Deeper into the journey now. After Fort Collins, Colorado’s leafy college town coddling I am back in the sprawling lost world we know as Central Wyoming.
Hot Springs State Park is set against a northern flowing Big Horn River. Half the town’s businesses are in dire circumstances the rest boarded up.
You come to Thermopolis to avoid the bumper to bumper buffalo watching quagmire.
Still as far as rural Thermopolis goes the idea of leaders in Cheyenne or Washington nurturing its citizens here is apparently not on the agenda.
It is this gutted, forgotten, exploited and neglected kind of isolated (super far from anywhere) community we need to help. Coal mining, natural gas exploration and logging operators need not apply. This whole top down Wall Street siphon off the profits leave the locals with crap wages and post industrial cleanup bills won’t cut it.
Best as I can tell they do have a pretty good hospital and health clinic. Highway in and out of town is in good shape. Probably too geologically interesting but not quite enough trees for most of the accidental tourists that unwittingly land here.
Nearby Northern Wyoming Shoshoni Tribal Lands play into the economic direction made visible here. Of course capitalism, democracy and the deal cut with the Shoshoni might have more than some fraction of the whole reason for why here has been so overlooked..
Bolt of Thunder water slide is an attraction.I took my chances last night and lived to tell, not before seeing my life flashing before my eyes just prior to my parachute popping and slowing me down after one terrific 30-40 second corkscrewing hot springing gravity induced flight of this able bodied bumble-he.
“Well, I’m excited to be here and by excited I mean I want to do something, and by something I mean I want to give you the best 20 minutes of entertainment packed into 60 minutes that you or any audience has ever seen.”
Backstage before the show goes up our one man solo production team is bounding about fleet of foot and fogged of mind. As ever I am prepping for one more swig of the unquenchably intoxicating elixir of performance life.
This present decade proceeds at a more measured pace. The previous decade each year I made some 500 appearances before my audiences.
There is a backward and forward command of your material when working so incessantly. In place of such a regime I am now deploying a more rambling-rollercoaster-improvised style. Like a pesky fly the improviser dashes from one near death like moment to the next dodging the swatting like silence while awaiting another sure laugh to land. The beloved house fly dodges web and window sill while dreaming of succulent crumbs of cinnamon buns. Authentic laughter is no less delicate and uncertain a fated final end.
While working with my show-dog Lacey our five thousand performances once developed was ‘error’-tight with minimal variation between any two performances. Improvisation demands that our work be fueled by cognitive super powers. We live and die by such gambits. Rare is the performer that can rise to the occasion 500 times each and every moment of every show across the timeline of a year. There must be such a talented soul buried out there in this sea of performing humanity.
Between June and July I’m figuring I will launch somewhere near one hundred shows. By the end of July the audiences and performances sent into mayhem, mirth and orbit will then return to earth. Instead of landing the shuttle in the Mojave it will be a Prius motoring southward over and around the Canadian Rockies, pondering life along the Grand Ronde River, lingering on the backside of The Sisters, Oregon and finally safely back in the hangar where we make our home in this sprawling sea of high priced real estate famously named California.
It’s one thing to be the world’s great lover and it is another thing entirely to be the world’s greatest lover’s lover.
Listening to their every word, laughing at their every joke and then it’s back into the bedroom.
All the cards, the flowers and chocolates… and then its back into the bedroom.
This isn’t just about love, this is about the championship of love, you hear that inner voice that says, “go on kid, you can do it, take one more for the team.”
Now you know that there is no way out other than going all the way in.
She’s perfect and you’re perfect. The whole thing is perfect even though you know there is no such thing as perfect and even that’s perfect.
The Small Time Bigger Than You Know
One of the hardest hand to mouth hustles ever invented in this world of hard knocks is busking. No contracts, no off site gigs, just pure hat and more hat shows. I’m talking about hard cold cash you can count in a hat after a performance. The lightning bolt street performing epiphany struck my not entirely completed journey to adulthood fresh and wild. Anxious family and friends thought I was headed toward a cobblestone catastrophe. Destitution and insolvency were bookended plotting points. There is no getting off the road, there are no lucky breaks, no easy streets on this obstacle strewn path. You can’t undo what you’ve bet your life on. An emergent busker is a tangled soul drowning in a world insisting on orthodoxy. There has to be no other way out. This is your fated Tombstone. Conformity is a stinking stalemate. You set out to do so many shows, as far as an eye can see, until you’re at risk of being buried in a sea of nickels, dimes and quarters.
