Tag Archives: Bankrupt Heart

The Western Writer

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I prepare for Australia. It is looming. Like all of us born in California my life is full and not one more thing may be added now. Still, I am unsettled from another clever interview with an author who grew up in Idaho and describes herself as a “western writer”.

We may all say where we are from and what we are made of. I am sure she was a westerner. Then she went east. So at the present moment she is not in the west and no longer under the influence of its force.

Tweeting is of interest to me. I was in Dubai in October and have bonded to a few American expatriate tweeters now living there. They are American’s in Dubai. In fact from Texas, but I don’t recognize their Texan point of view, I recognize their present point of view.

The good people I follow on twitter, the good people from journalism, from publishing, from economics are by and large in orbit somewhere near New York City, as far north as Boston and as far south as Washington DC.

We grow conceit of place. I am a traveling entertainer. I know what people do. They have an affinity for the place they are from. The center of gravity of the American experience is located by the majority of its geographically captive citizens on the eastern seaboard. I don’t mean this to be true, but it does seem to be so.

I don’t mean to sneer at this clan, this club, this group. I mean to welcome them. You are where you are. Of course I am a true native western American. I am born in Oakland, California. I have lived all of my life in the west. I have toured the west. I am at peace here in the west and own the west like some tender freshman from Connecticut that owns Yale.

We are fated to the place and time we are from. Shakespeare is imprisoned at the Globe on the banks of the Thames, Faulkner is crucified upon the kudzu vines of the deep south, and I will forever be held to account for being a western American man.

I have never thoroughly loved where I am. I have had flashes of such passion then it fades. I begin to long for unseen distant horizons. The western frontier of North American continent provides a vast empty expanse upon which I may plunge my discontent into an unquenchable wanderlust.

I am grateful for the space the world has born me into. I have been tooled to work with it, to be with it, and know something about how it feeds scale and scope, how the place shapes the frame of mind and helps to explain the plain fact of why we are comfortable in our own skin out here plopped down in this emptiness.

The west allows by force of space the time to think. We do more of that out here than meets the eye.

All About Bankrupt Heart

Bankrupt Heart

A Novel by Dana Smith 

Bankrupt Heart explores the journey a man begins under some duress when his life on one fateful day vanishes. But wait! This is only where the story begins.

Victoria, Ry’s long term life partner, a composer-pianist on tour in London is not only not coming back, but is immersed in an affair with a British tuba player! Finn who is Ryan Waters true best friend has just purchased a forty-three foot wooden sailboat, Jasmine and offers her to Ry as an escape from his now empty house on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco. Into the gale of Ry’s sorrow a boatyard of beatific people is discovered. Penniless souls for the most part; this tribe of sailors, drunks and artists transforms what appears initially as a march into the heart of darkness into a delicious redemption.

Ry Waters withered personage is soon pit against the towering humanity of Jackie Van Hart, watercolorist, yoga instructor and art teacher. Morty, his supercharged agent, vows to find him a new job at another radio station that Ry is not sure he even wants. Finn an avowed bachelor, meanwhile is falling in love with a woman who, like him, wanted nothing to do with relationships.

Pain and struggle’s antidote is plot twist, humor and surprise. Jackie, this gifted, intuitive, uninhibited woman with a knack for shattering convention and sparking the unexpected is the high octane catalyst for change. Then, as if too good to be true, her lover Lenny sails right back into Jackie’s life and even her world spins out of control.

There are intricate totems placed into this narrative that add valuable meaning.

Bankrupt Heart is paradoxically a joyous romp, a story of a man restoring a wooden sailboat while reviving his most authentic self, initially his world implodes into a hellacious mess but soon the main characters join Ry on the path to a wholehearted life.

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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?

 

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Eternity Ringing in my Ears

My 1967 Ford pickup truck was home. It took some practice to get the kinks out. Simplicity was the key. When I got the truck it had a V-8 and when I finished it had an inline 6 cylinder 240 cubic inch motor.

