have. I have not spent my career juggling in sticky, hot, wet, slick a sn_t weather. It makes juggling different. Let’s put it that way. Unpredictable perhaps another word that comes to mind.

Anyway, off for work around 6. Back from the show about 11. We get the show. We get one free meal. We get to talk the Alejandro. He is 29. He is a gem of a human. He’s got the eye for the ladies. He has girlfriends. He finds it impossible to believe I am married. He finds that possible I suppose, but finds the whole idea of being married impossible, and therefore I am performing the biggest most amazing trick and I haven’t even done a show.

One week down. I’ve got the night off and tomorrow I start a second six night run. You would be incorrect to make any assumptions about this gig. It takes a certain skill beyond anything you might present on stage. And then you know there is being suddenly thrust into a live version of the Odd Couple. One last clue…I’m the neat one.

Iguana

Iguana in the neighborhood

 

 

Sustainable Comedy and the Folly of Capitalism

For years, economists have posited that prosperity requires growth, with environmental damage as the regrettable but unavoidable consequence. A growing number of critics are now challenging this equation, though, calling for a radical revamping of the economic system.

                             Nils Klawitter

touring vehicle

My Cowboy Cadillac and the Place I’ve Called Home for Near Four Decades

I’ve drifted the American West as a juggling act for much of the last four decades. Crossing vast landscapes, pulling into isolated towns, spying all manner of misguided enterprise or not. A good drifter knows how to pull off the paved highways and roll out into the wild lands on the dirt tracks. Time stills the pace of the modern world and in its place the chirp of bird, the dusk, the breeze, the silence. Surrounded as we are by so many man imagined systems, especially the concept of money and the economy in all its shapes and forms, what we are awakening to is the inadequacy of capitalism’s various configurations. Large scale businesses have proliferated until we sense the festering clash of purpose between their zeal for profit and humanities need for survival. It is out here in Nevada where I have placed my latest novel, Hot Spring Honeymoon, and it is here where the struggle of a small community being overrun by the globalized economic system that the story plays out as comedy.

British economist Tim Jackson. In his 2009 book “Prosperity Without Growth,” he outlined a “coherent ecological macroeconomics” based on a “fixed” economy with strict upper limits on emissions and resources.

HOT SPRING HONEYMOON

“Let me have a look,” the scientist said examining the side of Keefe’s head. “How do you feel?”

“I see things now I didn’t see before. I hear things I never listened to.” Keefe said. “My ex-wife looks at me like I’m nothing but a piece of vulture bait.”

“You think something’s wrong?”

“There’s always been something wrong with me. But, since I got bonked on the head I see an eternity of beauty in a thimbleful of whiskey. I love this hot spring; know what I’m doing now. It seems to come natural to me…And I got to tell you, man to man, I’ve never seen anything in my whole life that has riled up my thirst more than the sight of that woman they call my ex-wife.”

Children at the Brink

I was running with the wind again. Headed north with Lacey riding shotgun. We had dinner in Ashland Saturday night. Sunday stopped in Eugene for breakfast. I’d been the producer of the street performing program at the Eugene Celebration for a bunch of years. Downtown Eugene has gone from bad to worse in the last few years.

After breakfast north to Portland and stopped to have a visit with one of my oldest friends. He’s holed up on the Northeast side just off Sandy. My friend likes to think outside the box, he prefers to live outside the box, and working from this scaffolding makes a curiosity, a kind of unbridled romp far from the familiar fields.

Evening shared more time with a husband, wife and their two teen daughters. On my way to see our youngest now at Seattle University it was like a taste of warm ups for what was about to come.

The progressive teen of the Pacific Northwest is a roving Burning Man Festival. They are playful souls. They bet with imagination. They read books, good reads.

They recycle. They eat good food. They like to juggle. They draw. They hook up and get tight with their sweethearts. They know that authenticity is the coin of the realm.

These are the souls we are handing our world off to. They are good loving people. They love the world they’ve been born into. The same as you and the same as me, and they want to do, to do whatever it takes, to turn the world around.

The obstructive class of status quo types that have the world by the throat… they will always want just one more bite of the apple, make one more close, one more deal, one more day before they let go.

