Tag Archives: Change

Skyline at Twilight

Women’s March Phoenix, Arizona 2019

Nashville’s famed music district is being dismantled. Nobody can blame anybody. Times haven’t changed but the price of real estate has. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

Jazz a favorite idiom frequented by this street act no longer sells. America’s great gift to music exists in the hearts and minds of the musicians. The marketplace not so much.

I am ramping up for shows. If I did not exist the world would have to invent me. I’ve played the parkways and boulevards of America’s greatest cities since 1974.

The gods have tossed sky high real estate, fierce solar radiation, and an ever decreasing value of that famous buck that is supposed to stop here. Dollars do stop but in what quantity and to what useful purpose?

I got my heart set on playing Fort Collins, Colorado. Not now! I’ll arrive and set up shop uninvited. I’ll play as I can as much as I can for a few weeks in June. After I’ll run north with the arrival of summer crossing the border into Canada.

The whole street performing enterprise is scaled to the grass roots. If I can draw a crowd is one thing. If I can keep them until the end is another. Between I play my song, sing my lyric, tickle a few unsuspecting minds with my version of vagabond dreams.

Honesty is our Ultimate Elixir

Andrew Elliott a fine Australian entertainer friend employs the same tactics as I use. We move from place to place landing in the least likely public thoroughfares. Catching a crowd off guard, unprepared…think cultural shock therapy of a kind.

Hit people in the heart. Give a citizen a living example of betting everything. Funny is useful but earnest charm, authenticity and soulful purpose transcends and takes an audience further.

Death in Venice was a movie, hard times falling on Nashville’s music scene is a reality. Street theater, street performing, busking, call it what you will is the ultimate fungible form. I’ll fudge my way into the hearts and minds of the least suspecting.

I’m coming for a thousand clowns and a few thousand altered softened hearts. I’m coming for the better angels and freedom seeking immigrant Russians. I’m coming to alter the fabric of the commons. To bless the youthful dreamers looking for their true path.

As I said if I did not exist they’d have to invent me. I am like Nashville, jazz and the American Musical an indispensable historical artifact of our cultural life.

See you out there.

Velocity of our Change

20170501_163047

Jacaranda Petals Healing the Velocity of Life

Out Loud…

Long fiction, scene by scene, attempts to decode the workings of our ever smaller world. Politics, culture and commerce bombard our nervous system from the mundane to the uninvited digitized global events we view on our media devices. Individual freedoms in this interconnected phenomenal life are proving to be illusory and failing that within just an instant forgotten then  irrelevant. The long fiction writer is scrubbing the temporal landscape, we depict neural networks, free associating matrices that flicker-light through the shadows of our daily lives. Pace of time, velocity of attention, the sense that our ability to think through the circumstances we are folded into becomes scattershot and piecemeal. Neither at the beginning or end of this technological revolution, we are lost in the chaotic Dadaist like midst of a world disrupted. Because the event horizon has accelerated the long fiction writer has to work quick to speak to the moment or have the next moment overtake what he has spent so much time preparing his readers for.

Dialogue from the new novel

“See that, try to sign me up and you end up getting picked for an inside job.”

Like Piper, Jessica filled her jeans full to temptations brim, the activist felt safe enough with Piper’s companionship, looking at Jo she said, “You’re going to be the best. The big boys are going to be pleading for mercy once they find out what kind of woman they’ve run up against.”

Tyler, Ronnie, Piper and Jessica were gangling guiltlessness, mercurial mischief makers. Jo knew among her three friends that, “none had had their chests cracked in two, hearts half eaten, left for dead on the side of the road, none had found that kind of love, not yet.”

“Come on, Dudes, lets go have a swim party…” Tyler said.

“Go on, go, all of you…” Jo could smell the hijinks. “Running around a swimming pool in my underwear with you two? That would just piss me off. Go on, get,” she clapped her hands, “you don’t need any adult supervision.”

How Sweet It Is

Pouilly Fuisse
The Most Beautiful Places in the World

Timing is everything. A good location doesn’t hurt.

But, it’s the intangibles that will get you.

“To be completely honest, although I love living in the city, it’s not my favorite place to perform.”

What?

“It seems to have an overly-politically-correctness vibe.”

Really? So, we haven’t changed; they have?