Matched weighted forged pistons, steel timing gears, special camshaft profile, roller rockers, balanced the rods, and tweaked the one barrel carburetor. I got 20 miles to the gallon. Smoothest engine I ever made.

Much of what I did to the motor comes standard now. I didn’t get roller lifters. Instead I opted for special hydraulic lifters matched to perform with the roller rockers. I might well have seen 22 miles per gallon with the roller lifters had I installed them.

Got rid of the points and added an electronic ignition system. I bought the rig in 1976. When I was done I donated the engine to a Ford Bronco restoration shop. The 240 was a prize.

 

I’d swapped out the 8 for the 6 and ran it around for a few months prior to rebuilding it. Ran fair enough, but I knew I could do better. I’d had the truck now for some years. It was about 1983. I had put about 300,000 miles on the rig touring as I had across the United States.

After jerking the engine and tearing her down, sending her out to the machine shop, ordering all the trick parts, getting her back and then painstakingly reassembling the engine back together I was ready to start the motor for her first try.

It was like an out of body experience. The motor purred. Gone were the rumbles and shakes. The motor had come to me speaking in broken English whereas now it was fluent, in fact perhaps mellifluous: to my ear Shakespearean.

I ran north to south. The Ford took me as far as Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and as far south as Bahia de Los Angeles in Baja, California, Mexico. She’d taken me east to Key West three times, New York twice, and Boston once.

I’ve slept around as they say. Finest neighborhoods I could find, or sometimes not, sometimes I’d just sleep where I was, wherever that was, however that looked.

Never put much stock in wanting my rig to draw attention. Curtains sealed out any light my reading lamp might make. Once I was in back on my bunk nobody gave the rig a second thought. You want to be invisible.

On my way to 500,000 miles I’d put something like ten coast to coast tours on this old truck. I spent the better part of a decade living in her, half those years non-stop, twenty-four-seven-sixty-months-straight-during one stretch.

 

I went over Rabbit Ears Pass on my way to Durango, Colorado in 30 below zero one night; had to chain up for that one. Not the dumbest thing I’ve ever done, but was a nominee.

Life was all about the show. I played dates town to town. Between dates was whatever I wanted it to be. I’d usually stock up the rig with food and then the real art was to know what dirt track to turn down.

If I had a few days I could write, read and workout. It wasn’t anything special. Many of my performing friends did much the same. It was good and still is.

Have a home now, but I still own a pickup truck, still get out on the road, and still pull off and take a dirt track now and then out fifty miles to nowhere pull over and spend a few days with eternity ringing in my ears.

 

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dana@danasmith.com

Hand in Glove

Handsome, a physical specimen, educated with grace and manners but are we capable as California/artist/performer/author of being debonair? Is our style too casual, too wash and wear, with silk and linen missing from our closet?

The Bordeaux is one continent and one ocean removed. We go to the Napa Valley. It is all so downscale. Yes, we have the French Laundry but who can get a reservation on the day and time of their preference? Dining on their schedule instead of ours?

Telegraphing taste in California is done by automobile. Clark Gable had many elegant rides. His 1938 Packard eight cylinder convertible Victoria with coachwork by the polo playing Darrin of Paris, a war hero, snappy dresser often described as dapper. That is how it was done back in the day.

It goes without saying that since the last good war we’ve had only other kinds of war. Whatever is left of taste and style is piled onto the shoulders of George Clooney. Nob Hill is in decline everyone that is anyone in high tech is south of Market Street now.

A Wilkes Bashford shopping spree can save a man from himself. From there a luncheon at the St. Francis Yacht Club or a martini out at the Cliff House at sunset begins to crack styles salvation back into view.

Our politics is more crude and coarse. We now have wave upon wave of propaganda outlets posing as talk radio hosts. In what universe is global warming a hoax and birth control pill use to be discouraged?

The best educated among us leave for Wall Street. They go with an algorithmically enhanced ambition. Ethics has been drowned in a sea of free market theology. These distinctions are lost on a world that is trapped in a technologically supercharged innovation cycle.