My bet is with these feisty types up in this corner of the country. Come high tide, black ice, or snow storm they’re going to try to steer away from the catastrophe.

If you hadn’t noticed, Scientific America published a story this week. The article was unequivocal. Climate change is irreversible. The world is going to get much hotter. An extinction event could be baked into the cake.

We apparently can’t help ourselves. We can’t fix every problem. We can’t win every war. There are things beyond our reach. So, when was it we gave up and became fashionable not to try?

 

Click on the pic and go to Amazon to get the ebook for $1.00

Connect with me and I’ll sell you a print version for $15.

 

Free to Play the Game

Couple of Old Dogs Caught in the Act

To celebrate the first day of the rest of my life I had oatmeal. For dessert I took my supplements and finally to get the start of the day off to a rollicking hilarious start I just completed ninety minutes on my recumbent bike.

Add to my writing chores I also continue to perform. The show is mix of circus arts stunts, most of it juggling, some interactive audience material, and then the odd nut of this or bolt of that. It isn’t just standing up in front of an audience.

Three shows per day are physically and mentally challenging. It is fascinating how some days our mouth just doesn’t work. We can’t get the words out. We blow the rhythm. When we improvise in a situation our inventions can land with a dull thud.

For the longest time it seems static. It seems that who we appear to be on stage is much the same as the person we were last week, two months ago, or even two decades ago. I think where things get tricky is when our act is derived from a point of view that might be entirely against what we might really seem to be. Power solo juggling acts often are too often based upon wise-cracking, smart aleck, juvenile points of view. There is nothing wrong with that! But, it will only get you to that same place and it will take you no further.

There/Then Here/Now Where does the time go?

That’s what all this oatmeal eating is about. It is about doing what is necessary to stay in the game, to remain on stage, in front of audiences. But, performing isn’t art unless you act like it is and do something about it. What we can do is keep our minds open to not just what we’ve been, but what we are. Vaudeville is legend for trapping an entertainer in the act. It becomes a straightjacket that they cannot escape from.

Flying a plane is a skill taught by a teacher. Creating a show is an accident, a coincidence, a lark that lands on a good idea that is played out over time. Then, one day we reckon with the reality we are at an entirely new circumstance and that if we want to treat ourselves to the full thrilling creative ride that is a life in the creative arts that we must shed our skin, climb out of whatever and all of what we’ve done and begin again.

Most of what stops most of the people I know from remaining on stage is created out of the fear of letting go of who they were. As the lyric in the song says, “The road gets rougher, it’s lonelier and its tougher…”

BANKRUPT HEART 

“So, Mike, tell me when was the last time you were talked down off of a limb you climbed out on, you know what I mean? According to my understanding on these matters, a man has to do what’s in here,” Nick pointed to his temple, “and down there,” he pointed somewhere south of his belt buckle, “they both get to have a say so, they get to speak their piece about what a man has to do, and then, once its settled, just let the chips fall where they may.”

            “You know, Nick, I’d say of all the men I’ve counseled, Ry is among a handful that has never needed any coaching. Of course, he wasn’t in circulation, and even since he has been back out, he hasn’t been able to jump off that bridge, at least not yet.”

            “Well, I’d say the time has arrived. And this could be it.” Nick said. “Now, the only question that I see remaining to be answered is, if our friend here has the god-given courage to act upon the truth running through his veins. And I don’t mean tomorrow, or two weeks from now, I mean right here, tonight, at the reception.”

                        

 

 

Running South to Tucson

In the Realm of the Sun King

My time in Tucson has been spent with my friend Mark McMahon. Casa Marco’s pad was out on the very furthest reaches of East Tucson out on the end of Speedway.

I rolled with this rig and slept in his front yard. We’d hike Saguaro National Park. That’s a favorite place. The coyote and javelina owned the joint we borrowed it. The roadrunners, cactus wren and ravens laughed at us. Tarantula’s creeped out of their holes at night to inspect us.

The five acre compound is lush. Mark and I walked mornings and sunsets. Middle of the day we tried to move the ball, take care of business, try to have a little something to show for our efforts at the end of the day.