Player in Disguise…
On slower day’s a tighter circle is the coin-of-the-realm. Street performers and audiences fit glove to hand. Squeeze the experience tight. Empty space along the perimeter of a circle is a deal-breaker. Street performers plug leaks with live bodies. Success depends on persuasion, stand here not there, the seasoned showman knows what to do.
Blurring the focus, blow a line, miss a trick and like that minds wander, the entire enterprise is put at risk, an audience sees through the framework, becomes aware of the underlying engineering.
Subterfuge, veiling— are the stealth tools of the busking arts. Lighthearted crowd gathering is in fact audacity camouflaged. Stopping people is a make or break business carried out in full view with an undetectable touch. Technique requires concealment— you can level with your audience later, once you’ve won them over, once you’ve proven your worth, now that you are their keepsake. Great acts mate temporary intimacy to the delicate present moment.
Another More Transparent Version…
A wise to ways street urchin can look at a sidewalk and predict down to the last Lincoln Head copper one-cent piece how much they’ll earn. Unless the show goes off the rails, good or bad, one way or another they will have converted an otherwise stingy group into a generous free-spending bunch who’ll be unfolding their wallets, moving forward prepared to toss a buck, five or twenty-five cent piece into the hat.
Sidewalk ‘been arounds’ are problem solvers, lived to tell, and know how to steer the experience on the track of the tried and true final destination. This is the practical craft mixed within the mind of a compulsive personality. Enterprise matters but the presentation of a profitable show is foremost. Buskers have only so much time, so much energy. A street show is in some sense a curated list of livewire fixes to prior money-reducing performance errors.
A Card in the Deck…
If the new material work’s the busker makes more, if the untested bit doesn’t land the take will be less. Acts stumble onto repeatable nuggets. One guess, one experiment, one positive result after another working by feel, listening by ear and discerning mind to that revelatory moment when critical mass achieves its aim. A veteran busker knows everything there is to know about escape velocity. Laughter is involuntary, applause is synchronous; the experience is irresistible, here and now, unfolded skillfully into the present moment.
The larger goal of a thirty minute show is constructed piece by piece from the fifteen minute act. The whole project is a painstaking perilous journey to the center of a wanna-be-performer’s muster. Weathering a tough day on a sidewalk is a transitory tragic rear ending example of doggedness.
Always be on the move in front of a crowd. Buskers are linguistically kinesiological. Slapstick and pratfall illustrate the foibles of the common man. There is a high minded purpose to the lowbrow comic art. Do things an audience can see. You may trick a mind by word but there is something profitably superior about what must be confessed to the priest. The visual appeal works every time; seeing is believing. You don’t have to talk anyone into anything, they can bare witness with the naked eye —Come along, this way—
Coast to Coast
What a Juggler Sees
Physical training while touring can be gigantic pain. If there are long jumps between dates you’re going to miss your workout. The best of the best jugglers train every day. The length of a workout varies. Physical intensity is relative to the mental focus the act brings to the training process. The uncommon acts have stellar focal power- they stand out because they’re talents are many and easy to recognize.
We deal with the distraction of touring. If the virtuosity of a stunt is so high that it can only be attempted under optimal conditions then the trick is dropped while on the road. You’ll scale back and include only the stunts you can do drop dead stone cold one hundred percent every time. Your audience only sees a fraction of your best work.
My Beautiful Reward
Driving, eating and sleeping are all scheduled around performing. Your day is framed by the stage time. Maybe Lenny Bruce walked on but variety acts have to get ready. Props have to be set. Costumes, even casual what might at first appear to be street attire is worn because it can accommodate the range of movement the performer expects to make during the show.
You go out on ten coast to coast national tours and perform a few thousand shows across the entire lower forty-eight and you are bent by such a process. Gas stations, rest areas, hotels and convenience stores become habitat. Once in touring mode you become the student of regional patterns. There is a contrast between how a local person’s schedule is all caught up and tied to the concerns of their immediate surroundings.
