The main ultimate highest priority of one of our two political parties is tax cuts. Even though if you take the time to go read the polls you will discover that a vast swath of the people of the United States are concerned with a great many other priorities.
Grover Norquist’s Club for Growth has had a hammerlock on the policy apparatus of the R’s for decades. Go read anything by Robert Reich and what you end up reading are story after story of upward distribution of income to the top. Get it? Poorer Americans are working to make wealthy Americans ever more wealthy. Nice work if you can get it.
Abortion, race, immigration, education, privatization, deregulation, contract work, financialization, oil subsidies, air pollution and on and on… they are all proxy fights held on the front pages of our news sites so that the implementation of more tax cuts and the maintenance of the existing tax cuts may continue.
This has all gone haywire this year. What is so rotten of all is that business R’s have allowed so much damage in the pursuit of this one plank.
Grover Norquist’s fetish has brought the R’s to the eve of their destruction. There is a lot to be upset about, and a terrible tearing to the social fabric of our country. We need to get off this one trick pony. Heritage Foundation, Cato, Club for Growth and all the various interlocking organizations that have been ramming the tax cut thing need to be called out for the failures they are. They are the creators of the Trumpestein mess we find ourselves in. The magnitude of the failure we are witnessing approaches epic until you listen to the petty quarreling. This is so beneath us, so small, so terribly scrawny. We can do much much better.
You Just Can’t Make A Place Like This Up…
Today is the summer solstice. On Wednesday we depart northbound. Our track will be to Lakeview, Oregon. From this frontier on the California border we will continue into vast Great Basin regions of Eastern Oregon.
Our ultimate destination is the 30th Edition of The Edmonton International Street Performers Festival. But, we have roads to travel and friends to see before we arrive. And then there’s the hot springs we’ll sample along the trail too. And then there is the matter of the world between Emeryville and Edmonton. There a place’s we’ll want to pull over and get out from behind the wheel and sit and let what we find there soak into our bones.
I’ll try and be faithful to my discipline. I’ll juggle each day some. I’ll write as much as I can.
“He gazed off into the distances and saw the grand scale of places seldom touched by travelers. His problems diminished in this frame, as measured by geologic time. He paused to consider that ancient oceans had once drowned out most of what he was in. When measured by that, his broken heart seemed insignificant and lost love infinitesimal. The world was a bigger mystery. Chance weaves through fate and things unfold in surprise, beyond what can be imagined.”
Those lines come by way of my first novel Highway Home.
“He pushed off from Burns and headed out toward the frontier, with Idaho in the vast, wild, open spaces beyond. Here swept out before Noel the boundless Great Basin Desert of the American West. Sagebrush saturated the land. Horizons stretched wide, and the contours of ridges, rims, and hills squatted low, shaved by ice, wind, and time. Here, east of Burns, at first appeared wasteland and despair. It reminded Noel of how he felt within his heart. At the same time there was a solitude to this place of a kind that was rare. Beyond this last gasp of farms the road began weaving through boulders and ridges and ran higher up off the immense and flat bottomlands. Noel took a dirt track off the highway and rolled amidst the boulders and red rocks into a small pull out where he’d camp for the night.”
My heartbroken hero searching to put the demons to rest for the night, there is an articulate kind of geological speech in the emptiness of this desert. There is a desolate beauty that can fortify a soul while stoking the torment and past sorrows. It is in this way a place that you can come to face the hard parts of inside yourself you don’t much care to think through. Still it is a melancholy that with time heals up the pain and hurt. You come here and you stop running from yourself. What gives way is the majesty of inner peace. The gloom gives way to the grandeur, one night you are nothing but misery and wake up the next and there’s nothing but wonder.
Solstice can be a place to begin and while Canada is where I aim to drive I’ll be pausing to bucket out the pond of things I’ve been throwing into the deep the last months. I suppose the thing is these are the big things that can give us perspective and put our own concerns in the right order.
For years, economists have posited that prosperity requires growth, with environmental damage as the regrettable but unavoidable consequence. A growing number of critics are now challenging this equation, though, calling for a radical revamping of the economic system.