My first time in Tucson in 1974 I visited a city of 100,000 people. Now it is 10 times larger. Do the math. Things have changed. Everywhere has changed, but even still Tucson has changed more.

Upon a Ridge viewing Sunset

We go south to Bisbee. We go explore Patagonia. These small places haven’t changed. They remain much the same. People come here and try to make a life. Some do and stay and others don’t and move on.

Birdwatching in Patagoniais sublime. Late winter, early spring my favorite. After a long day of hiking I was resting off the tailgate of my truck. Above Turkey Vultures numbering in the thousands appeared above soaring in from the south. As the light of day was fading they came to roost in the rare cottonwoods. I’d never seen anything like it before.

For the next hour this enormous flock of birds circled and landed in the trees that thrive along the banks of Sonoita Creek. Arriving on the same day I arrived turned the visit into one of the accidental thrills of my life. It is a treasured memory. A warm day in winter hiking in the desert can be just what the doctor ordered.

As I’ve sung to myself so many times, “I ride, I run with the wind, I chase the sun, to the end….” Thank you Casa Marco’s… it’s been a good ride and still is…

BANKRUPT HEART

Dawn was pristine. The air crisp, clean, the sky empty, the sea was true, chasmal…blue. No chop on the water; no cloud in the sky. Limantour Beach was alone, still, breathless. Not another soul had set foot here this morning, but for Ry and Finn. It was the first day, the New Year. They walked barefoot in the sand at the surf’s edge, acquainting their thoughts to the booze-soaked resolutions they’d taken the night before. The least waves arrived.  The Pacific was in repose between storms.  The surf’s soundtrack was a languid slow curling muffled splashing that reverberated up and down the beach.

Even When I Look Back I Still Don’t Get It…

Looking too good….

I’m not sure when it happened. I think they slipped them into a five pack. I’m talking about my polka dot bikini briefs. I don’t think I was brought up to accept things like this.  I do remember when men’s fine clothing consisted of such things as: gabardine, linen, silk, and merino wool. Now things are manufactured in some space age chemically treated for higher performance fabric and desecrated with the companies logo emblazoned across the garment.

I’m just grateful to have enough hair to still be in the game. I still have options. Compared to the world wide financial crisis I understand it is a minor thing, but didn’t someone say it was the little things that count?

Background Singers in Costume....

So far today thehigh   pointis that I ate my oatmeal, took my supplements, and got a good 90 minutes done of the exercise bike. I’ll hobble through the rest of the day remembering when I could basically eat anything as compared to now when I’m reduced to eating almost nothing.

I had a drinking problem and that is now cured. I’m drinking a lot more water. Someplace in all the advice books and columns I’ve read it said that it would be good for me. I think when you read that something is good for you and then you try it and it isn’t as good for you as the things you do that aren’t good for you that you wonder who rigged this game?

But, these are things that keep us going isn’t it? We are shocked to learn that managing ourselves is like a magic act. We find out we never are quite sure where our enthusiasm has gone for the doing the right thing. It just completely vanishes. It’s not like all of us are out to do the wrong thing. Most of us are prone to just not doing the best thing of all.

I'm on the outside looking in....I wanna be, I wanna be back on the inside....

There is still so much I’d like to know, and when compared with how much I still want to forget it isn’t really much of a contest. Someone said I don’t have that many regrets because I’ve never really been honest with myself. I can’t say for sure if I agree with that or not.

I’m still struggling with the fundamental truths of life. Things like why did these five sailors find Sunshine performing dog so captivating? How come when I tell someone I was a member of a show that presented tightrope walking they don’t believe me? Or, that I got to meet Little Anthony and when I told him I played the ukulele he winced. And finally who thought bringing me all the way to Japan only to stage my juggling act at the World Exposition should be done in front of a bright pink parade float? Perhaps the biggest and most perplexing question of all is what kind of man goes all the way to Japan and decides to go public wearing a neck scarf, leg warmers and polka dot shorts as a costume?

Men in tights or The Royal Lichtenstein Quarter-Ring Sidewalk Circus Your choice, what will it be?