Between the Long Hops and Small Town Stops
While touring the performer is painting a story of human attachment to place and people. We are invasive species, foreign objects—curiosities. How we can survive without the familiar comforts of our own home is hard for a local to understand. Why we train so hard is to give form to that emptiness. We are working not just for a living but for our psychological survival. The best jugglers exercise many talents.
Buy a book, book a show. Tell a friend. Share my blog. Be in touch… Best of luck and love
Buy a book, book a show. You can find things out just by clicking around. No mystery, no hyperbole, just straight prose and performer as unmasked and as native Californian as is appropriate.
Misty Saturday Morning,
Bay Club- San Francisco
I’ll begin with a quick dispatch from Fox’s Tucker Carlson dissing us this weekend via his tweet cage.
Yes, real estate is too expensive but it isn’t the fault of the lunch bucket crowd. Those card carrying Teacher Union members don’t buy houses and don’t set policy.
For starters California is widely popular. We have beaches, mountains and desert. We have Hollywood and North Beach. We have redwood trees. We make many of the best wines and movies in the world. Facebook, Google and Apple all make their home offices here. We make the world’s most important automobile here. It is called Tesla.
But, come on dude, Dana buddy what? You going full provincial on us? Not at all. The entirety of the West Coast, my favorite Left Coast has shown the rest of the country how. Work opportunity, education, health-care, social security and Medicare are all supported by large majorities. We want clean air and water. We want to solve anthropogenic climate change. We want nuclear power shuttered and a 21st Century renewable energy system deployed.
That’s us in a progressive nutshell. We want to make good on our promise. We want to weave our citizens into a unified patriotic mosaic. We want peace, freedom and women to have robust access to equal pay, family planning services and the best education we can provide them.
This kiss up and kick down thing doesn’t work. Massive tax cuts to an out of control elite invited most of the kicking. Tucker bites at California’s progressive wave. We are a cleansing wave of purer purpose. We advocate for a more fully empowered middle class. A busker knows a lot about playing his act to a lunch bucket crowd. They’re known as the people. Let’s rock blue wave friends and roll… time to take back our country.
From California with Love
Starting Here Starting Now
Here you find yourself- things have come to this… if you click around you’ll discover information about my shows and books. Buy a book, book a show. Be sure to surf all my digital frontier. You can always message me, our password protected switchboard is open.
Busker Believing Navajo Blue Corn
You’ve Got to Look Into Things
There is a connection between a street show and eating a whole food plant based meal. You can eat more, better, new or same. Like many of you I’ve too often picked same. The ruts to the Oregon Trail and my dietary habits look like impossible to surgically separate Siamese twins.
I’m trying to do what I can to maintain my health. Whiskey, Marlboros and jumbo sized banana splits are off my preferred list. Replacing these finer things from another era are kale, arugula and hibiscus tea.
That will take the comedy right out of the entire stinking tragic mess called life faster than getting eighty-sixed from Joe’s Spic and Span Café in Salt Lake City, Utah because there isn’t nothing you can eat— unless you can tolerate heaps of salt, sugar and saturated fat without needing to go immediately to the emergency room due to the signs of malaise being exhibited by your flagging spirits and low pulse.
Pretty as a Peacock
Eating can be an exploration. If you can find it in the corner 7-11 then put that on the list of things you will not eat and put all things you can’t find in those isles on the list of things you can. That’s simple enough.
So for starters how about some blue corn tortillas? Better still how about growing a crop up in the Navajo Nation? A simple rule of thumb goes like this: if it is a plant and darker in color it is likely more nutritious. So, is blue corn got that hot little better for you going for it?—- “Researchers found blue corn tortillas contain 20% more protein than their white corn counterparts. They also have less starch and a lower glycemic index (GI), which may be good news for humankind.”
Plain as Day Rumpled as an Afternoon
I’m going to go out on the limb of a cornstalk and just state flat out that blue corn’s better in every kind of way for you than that pale to bright yellow corn we toss to hogs and fatten cattle with.
Tomorrow we’ll delve into the virtues of earthen ovens ancient indigenous man used for fire roasting food. Appears the Anasazi were eating pepper and goat cheese encrusted pizza several hundreds of years before Elvis first shook his hips with such licentiousness that all the women in my family fell strangely silent, sad, lonely and ultimately hungry for things I didn’t know even existed. That’s tomorrow… come on back to this crackling fire of a tall tale you hounds for peace, freedom and hot almond milk lattes.
Blue Wave Surfing Starts Here
Street Theater as Social Justice Cupcake Fundraiser
Join us won’t you!!!!
The early days of street theater in San Francisco is part of a collection of photographs and essays I am putting together about the geographically more ambitious topic of busking across the entirety of North America.
The thirty minute performance was boilerplate. An act started at the top of the hour, shows were thirty on and thirty off, noon to night, seven days a week year in and year out. Social commentary remained coin of the comedy realm but the sharp political observations of the first wave acts faded and changed with the times and all but ended. Costumes had to be neat and clean and so did the street performer’s material. You work edgy out on the street but not on the wharfs best stages. A street act needed to draw a crowd, get a laugh and after the show send the audience away happier than when they had arrived. From the get-go the city center shopping districts designed to attract tourists arrived out of the box and joined at the hip merchandising T-shirts, postcards and this new age repackaged variety show entertainment. This structure prevailed for two decades plus until the audience slipped from the grasp of the street performers hold on their imagination. Like the audience the street performer had to move on.
Street hasn’t died so much as had to adapt and add more reliable venues. There remain an endless supply of people and places where this style of show remains viable. We are fortunate, we are mobile, we can go to where we can find our audiences.We are an emotional timeless siren song. The best of what street performing represents is something all of us feel being threatened when the lawless grip of authoritarian power presses in upon our democracy. We are not some cyber ops, black ops, disinformation gadget. We are a reflection of our communities passion for peace, environmental justice and social progress. That’s why I made this work a career.
City Center’s Beating Heart Edmonton, Alberta 2014
See a show, buy a book, come on back. I’ll be here…
Card Carrying Sandal Wearing Lunch Bucket Raised Man-Boy
I grew up in a lunch bucket household. The men I knew carried union cards. They drank beer, smoked cigarettes and loved Kenny Stablers stylish Oakland Raider leadership. They voted straight D ticket right on down the line.
Oakland wasn’t much of a port unless you call the Army Depot a port, but that was for the boys in Viet Nam. The Warehousemen, Longshoremen, Teamsters, Stevedores… they were on the Embarcadero in the City moving cargo in and out of town by truck, train and ship.
Then, the world changed. We got lots of stuff. Boy did we get stuff. We also got NAFTA, we got China into the WTO, we got stuff happening around the world while we hollowed out the working stiffs world here.
Arugula eating Whole Foods shopping people working at the highest high tech companies within the confines of some of the sweetest zip codes in North America were thought the wave of the future, not just the future they were the ever present stakeholders in our go-go everybody’s an investor economy.
Then, the thud and dud of the financial sector, the end of retiring on selling houses to each other, and the reality that those lunch bucket friends of ours are pissed off. I thought it spot on that R’s discussing cuts to capital gains taxes and inheritance taxes had to be blowing it out of their …. Lunch bucket workers want jobs, wages, benefits, and paid vacation. Few if any of us need capital gains tax relief.
So, here is my bottom line. Fair trade right? Not free trade. We need to set policy so that the lunch bucket types get a living wage, some medical, dental, and a school that doesn’t cost them an arm and a leg and their first born donated to the bank they got their student loans from.
Not so difficult to grip hold of is it? Clean streets, decent infrastructure, good schools, get on with the renewable energy revolution, stay the hell out of foreign wars, and could we cut the crap out of beating up on women? Right? Simple enough…
Those of us with the lunch bucket history? We drink less whiskey than our ancestors and we don’t smoke anymore. We drink wine. We watch our cholesterol. We like football but are worried about the concussion thing. And if the people in Washington don’t snap out of it and start doing the lunch bucket crowds business we’ll go there and bang a few heads together until they remember who we truly are.