It is where we find ourselves. Sinatra is gone. He had style. Palm Springs did back in the day. Perhaps vulgarity is a necessary part of any gilded age. Our manners, our clothes, our cars all hissing at one another, but missing the acquired pleasure that civility offers to the delicate central nervous systems of a more aspirational soul.

I by chance stumbled upon a radio interview with Norman Mailer. While our current President has raised the bar considerably in his use of the English language when compared to the previous office holder he has to speak to all of the citizens whereas Mailer simply is allowed to speak.

There is a pleasure to a person choosing the right word. We find our lives improved. What they have to say changes us. We know something when they are finished, and it isn’t poured down our throats and manipulated into us. Instead it is by the right means that we get there, persuaded by fact and perspective until the best course is obvious.

This is the hand as substance and the glove as style that I miss in discourse and why there is still much to be said about the fact that the clothes still do make the man while his speech might well undo him.

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Coming Homing, Gardening as Show Stopper

Dom and Jane live in Wooloweyah, Australia. I booted my Google Earth program and took a look.

Dom elects to put as much distance between the world’s troubles and his home as space will allow.

Yamba, the nearest town is a tourist destination located just north of Dom’s village. I’ve known Dom for his work as a street act. He’s moved on from vaudeville style street shows into music.

Dom now prefers the easy rhythms of music to the comic timed one-liners. Belting out those punch lines can test the diaphragm and weary the vocal chords.

Sitting back and allowing the music to pull folk in is preferable to leaning against the flow and trying to stop the world in its tracks. Street energy is dynamic. The street show is executed by force of will. Will is often mind, and mind is more often than not wit, and wit is what we can say about the present moment that rings true.

The most truthful thing to be said about this last truth is that it isn’t always true, but it is more true than not, and demands a performers most strenuous effort. A street show is always a trial by jury.

I’ve had the privilege of the company of some of Hollywood and Broadway’s most celebrated talents. One Christmas with Bea Arthur, dinners with Bill T Jones, out for drinks with Norman Mailer, backstage with Leon Redbone, Chris LeDoux, and Stan Getz.

Leon Redbone in case you might wonder is a charming and generous man. He was always playing another odd tune on his portable, always eager to ask me to listen, tell him what I thought.

Packing up and loading out and jumping to the next date Mr. Redbone lamented that all he really wanted to do was wrap up the tour go home and garden.

Moments are driven not just by the times we live in, but by the simplicity our souls seek. Fame and fortune have little currency in this realm. This is the place where our pristine parts of self are allowed space to influence our most authentic choices, a moment when we choose non-action, non-doing. It is restoration, it is revelation. It is home.

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Yes, I’m the Great Pretender

Who are you kidding?

Delusion abounds in this the age of information. We are deluded and misdirected in this ever increasingly complex civilization we have been born into.

I try to understand economics. I read about the nuclear disaster at Fukushima. I listen to commentary on the radio. One friend is angry at labor unions. Another friend blames bankers for his problems, another affirmative action, women’s liberation and Greenpeace.

Changing the subject is a popular devise to bury a subject you’d rather not discuss. I thought we were in the midst of a Great Recession, that there were millions upon millions of people without work and needed a job?

A group of men advertising themselves as celibate go get their nickers in a knot over a topic most of us thought settled five decades ago! Not only does birth control as a burden fall disproportionally upon women, it turns out the attack on this burden is executed disproportionally by a group of men vowing to have nothing to do with the very thing women alone are burdened with.

In the age of delusion we don’t fix problems. We have problems and when we begin to feel as if one problem is beginning to be fixed we raise new problems. Don’t let the (expletive deleted) get you down.

 

There is this profound sense that we can’t change. There is this slow motion train wreck quality to our times. More delusion probably, all too many people think that everything is just great.

It is literally a miracle to me that somehow we have managed to make jetliners as safe as we have given our propensity to delude ourselves. Maybe we’re kidding ourselves. Maybe it is far more dangerous than we know?

Facts- they say are stubborn things, but it is looking like delusion is too. I don’t think we get up in the morning go into the bathroom and wash our face and look into the mirror and say, “who are you kidding?”