I’m trying to get my affairs in order. According to the calendar I should have been grown up by now. I’ve been advised not to hold my breath. My astrologer told me today would be a good day to buy sox. Wish me luck…

Polka Dots are Protected Speech...

“Rosalind’s two-tone magenta beaded dress was dramatic. Where she was buxom and bursting were sewn fine beads and sequins, bejeweling her natural endowment. The skintight floor length dress was slit up the side of her leg well above her knee. She was a woman with a forceful full figure accentuated ever the more by a petite waistline. Rosalind oozed bare legs and sculpted broad shoulders. She was a celestial apparition of unblemished, tanned, ambrosial skin swaddled in a veneer, a gift wrapping. Rosalind was an unfettered tantalization, a provocation, a bombshell, rare was the man with the puckish virtuosity to join the quest to puzzle out her surrender to their libidinous call.”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith

The Land Yacht… When Dreams were Big and Fuel was Still Cheap

Road Dog Deluxe

I found my Streamliner in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was the ultimate. I mean it was the full fantasy. In 1974 I was on the back lot at Circus Vargas. We had jumped over from St. Louisto see the show in Springfield, Missouri. They’d come off a mud lot and the trucks and trailers that arrived had been pulled off the last lot with tractors. Most rigs had buried their axles at the hubs into the mud. The center ring circus stars were the backstage mechanics who had to pull repack the bearings on their trucks and trailers between shows while preparing to jump to the next stop.

The new acts traveled in whatever they could scratch up. The families who had spent their lives in circus, the families that had come from families that had spent their lives in circus traveled in a rather distinctive manner. They pulled Airstream trailers with these massive Cadillac’s. These were the 500 cubic inch motors of this era.

Most circus shows worked east of the Mississippi and for good reason. West of there were mountains. West of there were long distances between towns. West of there were small populations. It was hard to scuff up enough people to make a show worthwhile.

Pulling an Airstream with a Cadillac on flat ground was not too hard on equipment. You don’t break down as often. You don’t fry transmissions. Motors don’t give it up going over a mountain pass.

I had plenty of years to consider how I wanted to do it. Dodge king cab diesel pickup truck with dual rear wheels was off the shelf perfect. Streamliner travel trailer looked good on her bumper. I already owned a proper towing hitch.

Big Bad Dodge Pulling a Classic...take that Shakespeare

She served me well while I owned her. Wasn’t a long affair, but it was a grand and elegant stop along the road called life.

Sold her to a collector out of Austin, Texas, he took ownership in Tucson, Arizona. When I bought the Dodge diesel was still under one dollar and fifty and when I sold her a gallon was running five bucks! Pretty much ended the heavy duty era of my touring life. I tried holding on for a spell, but unless it was a high dollar multiple week contract the trailer couldn’t come, didn’t pencil out.

Still it isn’t like I had to have that setup for the rest of my life. It wasn’t like I was going to need to vow devotion to a trailer. She came, did her little dance in my life, and at the right moment she departed, and a time and place of my choosing. Wasn’t more than six months later that I swapped out my Dodge Cummins Diesel for a Toyota Tacoma. Six diesel turbo powered cylinders for four naturally aspirated combustion chambers.

As a fellow performer reminded me once, “It isn’t what you have, it’s what you can tell someone you had.” So, there you go. If you’ve been thinking about running the highway with a rig and trailer like this I’d be careful. Be sure you know how far and how often you’ll need to pull her somewhere. Rig like this will eat you out of house and home in this day and age…

BANKRUPT HEART                THE SECOND NOVEL

Ry turned down the alley. He walked out onto the pier. There were fishing boats, some worn by work, others painted fresh. There were Purse Seiners and Long Liners mixed together with commercial sports fishermen boats. Across the way near the warehouse, the bigger vessels in the fleet were tied up at the docks. He counted two trollers. The next one looked like a Gillnetter and last, a ship built for fishing far offshore. Ry leaned on the rail. Tied up below was a Monterey Fisherman, a capable sea-going vessel. It was not big. Time had taken its toll. Hard for a one-man show to make a go of fishing.  Ry knew a few who still tried. Hard to make ends meet. Fuel bill, cost of bait, cost of ice, and a slim catch could eat up a man’s profits. A few seasons of that and a fisherman has no choice but to throw in the towel. Ry inhaled. The sea air was ripe with salt, the stink of fish, and a wisp of diesel fumes. Scoma’s, one of the oldest fish joints in the wharf, was set back out here above the bay water on the piers.