“They seem to repress some of the fun and energy that our typical street show presents.”

For the love of show business.

Street act is foreground, cityscape is background.

A performer is barely on earth. We’d like to be, but you know it’s tough. We tend to be on stage, in bars, at rehearsals. Why isn’t that enough and if it is why doesn’t it come with a dental plan?

Once you have an act you are set. You get to be witness to more death than a mortician. There’s a lot of turnover in this industry.

One day the best act you’ve ever seen turns out to be a plumber. That unexpected incarnation put the fear of god in you.

As Jackie Gleason opined after a sip from the good stuff at the opening of his schtick.. “How sweet it is…” He’s only making that crack because of all the cadavers stacked up backstage.

So, the hungry acts know that you best keep the hook baited. Nothing but nobody waits for spit.

That’s the game. In these modern times. We used to be lousy with gigs from Salinas to Santa Rosa. But, that’s all dried up and nobody left instructions for what to do next.

You want a career in show business? Buy a suitcase, look for cheap tickets. Keep an eye on your back. Change is coming.

Then, you know, the phone rings, they need somebody for some spot dates in Northern Arizona on the Navajo Indian Nation’s territories. “Are you available?”

“You got to be kidding me? I’d do that date for free. When do we leave?” That’s how it is in my game.

You get the regrets and those of us with the moxy to have stuck it out we get the unpaid bills.

Nothing is free but for love and even that bargain comes with baggage.

I got an Australian friend in Dubai playing his swami act with a fake Indian accent to the Emirates. That’s some kind of con he’s got going. And YOU wanted to be in show business…

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 This is what the professionals look like…

The Showman’s Shortlist of Worries and Affirmations

Backstage in the Small Time
                                               Backstage in the Small Time

Hats go up and down much as the stock markets do. I had lunch yesterday with Dan Holzman. He had nothing but good things to say about his last outing. The money stunk but audiences were good.

Wheeler Cole back from a lengthy tour of the Big Island of Hawaii has been throwing shows at Pier 39. Ten years away and on the other side of his misspent youth he dawdles for the moment.

His was a good question? “When do you do something besides what you have done?” Just because you can, just because you could, just because you know how to do that does that mean you keep doing it?

Andrew Potter off to Fresno for the fringe mounts another series of performances in his latest digital vehicle. The Road to High Street has been what he uses as an excuse to be with audiences now. He shares now by looking back when.

Karl Saliter just back from Nepal and trekking is presently in Playa del Carmen trudging his show on the boards at the resorts. This is my tribe. Karl is comic juggler, sculpture and fiction writer. He likes soul and sits around a lot. Teaches yoga and eats vegetables. Vegetables if they did worry should with Karl’s lust for greens.

Alan Sands has in the works a steampunk costumed hypnosis act. This is an extreme makeover for a guy who doesn’t own a house. Who needs a house? He spends way too much time flying to gigs. He sits in Foster City when here at home imagining what those sucked into a trance might want to see for a host.

Mike Stroud a friend since his youth, mine was already spent, makes his oyster in the South Bay. He bought early in his career and it has paid off big time. With roots deep in San Jose he gigs as he can and where he can. He sleeps in his own bed more than any person I know devoted to sleeping in their own bed and at the same time claiming a career in show business.

Me, I’m here aboard my sailboat with my wife. She is my beloved. Like me she’s inclined to sleeping upon beds that move. She’s soon like me out of town on assignment. Everything is fast here but for the freeways. They are the slowest.

In rehearsals, writing jokes, memorizing jokes, juggling, gigging now and then, counting down until I go to Playa del Carmen and grind it out 6 nights per… I am up in Napa Valley as I can, when time allows, hiking and scouting vineyards, roadways and restaurants for the next novel.

One of my bachelor friends, a magician, short by way of height, but quick by hand, is rotten that all the cute short girls have been picked over. This is what it means to be trapped in the small time. He is left to look silly with a taller one or none at all. He is worried. They don’t make enough short women and he isn’t getting any younger. He is the loneliest man in show business.

Thank your lucky stars you wanted to be a plumber or shoe salesman. Nothing is easy about this racket called show biz. I’m sorry the phone has just rung and I am due for a martini with a friend who has a new script he wants me to punch up before he submits to his agent.

Letter to the Editor  And this time in praise of  Yes.............
Letter to the Editor
And this time in praise of
Yes………….

 And Last of All Hot Spring Honeymoon

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That Brilliant Joke Teller Sam Brownback

Hack

No fixing stupid, No cure for stubborn…

I do own a suit. I am an entertainer. I can say things that aren’t true. In fact in my business I’m not really required to tell the truth. I’m in the business of amusement.

If you stand up and raise your hand and volunteer to fly an airplane you had best been trained, licensed and do as you were taught. Leave improvisation to the comics. In piloting we don’t like to do stupid.

Let’s take a trip to Kansas shall we? How about that amazing, brilliant joke teller himself Governor Sam Brownback? There’s a laugh riot of governorship right there.

And where did Sam get his ideas? No, not the nitwit, that tower of intellectual probity himself Arthur Laffer. Yes, he took Laffer’s advice.

Laffer was getting hammereed at a roadhouse playing liars dice with the slice and dice tax cutting legend Grover Norquist. A match made of sewage if ever there was one. Here in one convenient location were two of America’s greatest hole diggers tossing back shots of misguided sludge as if it were god’s truth.

“Boys… let’s keep digging them holes…” said the Heritage Foundation hack fraud economist Steve Moore. You see stench is an irresistible odor that draws other hacks.

Right there in one place we have three celebrated hacks and Governor Sam Brownback has these clowns at the controls of the Kansas economy.

But, you see I am a hack blogger. I enjoy my hacking. I do not take kindly to hacks that masquerade as authority. Those are the worst kind of hacks. Of course the great hacks never admit a thing.

This is where we find ourselves. Our America is being guided by the best hacks conservative money can buy. And so good old Governor Sam Brownback with the help of his hacks rationalizations and policy prescriptions has gone and crashed the Kansas economy right into the ditch.

Arthur Laffer is a discredited below average failed economist. Grover Norquist is a one trick pony. Steve Moore, a former editor at the Wall Street Journal is an out of control fire hose of complete and utter nonsense.

This is a Hall of Fame of Hacks. The rubble of the Kansas economy smolders in tribute to their hack ideas. It is a sad day in paradise when an unqualified entertainer hacks his way to the top of this stinking pile of truth. Thank God it’s Friday… May your weekend be guided by the pilot of the truth.

“It was something like the current state of human beings and their believing, when compared to other animals, that they were superior living beings. From Bambalina’s reckoning the man who took care of her didn’t even make horse sense.”

Hot Spring Honeymoon

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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?

Slow Down You Move to Fast, You’ve Got to Make the Morning Last

1939 Chevy......almost exactly same engine as 1955...Oh yeah that's me

Running the mile in less than four minutes, we knew it could be done we just didn’t know what it might mean.

Now the rate of change seems to sweep whatever it is we are doing now into the dust bins of our present. So we sit with one foot in the present while we mock the latest release as almost but not quite right.

We are so drowning in fact that fiction is deemed quaint and irrelevant. Where and to what do we point? The modern man is an immigrant? Is he a banker? Is he toiling at a job that no longer exists or is soon to be outsourced?

To offer a perspective on what it is that is happening our audience needs to hold some collective grip; a shared experience. Since we have shattered, blue and red, Wall Street and Main Street, D’s and R’s, independents and libertarians, and these only describe a fraction of what has been shattered, the whole of what is being broken into pieces is even more sacred, more ancestral, more human and more at risk than any of that.

Here each individual offering, each solution is slapped down and stomped out. Some writers offer chaos theory, others comedy, still others give it a shot, but before the shot is given a chance to hit its mark the mark has moved; the rate of change is like that.

There is so much disappointment. I can barely find a movie I want to see. There is hardly a politician I want to vote for. There is not a tax I like, and not a birth control device I can put the whole of my faith in.

How do we explain this? I’m not a skeptic. I am not fatalistic. I’m not even pessimistic. But, if in foreground is my perky self and in the background is a world that is unable to manage itself, a world that is unable to control itself, its industries, its politics, its aim and future?

If you were going to write about the world you see and try to speak to all of us, not just some, but the whole of humanity, to help shape us, warn us, change us, evolve us, inform us, what and how in the world might you do that, now that you know that what you have to say falls upon a world imprisoned by the sheer rate of change.

At Amazon and Barnes and Noble for the handsome price of $1.00

Award Winning Award Ribbons

Building a Better World One Award at a Time

Jane Cottonwood started lifting spirits as a coffee shop waitress in Beatty, Nevada. While attending horse shows with her little barrel racing daughters Jane came to find out there was a real shortage of award ribbons for those little winners she was raising.

‘Janey’ came to know how the world worked by living on Highway 95. North of town was the brothel, west the ghost town Rhyolite, and just south and east the atomic test site.

Atomic tests always went off at 7 in the morning before school. Shook the town to kingdom come, but nobody complained much. People who lived here owed their living to the atomic bomb experiments being undertaken in the name of defending our country from the communists.

Brothels and Beatty are practically synonymous. Friends worked there and most of the best gossip in town is about the married men who ought not to be purchasing services there. Still it’s Nevada and expectations of what any man may or may not be at his core has been revised considerably to fit this particular place on earth.

Jane gave the world her all. When I met her she’d already had six decades to practice this artful gift of giving. We met at the Rocky Mountain Fairs Association meetings. I’d sit with her at lunch, or we’d drink whiskey in the hospitality suite in the evening while we whittled away time smooth talking clients.

Rodeo's, Crafts fairs, Swimming Meets, State Fairs...awards, awards, awards...

I think some women are made to give young men a nurturing maternal kind of loving. Jane was such a person in my life. Told me I had to stop if I ever passed through Beatty. Put another notch in our friendship when I did.

Her business had grown to employ 90 workers. Award ribbons it turns out are made by hand. The workers do utilize machines in the process, but most of how a ribbon is manufactured comes from the labor a person puts into the thing. You stencil, you stapled, you cut, you sew. All those first place ribbons have to detail whether you won an award for a rabbit or a horse, for the Oregon State Fair or the Modoc County Fair. There was first place to third place. A big fair can require a whole truckload of ribbons.

The Late Great Jane Cottonwood

Jane died of congestive heart failure. She died back in 2001. Her two daughters have kept the business going. Her husband is still alive. When Jane sat down next to you and gave you the pleasure of her company it was an experience of the highest order. I can’t quite explain how good she could make a person feel, how welcomed, how supported, how happy and funny life could be when she was around, but that was her way. Making a business out of giving people a good feeling about how good they can do something turned out to be her work. Next time you see a ribbon hanging off a jar of best of show pickles you could be looking right at what Jane has left behind to mark her having been here.

BANKRUPT HEART                   THE SECOND NOVEL

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I Knew Norman Mailer, I met Norman Mailer, I Miss the Man

Dusk Settles in on what we thought was true...

Writers have this obstacle to overcome in the ongoing tension between modern brain research and western psychological model and spirituality. As such authors are required to either conform to the conventions of the day, or if they do not invent methods to circumvent these limitations.

Here is Norman Mailer in conversation, “When you write novels the person who tells the story is crucial to at least half the success of the novel I would say depends on how the story is told. Is it told by one person sitting in their own mind and giving you objective external descriptions of everyone else, or do you have a omniscient narrator which was common to the 19th century novel where literally you have to assume that this person has godly powers and can enter every single mind. And that worked very well for the 19th century because then most people believed in god, most people who read novels believed in god, and therefore the novelist could be analogous to god for the sake of enjoying the fiction. It was just easy to enter everyone’s mind, you could do it and now you can’t with the modern canon which really feels they got rid of this medieval nonsense through the enlightenment through the last few centuries and that most people can do without god and the devil, they certainly don’t want them intruding so the notion is that you stay in one intelligence, one consciousness, you don’t try to cover everyone, and that’s inhibiting, in you get lots of problems of development when you only have the consciousness of your narrator.”

Freedom to Roam

With the rapid developments in neurobiological research we are discovering that this scientific point of view of consciousness is not very precise, research is proving that it is not contained, that it is not located exclusively inside a person, but rather being more a part of a larger system of energy and information that extends beyond the boundaries of the physical body. In short a kind of biological explanation for what is sometimes called “having a meeting of the minds,” when two people are interacting.

In the planning stages of making a novel the author builds an outline that they will work from. I have been concerned not just with a plot, but I have been interested in the metaphysical implications of making a story that is more in accord with our most recent mind science research.

If the world is not made up of discreet individual human consciousnesses in the most rigid sense of this model, but is rather a more networked, more a blended neurobiological phenomena, that is one part made up of a brain where is born what we call mind, but that this mind exists more like a receiver and/or more like a transmitter, and more likely to know and perceive and understand its external world out there because of the energy and information that is readily available in its environment, then we can build new fiction by ways that have until now been held in obedience to this 20th Century model of the mind.

And I am not talking science fiction here, but general fiction that is made of stories describing common events in everyday life. It isn’t that there is a right answer to this issue, just that it is something authors deal with throughout the telling of a story.

Why do we know what someone is going to say before they say it? Often an unfaithful spouse’s partner doesn’t need anyone to tell them if their partner has been cheating. These are examples of information existing beyond mind.

These are exciting times. Writers can work beyond these previous boundaries. Still it isn’t just psychological restrictions that are overcome there are also literary habits that necessarily have to evolve as well.

What is this all about? It is how we explore and expand our understanding of the world we are all born into. Picasso revealed to us a world as never before ever seen. The ancient cave paintings in the south of France are artifacts of neurobiological evolution. They literally exemplify the metaphorical leap of the mind. That moment in time when we first began to be able to think in the abstract. Wasn’t long before man invented the wheel.

Dawn of a New Day

BANKRUPT HEART

“What have you done?” he said to that glimmer of self in the window. “It’s over man, how can you fix this, what you going to do, this time, you don’t need another job you need another you.”

Ry Waters lifted his hand to his hair and dug his fingers into his scalp while scratching with his thumb against an itch on his forehead. “Where do you begin?” He felt groggy like it was dawn and he was just waking up. “My whole life is a stinking mess.” He was determined to go out a class act. He would not allow his shoulders to slump. He was going to leave with his chin up. The last day on the job turned out to be a one man going away party in vivid, painful, living color, until this man Ry once knew appeared in the window and called him to account. 

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith

Sail Home, Be There, Happy

Here is Home

The canal in San   Rafael, California terminates near downtown just east of Highway 101. A bit further eastward sits the San Rafael Yacht Harbor. I worked on my wooden sloop- Maestro, a Golden Gate hull #18 in this boatyard. I worked on the boat for a few years and then by way of a thousand impossible to predict fateful occurrences ended up living there too. It could be windy, foggy, cold and wet. Winter could be dreary. Weeks of rain made getting from the parking lot to your boat a soggy task. A twenty-five foot flushed decked 70 year old sailboat designed for racing isn’t the most elegant boat a person might choose for living aboard, but where necessity is concerned this boat was more than adequate. I put an awning over the cockpit. Below I had a long bunk with sleeping bag and pillow to sleep on. I kept my shaving kit, bath towel, suitcase, laptop computer, dog bed, dog bowls, and my performing dog on the other bunk. My galley consisted of a single burner stove powered by white gas. I had a sink and water. I had a pot for making oatmeal, bowl and spoon, a kettle for coffee, and two coffee mugs. I maintained two long stem wine glasses for the other end of the day. A few books rested atop my bed next to my reading light.  Winter I ran a small electric heater to stay warm. A small battery powered cool chest was lashed securely in the well of the cockpit. I installed a good bilge pump and unless it was raining it remained off. I kept my act for my show in my Dodge Cummins out in the parking lot. I kept a second suitcase of clothes in my truck. It was where all the extras were stowed. I had a lantern for nights when romance whispered in my ear, and a demure boom box to fill the hull with song. I had a mouse for a guest until he was found. I made new friends and learned new skills. On certain days I actually felt as if I had everything I could ever imagine wanting. There was peace and serenity here. The cost of the thing was well within my means. It was a simple affair. It was compact. I was happy and still am….

Bankrupt Heart                             The Second Novel 

The rigging on the boats in the marina whistled when
the wind blew. The tall wood mast caught the gusts and the sailboat rocked in
her berth. Then, a light rain began to patter atop the roof of the cabin.

“I like it when it rains. With the heater, a fire,
get bundled up, lie down on the bunk, sip something warm, have something good
to read. I find it peaceful.”

Sophia didn’t feel the same.  “I don’t know, I’m not used to it, I miss our
house, I miss San Francisco.”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith