Tag Archives: Comedy

Still Earning My Stripes

welcome mat

Welcome to Wayfarer World

Christina and Garrett are members of the Ventura Yacht Club. Garrett’s father had lived at the club since before he was married and started his family. Garrett was born, raised, and then had his own children and by fact of residency is the club’s most permanent fixture. Garrett has lived aboard his entire life. His son and daughter, one in the United States Marines, and the other an aspiring wildlife photographer and college student have known no other home than the families 40’ sailboat. Three generations have spent their lives right here. Garrett’s wife from the day they vowed understood the terms by which they would live their lives.

This was the stout stock and first souls we met walking the initial steps on terra firma in Southern California.

 

Varley's Gulf Star 50

Gulf Star 50 

Morro Bay Yacht Club

We were steered in the Ventura Yacht Club direction north of here while still in Morro Bay. A club member had been out harbor hopping up and down the coast with his ketch rigged Gulf Star 50. Refinements included a 600 gallons per day watermaker and Cummins turbo diesel for punching the 17.5 ton sailboat to weather. Talk about shipshape! The skipper spent some 320 hours reskinning, sound-dampening and fireproofing the engine room and workshop.

The Newport, Oregon native started out in the music business. Tom pulling the wild card from the deck of his life concocted a sound blended with sunshine and a less fully employed pace. For some years the gigs were fat and sweet, his music and touring was all upside, but as the wheel turned the smoke filled one night stands became more grind than grand he finally closed the backstage door for the last time.

The Evergreen State College alumni had no more stomach for the long hops and short stops. Today Tom, wife, dog and sailboat devote the lion-share of their days exploring the Channel Islands. A professional mariner, Master licensed, Tom hires out now and then to deliver large fine yachts from one port to another. Tom’s part bard and poet and one-hundred percent hard scrabble. According to the dog in his life Tom Varley is something more than a ordinary-run-of-the-mill good man. Tom’s dog was canine blessed having partnered with a real human being. Dogs are never wrong about character.

Tom's Dog

A Real Sweetheart This One…

I spoke with two licensed ocean sailors from the Ventura Yacht Club. Including Tom Varley the three all had distinct opinions about how to approach an ocean passage. Jeff, a delivery skipper, who along and his wife have sailed for personal pleasure to Mexico and across the Pacific. Their Passport 40 is a capable circumnavigating sailboat. Passport owners possess seafaring confidence. As the veteran offshore sailor explained he’s got a plan when the weather gets heavy, it’s a plan he’s tested and proved to work. The anvil willed mariner invited me aboard. He demonstrated how to shorten sail fast. We went over the tactic aboard my boat and where modification and changes might make more sensible and efficient work of this task. Smaller sails are necessary for higher wind speeds. Going to weather (upwind) in 30 knots for days on end without strain to boat or crew is necessary. Like most other blue water veterans Jeff possesses a Darwinian sensibility. Survival of the fittest comes to mind while examining his hands, beard and brains. He is nobodies fool and goes to sea intending to make it back to port come what may.

Weather Fax

Weather Fax Machine

The other gentleman I chewed on time and crackers with sailed a C&C 37’. Lighter displacement, larger mast, a spirited racer/cruiser design- one of the most popular sailboats of its era. I had spoken about ocean sailing and this yacht club member quickly disabused me of this misstatement. I had not been ocean sailing I had been coastal sailing. Even though he had sailed his boat to Mexico, had for decades sailed to the Channel Islands by his reckoning he had never been far enough off the coast to describe his experience as ocean sailing. There were two reasons; first, a boat and crew setup for ocean sailing is prepared to meet a different set of challenges. Second, an ocean sailing boat because of the vast distances back to land can’t get off the water and escape the forces of heavy weather. The club member explained he didn’t mind facing difficulty for part of a day but he couldn’t stomach the notion of having to ride out a storm for day upon night and day. Below the surface the man tamped down on the swamp of his emotions. There wasn’t much more he could say. The club member had that look behind his eyes. The expression was something of a game face. Sailors are not the type to bellyache (with one notable exception…). The coastal sailor knew what he was up for and not up for and that was his reality. Coastal sailing was plenty. Enough said.

Tenacious

Naming the Unspeakable

Smooth sailing… that’s the aim. The part that isn’t so smooth, the part that tests character, sets its mark right there beneath your ribcage— between the “trust and know and doubt and fear…” In some instances the distance between is as tight a spot as you are likely ever to face. Sailors have to account for the mettle, the God given spine they inherit. A sailboat will tease the unavoidable fact of your fear right out of you. A rough day at sea is truth serum. I got some big time respect for small craft offshore warnings and plenty to spare. Feel free to borrow mine, there’s buckets more where that came from.