The Road that Never Ends

Refurbishment of the Venerable Touring Rig

Pulling off a national tour means you need a reliable
vehicle. Here I am installing my fourth motor into my ’67 Ford. I did all my
own work. The first few rebuilds were not so good, but they got better and
lasted longer with practice. Note the camper shell. This shell was scrapped and
a new shell was purchased in 1985. So, for the first 8 years when I faced a
headwind, and in show business there are many fuel consumption increased and progress
decreased.

Unplanned Small Town Stop...

I was returning from Key West,
Florida in 1988 when I burned up my rear axle
bearings on Interstate 10 some 60 miles east of Houston, Texas.
Was towed into a town called Anahuac where I
got a room. Room came with a bed. Town didn’t have a restaurant. It did have a
convenience store. Next day local welder cut the bearing off the axle and
pressed new bearing into place. I installed the axle and was back on the road.

Stage Coach Stop, Gold Mine, and Hot Spring

Here I am parked in Warm   Springs, Nevada. Had
a good camp alongside a desolate stretch of at the junction of Hwy 6 / Hwy 375,
the roads skirt the edges of the northeastern boundary to the atomic test site.
If you look into the back of my rig you can see on the right side a large aluminum
water cooler. To the left I stored food, Coleman two burner stove, pots, pans,
plates, silverware, had a manual powered coffee grinder. There is a modest
sized ice chest. With care and planning I could eat fresh good food for a week
without coming in from the wilds. I shared the camp with this gentleman biking
across the country.

Gourmet Coffee, Great Views, Terrific Service

Here I am in Hells Canyon on the Idaho
side taking a much needed lunch break along the Snake
River with Sunshine. Main thing to understand that touring
grassroots isn’t just about going from one town to another, one show, one
audience to another, it is also about being good to yourself every mile of the
journey. Emptiness is no longer uncomfortable. It becomes your living room. It
is where you live between shows.

It Must Be Love

If I had a lot of time between dates I would make myself at
home. Here I am parked at a hot spring for a few days while waiting to play a
date in La Grande, Oregon. When I had the time, and when I have the time, I’ll get my tent out and set up camp. Having a hot spring to soak in makes snow camping a treat. This is the Ukiah-Hilgard Hwy.
It is a remote and rugged seldom visited area of Oregon. You have to be comfortable in  your own bones to be here. There were no
telephones, cell phones, computers, any digital devices of any kind. At night I
might try tuning in my AM radio see if I could pick up a skip signal off the atmosphere
and catch the news at the top of the hour.

 

I had the opportunity to hang with some dancers from the
Joffrey Ballet. Audiences are not aware of the rigorous testing that artists
undertake when heading out on tour. In 1967  the company traveled from New
York to San Francisco to play at the Opera House. The entire company arrived by way of a station
wagon that transported them 3000 non stop miles. It is in facts like this that
our imaginations muse upon the life an artist lives off stage as well as on.

BANKRUPT HEART                     THE SECOND NOVEL

He continued to
just thumb through the pages of the book he’d picked from the shelf. He plunged
into the prose, selected at random, where it read, “…The abyss had been furious
with me.  The barometer continued to
sink.  Winds had increased from a full
gale to storm force.  Under bare poles,
sea anchor deployed, hatch sealed, I wedged my body for safe keeping into the
rear quarter berth, faith in my vessel resolute, she was not the weak
link.  If there was a chance something
might fail, that risk resided in character…”

            Ry
was tired. The book fell on his chest. He fell asleep. The book startled him.
He lifted it up. He continued to read. “I had been called— a cruel insistent
demand.  Luck’s allowance fully spent, it
was time to pass through the eye of my worst fears…”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith