Tag Archives: Busker

It’s the Good Life

good life

 

“Romance… it gives a man something to do while he’s waiting for the only thing he really wants.”

A performer is just that. We earn our money by presenting whatever it is we have learned to do. Sometimes it is as simple as memorizing lines, and at other times it is the result of years and years of physical stunt training.

Our reputation hinges on our consistency. If all we had to do is walk on stage and execute the physical stunt then all our practicing would focus on just that. If we are comedy juggling act then we have to expend as much effort on being at the top of our comic game.

New comedy takes effort and time and practice and ultimately with all of that something might emerge that is repeatable and worthy of becoming part of our show. Stunt training is often a much longer process. We’ll work for months, sometimes years on a trick only to learn once it has made it into the show that it isn’t getting the kind of reaction we had imagined it would.

Every juggling act I know has wasted vast quantities of their precious time on tricks that never make the cut. Yeah, I know, everything accumulates into some positive contribution to what is ultimately presented. But, really the truth is that often what we’ve been working on amounts to a failed experiment and it’s time to get back to the drawing boards.

Living a lifetime on stage is to be caught in the world of performance pressure. We all have pressures, but the pressure to be a consistent top level performer is a particularly stressful life. I am sure a great janitor, a custodian of the finest caliber, can quietly fall off his game for a night. A performer in front of an audience has to face the spectacle of all the mistakes, the diminished emotional energy and general unsatisfied audience’s unfulfilled expectations. Ouch….

After decades on stage it never gets easier. You may find yourself in a polished sure thing vehicle, but if you are a creative you’ll have to move on from that pristine material and explore, and it leads inevitably to the very nature of what it means to be a survivor. I am such a creature.

I am breaking new material in down in the Riviera Maya region of Mexico. I am playing a string of resorts six nights a week. Remaining in the game, finding a path to being on stage, and reliably executing a practice and creative regime that supports this work I do is to say the least a challenge. Except for one night a week I’m swinging for the fences, looking to connect with my audience, send the ball over the outfield fence, and be the winner of the game. That one day off is golden…

 

 

 

Edmonton 1985-2014 Thirty Fabulous Festivals

Edmonton 2014

 

This 40 Year Veteran Street Act Scuffing Up the First Audience of the Day

Saturday morning 11:30 show was mine to do. Alan Plotkin using a telephoto lens from “World Headquarters” took this shot. He didn’t bring me much luck the day before and discretion being the better part of valor stood off so as not to jinx the delicate art of gathering the first audience of the day. Forty minutes later the show ended with an audience surrounding this veteran busker.

I am here for the 30th anniversary. If you want you can read about the festival here: http://edmontonstreetfest.com/30-years-of-memories/turning-thirty-the-birth-of-a-busking-festival

I sold my first copy of Hot Spring Honeymoon after the show to a woman in the audience!

 

The Old West is Waiting

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stealhead, river running, and hay farming as far as an eye can see

The dirt road winds down the mountain into Troy, Oregon on the Grande Ronde River. Size of community is a mere handful of good souls. Groceries fetched by driving 50 miles north to Lewiston, Idaho.

The outpost captures my interiors yearning for serenity, solitude and majesty. Troy has all of this.

One of many way stations on my journey to the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival; we stopped along our drive north in Oregon to visit Lakeview, John Day, Baker and Troy. Onward to Moscow, Idaho and then Nelson, Slocan Park and Halcyon Hot Springs in British Columbia. Then, we drove through Banff National Park to Rocky Mountain House and finally here at the Edmonton.

We stopped along the road to understand the state of the rural American West. Towns, far and near, are all wearing their fateful choices as best they can. Moscow, Idaho is thriving on the spirit of the alternative cultures passion for good books, music, food and community. Moscow is an outpost for progressives in the north. Lakeview, Burns, and John Day ache in sorrow. Saw mills all shut down. There are no saw logs to cut. Homes are shuttered, downtowns empty, and the next boom yet to arrive.

I’m stunned. Why do we let these small towns wait? Can’t we mount a campaign to build the renewable energy here? Why not? Men and women are all waiting for good work and no work could be more useful than transforming the workers of extractive industries into workers making a livelihood in the future renewable industries.

Save the lives and the land in one fell swoop. Why doesn’t America dare to dream to go where we have never gone before?

Trouble in Nevada

Fletch's cabin small

Hot Spring Honeymoon

Just Enough Trouble to Call it Fun

Life imitates art. The recent standoff between the Bureau of Land Management and Clive Bundy is a more radicalized version of the politics I hinted at in Hot Spring Honeymoon. The free grazer movement depends upon more magical thinking than my character Garrett Harwood. My character is more or less disposed to free trade, less regulation and lower taxes. He’s a privatizer type and wants everything left to the private sector. He’s plenty angry but he influences things by means other than at the end of the barrel of a gun. I’m heartened by what I’ve heard on talk radio shows. Most folk as I’d anticipated prefer to see their community remain whole and healthy. People want their freedom but they’d prefer working from within the law. Garrett Harwood is a businessman and his temper while hot runs more or less to the civilized side of the road. He is not a secessionist and not a member of a militia. We do have a bulldozer in the book. There is also talk of “second amendment remedies,” but for reasons of comedy my villain only needed to quarrel and fistfight. I wanted a more nuanced conflict than this latest headline would allow. I prefer a man that still believes in democracy and capitalism. Once you draw down to the level of wanting everything your way and not any other way you have left the room of reason and are floating around a few French fries short of a happy meal…


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

 

 

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

well drilling rig

 

 

The drive to Holbrook, Arizona was good! Included was a spectacular 24 hours in Camp Verde, Arizona with our youngest daughters 88 year old  grandmother. Slept along the banks of the Verde River. Up over into the high country to Holbrook, Arizona where I fell upon this fine machine in transit from California to destinations we can only imagine! This is the exact machine I’d imagined for chapter one of Hot Spring Honeymoon. It only took a 927 mile drive to find what I’d imagined…

 

 

 

 

Comedy as Balancing Act

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Comedy requires concision. As I’ve been building my story I’ve had to battle filling in enough narrative to make the mind’s eye see the scene while maintaining the pace of the story so as not to derail the momentum. It is a brutal dance of first building the chapter and then removing anything that does not propel the plot or is not funny… There is a degree of difficulty here that I would not have been capable of understanding had I not written two bigger novels.

HOT SPRING HONEYMOON

“Always use a high roller at a card game,” Fletcher said.

“Poker playing, men play cards all the time.”

“Mormon’s don’t…” Gage said.

“Give a Mormon half a chance,” Fletch said, “and they’ll be most hung-over rooster crowing at sunrise.”

“Enjoy a game twice as much,” Keefe said, “and be three times as ashamed.”