Disruption is the name of the digital game. But what if you don’t want to be disrupted, what if you want to leave and take you with you when you go?
I have a website, a decade ago I grabbed my name when it became available. Still, most of us have learned that driving traffic to your website entails posting material on social media sites.
I’ve used Twitter to enhance traffic. I’m not too happy with the new owner, so I surfed over to Mastodon, added an account at Post. But what if I my identity and the people that follow me were all able to easily be forwarded to me by my identifier. Instead, all of us have to start all over again and rebuild our followers.
My background is street theater. Street acts don’t dig gatekeepers. We prefer to throw it down on the sidewalk and make it all happen there, right in the moment, we build an audience starting there.
I’m not so sure that social media broadcasting, lucking into a viral moment, something that goes big, blows your thing, whatever your thing is, blows that up, that’s what many hope will happen. Maybe you are one of those lucky ducky’s, more likely your postings fall short of that viral moment, you do get some engagement but you wouldn’t want to quit your day job.
Lot of platforms are eager to get us to enter their domain, to come play in their arena, and you know if you do get some attention you’ll try building on it, maybe even get compulsively addicted to trying. That’s the cheese, you’re the mouse and the trap is the host who is there until they aren’t. Sometimes they become unpredictable, change their algorithms, terms of service are altered, maybe they find you vulgar, you harass someone, there are so many out there playing those games.
It turns out that managing our social media content takes valuable time and since it does maybe we should be getting a better more predictable deal for our efforts.
Guy Kawasaki is a social media professional. He figures you’ll get about 1% of the people that follow you to buy your offering. I have maybe depending how you count about 1500 followers, maybe more, likely less. Even if you have 100,000 followers you are still not going to move many books. Even a million followers are too small a group and come on now how many of you reading this blog have a million followers.
Having the formerly richest man in the world buy then blow up a social media platform like Twitter proves my point. Even if it is all on him the harm is falling on all of us. Taking our identity and moving somewhere else would go a long way toward balancing out their power over our identity. I’d think anyone managing a platform would soon be trying to keep as many users as is possible.
We haven’t managed to pass any meaningful regulations for decades and not because there aren’t good ideas out there, but because a good many people like things just the way they are. Having control over our identity, our privacy, having the power of portability, to move freely across the internet’s social media platforms is the kind of disruption you can believe in.
Back from Seattle after a romp across Capitol Hill for food, fun, and friends. If you had to ask you should know it was cold and at moments teasingly sunny.
Friday, we celebrated the Kid’s birthday. A whole mob of us showed up at Blotto’s to celebrate. This is Jordan and Christy’s pizza joint, bottle shop and bar on 12th Ave and E Denny Way. Wine selection is all-natural style, then there is the sourdough pizza crust, the only kind available. The dough is prepped prior to the open at 5 PM, if there’s a problem with the dough they won’t open, you’ll take your chances because it is just that good.
From within this hole in the wall there are maybe a dozen seats in the main room, another dozen in the backroom, and another dozen out front. If it sounds like a lot, you’d be surprised at how much they’ve done with so little space. Residents on Capitol Hill cram into Blotto’s. Once they’ve sold out, and that’s almost every time they open their doors, they clean the ovens, wipe off the tables and then like that lights are off, and joint is closed.
Friday, we kept them late. No worries, Jordan and Christy are friends of the Kid. The enterprising couple are skilled natural wine purveyors. You’ll find this kind of wine here and there throughout Seattle, but it is still not to be expected. I’d wondered how they deal with new customers that have not run into this style of wine before. At the counter where you order Christy keeps a few bottles open. You want a red, white, rose or orange wine? No problem she’ll pour you a glass and like that you are on your way to becoming a fan of natural wine.
Another member of our group is about to open his own natural wine shop. You’ll find Other Worlds at the northeast corner of Pike and 14th . The thing to know about this scene is that you don’t get into the natural wine business to make a great big fat killing at the cash register, you sell natural wines because it is the right thing to do, at least for you, for your values, because of what you know about how transformational a simple unmanipulated glass of wine can be in this overcomplicated too often too complex world we live in.
There are way too many awkward definitions for what makes a glass of wine natural. I’ll give it my best shot, a winemaker takes grapes grown from their own vineyard and does their level best to not interfere. To ferment the grapes native yeast from the vineyard is used. Natural wine is first and foremost not created with supply chain yeasts that are marketed by various suppliers around the world. The flavors unlocked by wild yeast is specific to the place where the grapes are grown, skilled tasters can tell you where a wine is from simply by identifying the character of the wild yeast.
L’Oursin is located down on E Jefferson St at 14th Ave. Like Blotto this French restaurant only has natural wines on its list. As far as the Kid knows these are the only two eating establishments that offer only natural wine. Saturday night we were a smaller foursome out to eat at this off the beaten path restaurant.
The Kid’s circle of friends is all bound up in life on Capitol Hill. Especially fun is how this group of late 20-somethings to early 30-types thrive as the full power of their adulthoods blossom. There was a special event that pulled a big crowd, not their crowd, a big crowd of early 20-somethings, and it was in that instant that my Kid realized she was no longer a kid at all, not even a post adolescent teen type kid, she was for better or worse a wise world tested credit card carrying fully realized former kid.
All my Kid’s circle are aiming higher, most want to go further, some have already left Capitol Hill, some have had to move back, a few vow to never leave— we know that’s more whimsical hope than a fait accompli. Setting your marker on the table of your life is fair game, you want to claim you’ll live and die on Capitol Hill then so be it, odds are long you won’t but no harm in saying you’re going to try. This is what is called an unknowable boast—
The Kid is in the prime of her life and this is where she’s been fated to play her cards. Capitol Hill has its own buzz, its vital, congested— if you lived her you wouldn’t have to leave here, it has everything you would want or need. That’s how it stands. One day parking starts to become a hassle, you want your own garden, instead of squeezing into a studio you start imagining you’d like to spread out two miles south in Columbia City with some of the refugees you came up with back in the day on Capitol Hill.
You won’t admit to wanting this less pressurized life until you simply must. Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky few that never is overcome by this pressurized urbanity. Maybe you’ll be the one that becomes a curator at the Seattle Film Festival, maybe you get lucky, and your food blog takes off, there is a photo essay about where you live on Capitol Hill and how the thought of ever leaving the Hill is simply inconceivable. Your name and the Hill are synonymous, maybe the mayor or Seahawks quarterback are better known, but then those are personalities built by politics and sport, you have gained fame not just for a good eye for a good film but for a neighborhood you love too, and then there all those up and comers that want to grow up to be just like you, to live forever in one of Seattle’s finest corners, you become the Elaine Stritch of the Paris on the Puget Sound, you don’t spend five decades at New York’s Carlyle Hotel, instead you’re living life large on the top floor of a century old multi-unit building with floor to ceiling windows and the best damn view anyone could ever imagine having of the Space Needle.
You haven’t just made it, you are it, you are that rare odd dweller of never to leave Capitol Hill dwellers. You didn’t die and go to heaven, you lived life large and ended up on Capitol Hill—
Masking up and flying to Seattle to see the kid this weekend. Friday night is slated for small plates, natural wine and swift flowing conversation. The usual suspects in my daughter’s circle will drop by to offer their condolences as her odometer trips over to the 31 mark.
My odometer, that would be the father of the daughter’s odometer is in the nosebleed section of the center for the tragically hip and terminally cool. Aside from having pulled a muscle in my lower leg and having to hobble around like some errant penguin looking for a good piece of ice I’m reasonably useful. Capitol Hill in Seattle is peopled by our society’s up and comer’s, don’t ask if I suffer envy with any sort of grace.
What is most important is that you can get good produce at the local Co-op, if you need the odd cheaper specialty item there is a Trader Joe’s, and to purchase adult beverages you’ve got options, lots and lots of alternative outlets. There is a butcher shop where you can purchase grass fed organic meat. There is a nearby dispensary where every kind of smokable, edible and drinkable is on offer.
Maybe I Do is in the theaters. The kid and I enjoy getting out to the cinema together. A comedy is right up there with what the doctor has ordered. Diane Keaton, Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, and William H Macy play the parents to a young couple. When the parents meet it turns out that the four have all cheated and that their partners are this other couple. I’m a sucker for funny sex, a friend tells me that there is no other kind of sex, she urged me to think about it, I want to believe she’s right, of course she’s right as she laughed—
Flying up to Seattle tends to mean it will be colder and likely wetter than here in Northern California. Fortunately, perhaps that’s exaggerating, we have just come out of a lengthy period of rain, snow and very chilly air. My years spent playing dates in Arizona has left me with little appreciation for what we call winter. It is one of my many emotional disabilities.
Sunday the Eagles play the 49ers for the National Football Conference Championship. I’ll need to be excused so I can watch the game. My kid knows about the dad’s football habit. Because of the pandemic we’ve tended to choose our visiting with larger gatherings to near zero. We see our very closest friends, best method is just one other couple, we think this reduces the chances of catching the bug of all bugs.
Unfortunately, this cautiousness has gutted from our life the people we might recognize by face, bump into at the marina, see them at one of our favorite saloons, at the health club, now most of those second and third tier acquaintances have been melted away by the pandemic.
As much as I like my best friends, they’ve all heard my stories before, it’s all the newer faces in the crowd that might like to hear about my life on stage, the books I’ve written, the sailing I’ve done, and the birds I’ve identified.
In the before times to live a really well rounded life you’d mix and match your activities to blend your time visiting the time tested relationships with the newer people you are just getting to know.
In June of last summer, I dropped a propane tank on my big toe. That wiped out most of the summertime. Walking was difficult. I’ve been shooting baskets down at the club since September. It’s a terrific workout, you can kick up the pace and you’ll know you’ve been exercising once you are finished. I shoot for 45 minutes most days. Then, last week I picked up a ball dribbled and took a few steps and my lower leg on the same side as the damaged toe decided to pop. I’ll be back in another week. At first, I thought I’d be down for months.
Most years when I’ve been onstage I would do about five-hundred shows. These have been physically challenging, besides juggling you’ve got to chat up your crowd. In the early years you had no sense of pace, didn’t even consider you could get injured, you just let it rip. Once you’ve got a long string of contracts to honor you start streamlining your time on stage and the training you do to maintain the act. You don’t want any stubbed toes, no twisted ankles, no pulled muscles in your back, no damage to your voice, not too much direct sun on your face, you end up smoothing out your daily routine.
A well trained showman will walk at a good pace but not sprint from place to place. Moderation is key. For decades I performed a few handstand stunts in the act. All in all it worked out, a few unplanned tumbles got me banged up, but I was able to work around the injuries.
A colleague in the biz has a big show in May and has asked if I would do something. It some ways doing 5 minutes is harder than doing 500 shows. You have to prepare just about as thoroughly. If you count the number of lines, calculate which stunts you are going to include, it will eat up more than a few day’s to be sure you are well prepared for the appearance.
As life would have it my daughter and I get along swell. Her dog Mezzo seems to think the world of me, at least I pretend the little guy does. Most amazing about time shared with my kid is being in the midst of her great talents. Besides being a damn good cook, she has this other talent for being organized. You really can’t appreciate this talent until you look in her dresser drawers, go through her clothes in the closet, or admire her tree of earrings.
Five days in Seattle in late January is the first installment. We are due back up for a trip out to Orcas Island late this summer. Sometime between now and then the kid will make it down to the Bay Area. It isn’t as much as we’d like, but we see one another and we find it better than not getting together.
I was ambivalent over becoming a father, my mother passing away at 56 changed my mind. A daughter changes how a father feels about the project of being alive. To the extent unconditional love can be found anywhere in this world it must be located somewhere between a parent and their child. The emotions come with a gravitational force all their own. The rising tides of closeness, belonging, and understanding fill the famous void.
Whatever it is a site of the kind I run here is about, one thing it could be about is self-care, perhaps a flow chart showing how to stay out of harm’s way and where to find the good stuff that makes our short time here worth the effort.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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—
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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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.
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…”
“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.”
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.
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…
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.