Times wasting mate. There’s a head to repair, bilge pump to replace,  a new rigging splice to make— a chart to study. Smooth sailing mates… smooth sailing

Edited Red Star

Four-Seven-Eighteen Saturday Californian

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

April Fool’s Day

A Cup of Black Mud
April Fool’s Day and you ended up here? You can buy a book, book a show, click around and find information about my work as a performer and writer. But, wait there’s more…

In Tucson this weekend hiking on Mount Lemon. Big Bug Trail didn’t disappoint. After horizontal respite plunged into quest for eating or drinking something regional, something from the Dessert Harvesters, something indigenous. How about a prickly pear-jalapeno margarita!!!! Sure. With salt or no salt? I asked that my rim come salted so that I might extract the maximum of things I normally would not do. I avoid salt like the plague and tequila like the pretty little thing that fakes twisting her ankle so that the gentleman may come to her aid.

Rock-Trail-Tree-Bush is Medicinal

Today I’ll head further south of Tucson to the Mexican borderlands near Patagonia, Arizona and hike along Soniota Creek with my binoculars to peek and be peeked back at by the avian special effects show. Sonoita Creeks too-tall cottonwoods make the entire project sketchy at best, but every so often I get lucky when a bird makes a mistake and we scare the devil out of one another before each bolting off in opposite directions. Needless frustrations are quelled by taking the hiking more serious than the actual seeing and identifying of the life we share this fragile world with.

I’ll remain nearby Patagonia at the Oak Bar Ranch. One of my kind, the busking-circus veteran kind is running the ranch. He’s boss to one wife who won’t be bossed, and a fair enough number of barnyard animals that don’t take no guff. This is as nature intended for a self made hard working show business type. You put your back into some tens of thousands of performances only to be ignored, disobeyed, and to your bitter disappointment utterly beloved for the human being you have turned out to be. Our standing up in front of all of you and scratching out a better than fair wage for doing so for what turns out to be most if not all our life scars our hearts up until the bile is near all gone and nothing remains but our having good things to say about the nature and generosity of the human spirit. That holds until it doesn’t and then we relapse like the rest of you into worrying about the entire project and humanity’s ultimate fate.

Birdwatching is today’s medicine.

March 25, 2018 The Bigger the Dream

Running with the Small Dogs

AZ2006B 006A

Sunset in the Superstitions not far from Apache Junction, Arizona

We rolled out on the road without a wireless telephone or an Automated Teller Machine card. We used such antiquated technologies as American Express cashier checks, wired funds via Western Union, made calls with coins fed into pay phones.

Running the American West at times for months without coming off the road was paid for by solitude. Once the knack for being alone became a skill. Once comfortable in your own bones living day to day without companionship or conversation the feasibility of touring tilted in your favor.

You no longer need run hard from one date to the other fearing what is in between. That segment of space and time becomes a mindful opportunity. You can pull off and eat supper at an overlook during sunset. You might get under a shade tree and spend the afternoon working out. Roll down a dirt road along a river, build a fire, drink a glass of whiskey and spend your evening looking up at a sky choked with stars.

Small Town

Ely, Nevada on a busy day!

If you are going to give your audience an unvarnished glimpse of who you really are why not deepen your own center, cultivate a truer more fully realized sense of belonging to the cosmos, report back from the frontier to the landlocked-nine-to-fivers what you’ve found out about what drifting out on the highways and byways of the American West can mean to a fellow citizen. My audiences expected such payment in return for the investment of their attention.

A showman might not have fame or great wealth. Instead we may be symbolic post suburban-middle class kindred spirits. We might just be reporters of what an ordinary person might be capable of as they escape the mundane grip of a more conventional life.

In that way we owe our audiences the blueprint we’ve sorted out as to how a laugh filled entertainment might just brighten the load they carry, make something larger in their imaginations possible. A showman in possession of a show can cure modernity’s digitally induced melancholy. On an ordinary day we’re not much better than average, but when it all clicks a showman can electrify the minds of every single person captivated by the experience we’ve driven so far and for so long to bring to their community. We are shaman, we can possess magic. It is all that and more or nothing at all…

scan0002-e1521998651426.jpg

Showman between Performance at Tempe Festival for the Arts

As ever, explore my site, buy a book, book a show (or come find me today… in Oakland’s Fairyland) and come on back. I’ll be here even if I’m running with the little dogs out there.

Edited Red Star

 

March 19, 2018 Harvard Square Veterans

Al Krulick, Steve Aveson and Dana Smith

Chop Bar- Jack London Square- Oakland

Good Monday morning. Solstice and first day of spring just ahead. Always a good sign in the busking life. Warmer days mean bigger audiences.

Pictured with me are two of the great improvisational talents of street theater from an act dubbed The Shakespeare Brothers. We rode that first wave together. Anyone having witnessed a street show in Harvard Square circa the 70’s will have memories of some of the most high energy street performances to ever be seen then or now.

I am the one of the three who remains active as a variety act. How the long and winding road has allowed me to arrive all the way out to here remains both a mystery and proud accomplishment.

Like vaudeville my community is a living tradition of human beings who embody the show, the experience— we are the physical link to street theaters earliest days. Robert Shields, Harry Anderson, Michael Davis, A Whitney Brown… just four of our best of the best who went onto much great success.

Travel Day for the Left Coast Busker. More soon. Remember to buy a book, watch my video, and come on back. I’ll be here love to have you hanging around too…