Even if we did start the day off with the admonition to play it straight with ourselves it seems we are all in our own separate realities. Life is not a series of distinct, autonomous events. Life is more a flow, one event pushing the previous event out of our mind only to find that event being pushed by the next and the next.

Of course living in a ‘fact free of consequences world’ allows us to simply all go our own deluded way. Since nothing bad has happened nothing bad will happen. That’s delusions greatest threat; what might be bad for you might well be good for me!

Delusion doesn’t require a mental deficiency of any kind. Perfectly healthy well educated people can be utterly and completely deluded. We don’t need any help.

But, when you wake up, when you make an observation, and it is apparently confirmed and verified to be true and then you don’t react, don’t do what you can to right the situation and you pretend that you can’t do anything about it, that’s the bait to the trap.

The modern world we live in might simply be too complicated for us. That’s the biggest delusion, or perhaps it is a stubborn fact yet to be reckoned with.

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Testosterone is King… King of Dreams

Don Juan meets George Bernard Shaw

Testosterone gathered for coffee at an outdoor café. There were four of us. One married, another cohabitating, another just back from the frontlines of new love, and a fourth sidelined for the moment.

It was a good afternoon for testosterone. Each carrier of this potent point of view gave their individualized perspective of how they see things.

The passing phantoms walked on by. Yoga students in spandex tights are not much interest to men, but it is of paramount importance to testosterone. Testosterone is like the notion of an ego trip, you don’t actually go anywhere but it is a vivid state of mind.

Testosterone burdens man. You do not negotiate with testosterone so much as you are hijacked by testosterone. I think any number of spectacular failures by famous womanizers always leads to the question: “what were they thinking?”

Thinking is part of testosterone, but testosterone is in fact larger than thinking, or more precisely it is the container that all thinking is put into when testosterone’s abundance floods the playing fields of a man’s being.

Of the four yesterday I was the one married. I am also the oldest at sixty. Married and sixty and lets add, how shall I say this, married, sixty and no longer believe, even for one second that a fling might best a lifetime of happiness with my beloved wife.

I know this, it is my truth, it is my vow, and it is how I live my life. Most amusing is that testosterone doesn’t believe a thing I say. It goes its own way and I must go mine.

I was no match for testosterone when I was twenty, but twenty is sublime in the sense that men have already peaked and as we begin to make our descent back from the perilous heights the view from this stratospheric perch etches into our minds an unwavering awe into the nature of desire. How is it that the gods were able to make so much out of so little?

A good education can help a man who is seized with a frightful bout of testosterone. There is the outside chance that our stupidity can be hidden behind the seeming appearance of intelligence. Unfortunately they made women who can see right through us.

The two players in our group yesterday were busily negotiating with testosterone. They were getting their particulars in order before the next hormonal seizure took hold. They wanted someone this tall, with this color hair, and that age, nothing too sticky, too clingy, too volatile, or too unfaithful.

Testosterone is above all a great dream maker. There exists a theory that the difference between a married man and one that is single is fussiness. Another theory suggests that testosterone so wears on a man that he just finally quits, gives up, and packs it in.

The main point is if you have testosterone in your life to appreciate its power, to use it wisely, but most of all, for everyone’s sake, whether married or single, man or woman, when you find yourself around this stuff you would do well to remember that when used as directed in a mutually truthful and honest way that testosterone can be everything you ever hoped it could be, and sometimes even more. “Mrs. Smith- it’s a girl!”

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Big Bad Boats

 

Rocket Science a mini-monster from the Cook Islands.

This is 50 feet, water ballasted, twin ruddered, carbon fibered, wickedly fast boat with a 13 foot draft!!!!

I stepped aboard a monster Sunday. The beast tethered to a dock. Sixty-five feet of ocean going, purpose built, go anywhere, under any conditions sailboat.

The beast had been born inNew Zealandto an American couple. For eight years this water ballasted ballistic sailing vessel was both a means to an end and an end in itself.

