Tag Archives: Busker

Third Act…Enter the Fool

Somewhere from the Middle of Act Two

If one third of life is sleep what is the rest of the time for? Oh, I get to use it for making things. I have spent much of these past years making shows. I have made a lot of little things too. I’ve made songs. I’ve fixed sailboats, and overhauled engines. I made a family. I’ve made a real mess of things now and then. I’ve almost in addition to all that I’ve accomplished nearly not made it too. Sometimes I missed the boat. I’ve failed and had success. I’ve worked hard and goofed off. I’ve forgotten more things than I’ve ever learned. I can’t remember jokes and now that there is an automatic dial function on my cell phone I seem to not to be able to remember any telephone numbers.

My wife is happy with me. That’s saying something. I think some of the people I perform with like me. I’m sure many find me annoying. That’s a good thing. We really can’t spend all our time being innocuous. Better to stand out a little here and there. Still I prefer to be likable but it is hard to just do one thing over and over again.

And that takes me to the doing something new. As much as it would be fantastic to do the same thing over and over again it does have its limitations. Even if the money is good it can become tedious. And worse than that even if you could do the same thing over and over again it is likely something in the world around you could change and you would have to do something new anyway.

In the Middle but Waiting Still…

So, here we are, everybody I hang out with is dragged kicking and screaming toward something new. The people I know who really have it tough can’t seem to get that new thing started. Paradoxically they’re stuck doing the same old thing over and over, at least for now. I call these life blinders. Even though the rules apply the same to all of us there are those who really think that nothing they do will ever alter anything.

I got a couple of friends who like me are trying to strike out in new directions. They’re trying to move the needle, account for all that time they’ve spent hidden away in rehearsals. One of my friends mentioned to me that it was hard. That it seemed like he couldn’t get a lousy break anywhere.

Send in the Clowns...They're Already Here....

I can’t help giving unwelcomed advice. Stating the obvious is so dull. They don’t need me telling them what they already know. But, you know, impulse control is hard and so you blurt it out. You say something like “you won’t ever make it with that attitude.” Or, “it won’t happen until you give up and realize it might never happen.” You have to completely doubt that you will ever make it again, that the success you had was just prelude to the failure you are going to experience. Then, when it feels like you can’t take it anymore, when you’ve give up all hope, that you will never reach that mythic destination, only then do you realize that the curtain has not fallen but it has just gone up and you are well on your way to the climax of that illusive yet utterly necessary third act. I’m making popcorn, I’d give up but I can’t stop, I can’t quit, I have to do it, and that’s just the way it is. God I love happy endings….

BANKRUPT HEART                                 THE SECOND NOVEL

              “Acting,” Sophia said, “my dad on stage in a play? Is he serious?”

            “Larry is always serious, he’s a writer…” Ry replied. “At least one of us still remembers how to be a fool,”

            Sophia like her father was famous for fidgeting. She grew up backstage.  She began rummaging through her fathers prop case he had set up on the counter.

            “I’m afraid you might get eaten’ alive,” Sophia said.

            “…because I haven’t been in a play in so long?”

            “Yeah,” Sophia said, “Acting takes practice. It’s hard to make it look so effortless.”

            Ry didn’t know what was next. Everything about his life seemed far fetched, implausible. It never entered his mind, not once, that he’d be living on a boat. That he wouldn’t have a steady job. That Victoria would walk out on him.

Deep Background on an Earl Warren Supporter

ecclesiastical faith based winemaking....

Back in ’64 when cigarette smoking remained a virtuous activity for an aspiring up and coming young man San Jose was a place where one of the largest stone fruit crops in the world was still grown. Apricots, peaches, and nectarine orchards were still a defining feature. The Jesuits were still growing wine at the Novitiate up in Los Gatos. They didn’t just turn grapes into wine they were busy forming men into priests. Our current Governor Jerry Brown was making grapes into wine there back in the day. But as it turned out the Jesuits were unable to turn an unwilling Jerry Brown into a priest.

Albert Gonsalves, my grandfather was in the last years of owning his saloon. Sinatra in 1964 was recording Fly Me to the Moon, The Best is Yet to Come and My Kind of Town. It would be a few years before we all would come to understand the meaning of all of this.

In the end it all became crystal clear. My grandfather would end up buying up most of the Novitiates Vintage 1964 Ruby Port.He kept the cases at Tambo’s the saloon he owned down at the corner of East 14th Street and 98th Avenue right there in the heart of Elmhurst- a neighborhood on the south side of Oakland.