The design was conceived with a lengthy and sleek hard dodger. The stick was massive, the spreaders gargantuan, staysail could be hanked on, and the jib roller furled. Temporary lower backstays were ready in the event the staysail was deployed.

Oversized winches were aft, a weight compromising windlass on the bow (looked more than adequate for the job while small enough not to interfere with the boats sailing characteristics.) And I have to mention the spinnaker pole stowed vertically against the leading edge of the mast.

A mere man and woman, two people handled the task of sailing this unrelenting powerhouse. Losing control of a boat this size, flogging a sail, jamming a line, getting a sail down, hoisting one up, furling an unfurled sail, or having the guts to unfurl the thing was akin to going into a war zone voluntarily.

At the center on the starboard side below a diesel heater had been installed. There was a huge generator, a larger still auxiliary diesel. Forward in the V berth a queen sized bed. The boats interior was not Spartan, but its purpose was the point. Navigation, cooking, electronics, the heads, showers, rear stateroom, the interior lighting, portlights were all what you would expect of this one of fiberglass Titan.

I was imagining the able bodied seamen I’d want with me should I’d found myself heading out the Gate on an ebb in a blow. I’d pick a couple of old coots the balance would come broad shouldered, under forty and be either crazy or have guts, preferably both!

In 2003 I was down inFt.Lauderdale. Wandering the docks I stumbled upon a brokerage that specialized in selling sailboats of this size. They were all beasts. You looked at one and said I could take that boat right now to Europe, that other up the Northwest passage, still another toAntarctica. There were a few tender looking boats mixed among the toughie’s, and then there was this one I was aboard yesterday.

It is something special to be aboard something that resembles what you would use to get you through your worst nightmare. It is something like how you would travel to somewhere over a rainbow intent upon arriving back from a dream you would be wise not to make.

Is that a merry-go-round or Secretariat…

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Really Loving You Now

Where gods and love soars, above the highest peaks

Into the breech of our life comes the sight of the other we might chance to love. It comes out of the blue. They enter the room and you look and it’s decided right then.

Not for all of us. Some of us sneak up on it. We go to school with them, work with them; see them out at the grocery store, dancing.

I was made to love. Comes right out of me, it is spontaneous, voluntary, willful. I’ve never hesitated. Might have been a hole in my game, if you call love a game, it is rather more like fateful choices we make or undo with our life.

I’m interested in the people who I call my friends that find it difficult not so much to love but difficult to form a lasting bond with the new partner. It is as if my heart came with an instruction manual and there hearts manual was indecipherable.

Some people are discouraged by how the nature of this love literally changes chemically over time. They are confused by the feelings that come with a lasting mature relationship. Loves onset is pyrotechnic… incendiary… passionate… where the long game is played upon a field of tender gauze.

Not only can hot new relationships become an end in themselves, they can be just what the doctor ordered for the long term relationship that you are trying to get over.

Expectations, patterns, habits, they become engrained in us and after a few death rattles as your life long love turns into something much less life long well you know, easy come easy go, soon you don’t even love, you simply visit it, tour its region, take a few memories, and like a holiday return home and back to your solitude.

Freedom is available to all of us. We are free to have or not have whatever we want. So we might invoke the courage in our souls to actually take the opportunity to create the love that our hearts whisper into our beings and encourage us to create

I hear the instructions, I know what to do. My heart has convinced me that I can love with all my heart across the whole of eternity. Fool that I am, I am convinced it’s true.

We can explore the mystery of life long commitment like an astronaut or mountain climber, and we can rise to this daring challenge by loving as if the whole of our happiness and fateful life depends upon it.

A fall can prove fatal and the courage to explore the magnificence of what we tease out our hearts can over a lifetime leave the world that much more saturated in the gleaming splendor of a choiceless freely given love that thrives in the garden of our brave souls.

It is why we begin with a casual date… nothing too fateful at first. Then, the gods laugh and sprinkle the magic fairy dust over us, and like that it begins anew, again and again….

BANKRUPT HEART

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