Back in the Day

At home in his closet was stacked a good five cases of the deep red port wine. I’d come by now and again. My grandfather enjoyed a good one way conversation. This was one of those can’t get a word in edgewise type of conversations. In point of fact you couldn’t find a detectable gap in his speech where it seemed it might be alright to butt in and form a dialogue. No, this was impossible. Grandpa was a monologist, a man who pondered conundrums, scolded the morally weak, and waxed eloquently on the beauty of the steam engine and its close second cousin the whiskey still of which he had first hand experience and was something of an expert in how to use one of these devices.

What I came to understand about my grandfathers speechifying was that he had found in that Novitiate Vintage 1964 Ruby Port the perfect elixir to serve as a way of softening up  any guest so that he might turn that visitor into his audience where he could demonstrate his most amazing oratorical talent of telling stories in such a manner that the only way to get out of such a fix was when my grandmother would come into the room and by way of mercy save grandpa’s now Port soaked victim from her husbands singular talent of holding a person speechless against their will.

My grandfather and I played a game of cat and mouse as those years rolled by. I’d show up for one thing or another and he’d walk out of the closet with a bottle of the vintage ruby port. All I had to do was agree to have a glass of wine and next thing you know there I’d be right back at the dining room table right back in the same fix all over again.

Port wine induced listening

About all you need to know now is that I loved my grandfather, even though I can’t remember a thing he said I still seem to have a vivid memory of that wine, you could say it was almost a religious experience.

BANKRUPT HEART                                                   THE SECOND NOVEL

            “Look at me, why, why do I always pick the biggest dreamer in the crowd.”

            “I guess you like big dreams…”

            “They’re always these tough guys, cooking up adventures to go on, nobodies making plans to stick around,”

            “You wouldn’t be attracted to that guy…”

            “Guys like that see me coming a million miles away…”

            “Jackie, the dull guy who’s buying hooks at the Western Bait and Tackle knows better than to try and take a bite of your apple. Man who’s got the courage to feast in your garden, that’s a different beast, whole different critter, this a feral animal, mercurial, master marksman, he devours weaker creatures, those are one night stands, women like that don’t stand a chance, but when that man spars with the likes of you, look out, sparks fly, man like that goes to the edge of the known world, you take him, force him to walk up to the cliff, and its like you take his hand and say come on let’s jump, mister tough guy,  lets fly, I’ll take you to places you’ve only heard of…”

Before We Leave this Earth

There is no giving, there is just this human doing we are all part of...

I was at the Roberto Cruz Branch Library inSan Joselast night. It is out onAlum Rock RdinEast San Jose. This side of town is the other side of town. The library was a newer facility. Next door was an independent gas station. It had the dilapidated look nailed. I wouldn’t change a thing if this was the look I was going for

You should get out more. This is my advice. I was alone so I gave this sage wise guidance to myself. One of the wonders of the world is a river. Looking down over a footbridge into the crystal clear cool waters spawns joy.

Last night a gathered audience of children, mothers, fathers, neighbors and friends joined me for a show. The audience was quiet. The children were well behaved. At first shy, but they got where I was coming from and began to open up. They began to believe in themselves, to gain confidence, and see their own natural goodness.

Always beneath the actual presentation is the invisible subtext, the vibe, how it is going, who is in and who is out, what is connecting and what is not. Shows can go off the rails or they can slowly build momentum. This increase is the result of something happening between the performer and the audience.

I get the best feeling from a simple library program. I get this feeling when the audience opens their hearts to what I am trying to do and join me, trust me. They trust a graying husband, father and grandfather. They believe me when I tell them for my finale I will reveal the secret to having a happy life while here on earth. I give children a chance to try things, and they believe me when I tell them that if they try as hard as they can that there is no limit to what they can accomplish, that they can trust this and know this, and believe this.

Mothers and fathers are at the library to help their children learn to read. They know for their children to have any chance in this world they will need to get an education. I come by and do a show and encourage children to believe in themselves.

I loaded out. Spoke to the children who wanted to talk after the show. Put my equipment in my truck. I turned on the radio. The Los Angeles Police Department had surrounded the Occupy LA encampment. I listened while a talk radio host described our government’s decision to remove the protestors who they claimed were unlawfully assembled. Our compact between the government and its citizens is in tatters. I know we can do better, some among us have. For all of us, or at least my version of all of us is the great vast majority of the middle class of us need to build a bridge to a better tomorrow. I saw that better future running like pure clear spirit in the hearts of the children I was with last night.  It is so simple. We need to reach with our hearts hand and do what we can to help these new souls up….

 

I Feel So Sorry for Billionaires

It's not much, but I was happy

Banque Populaire is currently blasting south in the Atlantic towardCape Hornin an attempt to set a new non-stop circumnavigation record for a sailboat. The skipper is with Team Energy the French America’s Cup boat.

I don’t often deal with a realm that is described by numbers. The sailboat Banque Populaire is 131 feet in length has already set a 24 hour total distance sailed world record of 908 miles. The machine sails consistently at speeds of 36 to 40 knots plus!

I’ve taken a look on You Tube and the boat rocks, and it can also flip and in fact tripped and went head over heels on itself. The crew is aware that this is a dangerous game they are playing.

Speaking of ungraspable, mind boggling, hard to get your mind around numbers we have to discuss the Oracle Team and the great fortune of Larry Ellison. I get 33 billion off the Forbes website. So, if I were street performing and had someone give me one billion dollars in one dollar bills in my hat and I were able count each dollar in an average of one second it would take me 31 years, 259 days, 1 hour, 46 minutes and 40 seconds to finish counting my hat. Larry has 33 of these things called billions.

Sometimes I wonder about things while I’m in bed or on a hike. I wonder what it might be like to be a wealthy sailing fan and what it might be like to fund a program to defend the America’ Cup? I wonder if I would be bothered about how much it was going to cost to play the game. If I had 33 of these things called billion and figure the entire deal was going to run maybe 200 million, okay let’s say 500 million all in, every last penny… it would mean I’d still have about 16 years to count the rest of what was left of my first billion.

You have to almost feel something like empathy for someone like Larry Ellison. It can’t be easy checking on how much you have given how long it takes to get someone to count it and tell you. Probably why he spends his money distracting himself from this problem, probably the way to go is just get involved in something, get your mind off this problem, and enjoy yourself. I think last time I saw Larry, down inSan   Diegohe was doing just that, enjoying himself.

Good luck Larry. I hope you don’t get burdened with anymore of these billions. It must at some point incapacitate a person. No wonder Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are giving their money away. It’s hard for us to imagine, but if you try you can begin to appreciate how good you have it compared to these poor guys.

BANKRUPT HEART                             THE SECOND NOVEL

“Hey, slick,” the homeless man said, “I know you?”

            Ry stopped. “Maybe,”

            “Yeah, I know you, you’re like me, don’t have a job.”

            Ry pulled some cash out of his pocket.

            “Oh, man, you keep it,” the homeless man said, “you need it, you get a job come look me up,”

            “I got a job. I’m going to work in LA,”

            “You can’t go to LA, you’re Ry Waters right, people fromSan Franciscocan’t go toLos Angelesand be happy, isn’t possible.”

            “Sure we can. I can go toSouthern Californiaand be just happy as anywhere.”

            “You don’t want to go down there and have those bastards get to you. They’ll just turn you into one of them,”

            “Well, I appreciate your sage advice…”

            “They can’t pay you enough, you won’t be happy enough, you got soul brother. How does a brother who’s got soul get happy in a place without one?”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith

 

The End is Near and Dear

We shape nature in our own likeness

Refurbishing a wooden sloop for the first time is an act of faith.

So, first off forget about having things go according to plan. It is like the rest of life things don’t usually go that way. Life goes its way and you try to ride the wave or get the hell out of the way. This is the Lee Iacocca maxim.

Working over a long time horizon is an odd experience. I like my work to be completed as soon as is possible. I don’t like things to take long.

The lessons we think we are learning are in fact seldom the same as the received wisdom the experience imparts upon our lives. In fact I am coming to terms with the fact that while I start out doing one thing I end up doing something else by the time the thing is finished.

Fix a boat, copyright for the second novel

I probably would not have been capable of writing a novel, and now two, had I not struggled from 2001 through 2007 with the restoration of Maestro. But, that would be too narrow, too scrawny an answer for what happened during those years to me as a person

Authoring novels is first of all about writing. But, it is also about understanding people. It is about soul, spirit, personality, behavior, youth, aging, the middle years, being single, having a job, falling in love, getting married, remaing single, your sexuality, friends, family, weather, where you live, what you do, and on and on… Narratives are constructed by events. Any event will do so long as the author has the passion to place the reader into the center of that moment and pull the curtain back on how that moment impacts the people who have been brought to life in the story.

Fates Long Shadow

So, whether we roam about in travel trailers performing a juggling show, or spend our best days laboring to restore a wooden sailboat, writers imagine patterns, we see into the fabric of reality the workings of human experience and from there we take a leap of faith, and build out that vision, that story that we see and then we serve that vision up to our readers.

And finally the circular firing squad of paradox aligns with boat restoration and authoring a novel. We won’t know until we’ve put everything we have into the thing whether it will float and hold water or will sink and vanish into the depths… Life is not just good, it is also an unpredictable pain in the…

As much as I might not always like living in a world where everything I try doesn’t succeed, every game I play I don’t always win, and everybody I ever loved never leaves, the truth and secret to a well lived life is to appreciate not how it turns out in the end, but what you can do to make the doing something worthy of being an end in itself. Here to my way of thinking is the trailhead to authenticity.

Little Dog Big Heart

BANKRUPT HEART                        THE SECOND NOVEL

          Tonight was a private after hours, members only affair, whiskey drank like sacrament. The men had gathered for this random ritual over the years. They cussed, drank, sucked on toothpicks, and blotted out whole stretches of time before dawn trading stories for laughs based on the cheap thrills and the numbskull miscalculations of others. Tonight was different. One of their own had taken a blow. They’d conjure up preferential sympathies. The men would ignore the hypocrisy.

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

Road Dog Deluxe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BANKRUPT HEART                THE SECOND NOVEL

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

You’ve Got to See it With Your Own Eyes

Could You Just Come A Little Closer Darling...

I went once for a look at the Race for the Pole at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Whatever it is I was supposed to see I saw. Whatever I expected the experience to be like turned out to be true.

The pig barn at the county fair stinks. The top fuel dragsters in Fremont smoked their slicks, shot flames out their exhaust pipes, and roared down the quarter-mile long asphalt raceway in the blink of an eye only to pop a parachute at the other end of the strip to bring them to a controlled halt.

Now comes this thing called the oldest trophy in sport, the America’s Cup. I thought the racing off Perth looked pretty darn exciting. I watched some of the racing from the comfort of a stool in a bar with a big screen. Nice….

My background is in entertainment, live entertainment, for audiences at festivals, street fairs, and such. My life has been dedicated to a low tech, high touch, get in close with an audience and make the interactivity of the experience the point of the matter. What I’m doing is not as important as what the mutual experience is doing for all of us.

So, from thirty rows up in the grandstands at turn four in Indianapolis I felt bonded to Roberto Guerrero’s pedal to the metal 200 miles per hour plus life threatening romp where he set a track record on that day back in 1992. They’ve intentionally depowered the vehicles and have walked the cars back from this mortal abyss. Still, I was there. I got it. Saw it with my own eyes.

The organizing concept of having the experience itself trump all else is a first principle in my book. The America’s Cup full sized high tech catamarans that will hit the San Francisco Bay next summer will be something to see. The real question, the real challenge for the America’s cup will be creating a venue that allows its fans the opportunity to be eye witnesses, to see it for themselves. Even with the race being held in the bay with fans lining the shores of Marin County, San Francisco, and Angel Island we might well remain mere distant witnesses.

One of my favorite forms of dance happens in the country and western honky tonks. It’s the two step. Get the girl of your dreams in your arms and you can pretty much count of things going your way. Squeeze that dream in a little tighter might even, turns out, you get lucky later that same night. And but for a price of a beer and the courage to ask a lady for a dance why a man can find more to life doing the two step than most anything else he might dream up doing. My recommendation to the America’s Cup committee is to get out of the city head on up to Placerville, Auburn, Sonora and get out on the floor and figure out how you can take that race you are planning and put it right into the arms of some desperate ready to go fans. If you can figure that one out they’ll love you with the whole of their heart for the rest of their lives. Good luck…

BANKRUPT HEART

He’d gotten up and gone to work frustrated with the rate at which he was able to accomplish anything. His frustrations had given way to ruminations. The miracle of this woman’s fine bottom— appreciated, with discretion, from a distance, in silence, out of respect— had fixed Ry’s mind upon the divine mystery of the force a woman’s anatomy could have over a man. It is a mighty force. His lower extremes became a chattering class. The power of her bottom had calved the main portion of Ry’s thinking into a boiling sea of urgency. Ry had lost his mate, and didn’t know how to go about finding someone just for sex. Ry lifted his eyes up and looked at her bottom from a distance. He wanted to confirm how big an impression it had made. It kind of made him feel like he didn’t know what to do. There he stood, a desperate man, caught in his coveralls. Where’s a man find someone he’s not in love with as a person, but who would allow him to have strong feelings toward her bottom?

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith

THE SECOND NOVEL