My Cowboy Cadillac and the Place I’ve Called Home for Near Four Decades
I’ve drifted the American West as a juggling act for much of the last four decades. Crossing vast landscapes, pulling into isolated towns, spying all manner of misguided enterprise or not. A good drifter knows how to pull off the paved highways and roll out into the wild lands on the dirt tracks. Time stills the pace of the modern world and in its place the chirp of bird, the dusk, the breeze, the silence. Surrounded as we are by so many man imagined systems, especially the concept of money and the economy in all its shapes and forms, what we are awakening to is the inadequacy of capitalism’s various configurations. Large scale businesses have proliferated until we sense the festering clash of purpose between their zeal for profit and humanities need for survival. It is out here in Nevada where I have placed my latest novel, Hot Spring Honeymoon, and it is here where the struggle of a small community being overrun by the globalized economic system that the story plays out as comedy.
British economist Tim Jackson. In his 2009 book “Prosperity Without Growth,” he outlined a “coherent ecological macroeconomics” based on a “fixed” economy with strict upper limits on emissions and resources.
HOT SPRING HONEYMOON
“Let me have a look,” the scientist said examining the side of Keefe’s head. “How do you feel?”
“I see things now I didn’t see before. I hear things I never listened to.” Keefe said. “My ex-wife looks at me like I’m nothing but a piece of vulture bait.”
“You think something’s wrong?”
“There’s always been something wrong with me. But, since I got bonked on the head I see an eternity of beauty in a thimbleful of whiskey. I love this hot spring; know what I’m doing now. It seems to come natural to me…And I got to tell you, man to man, I’ve never seen anything in my whole life that has riled up my thirst more than the sight of that woman they call my ex-wife.”
Testosterone gathered for coffee at an outdoor café. There were four of us. One married, another cohabitating, another just back from the frontlines of new love, and a fourth sidelined for the moment.
It was a good afternoon for testosterone. Each carrier of this potent point of view gave their individualized perspective of how they see things.
The passing phantoms walked on by. Yoga students in spandex tights are not much interest to men, but it is of paramount importance to testosterone. Testosterone is like the notion of an ego trip, you don’t actually go anywhere but it is a vivid state of mind.
Testosterone burdens man. You do not negotiate with testosterone so much as you are hijacked by testosterone. I think any number of spectacular failures by famous womanizers always leads to the question: “what were they thinking?”
Thinking is part of testosterone, but testosterone is in fact larger than thinking, or more precisely it is the container that all thinking is put into when testosterone’s abundance floods the playing fields of a man’s being.
Of the four yesterday I was the one married. I am also the oldest at sixty. Married and sixty and lets add, how shall I say this, married, sixty and no longer believe, even for one second that a fling might best a lifetime of happiness with my beloved wife.
I know this, it is my truth, it is my vow, and it is how I live my life. Most amusing is that testosterone doesn’t believe a thing I say. It goes its own way and I must go mine.
I was no match for testosterone when I was twenty, but twenty is sublime in the sense that men have already peaked and as we begin to make our descent back from the perilous heights the view from this stratospheric perch etches into our minds an unwavering awe into the nature of desire. How is it that the gods were able to make so much out of so little?
A good education can help a man who is seized with a frightful bout of testosterone. There is the outside chance that our stupidity can be hidden behind the seeming appearance of intelligence. Unfortunately they made women who can see right through us.
The two players in our group yesterday were busily negotiating with testosterone. They were getting their particulars in order before the next hormonal seizure took hold. They wanted someone this tall, with this color hair, and that age, nothing too sticky, too clingy, too volatile, or too unfaithful.
Testosterone is above all a great dream maker. There exists a theory that the difference between a married man and one that is single is fussiness. Another theory suggests that testosterone so wears on a man that he just finally quits, gives up, and packs it in.
The main point is if you have testosterone in your life to appreciate its power, to use it wisely, but most of all, for everyone’s sake, whether married or single, man or woman, when you find yourself around this stuff you would do well to remember that when used as directed in a mutually truthful and honest way that testosterone can be everything you ever hoped it could be, and sometimes even more. “Mrs. Smith- it’s a girl!”
Pulling off a national tour means you need a reliable
vehicle. Here I am installing my fourth motor into my ’67 Ford. I did all my
own work. The first few rebuilds were not so good, but they got better and
lasted longer with practice. Note the camper shell. This shell was scrapped and
a new shell was purchased in 1985. So, for the first 8 years when I faced a
headwind, and in show business there are many fuel consumption increased and progress
I was returning from Key West,
Florida in 1988 when I burned up my rear axle
bearings on Interstate 10 some 60 miles east of Houston, Texas.
Was towed into a town called Anahuac where I
got a room. Room came with a bed. Town didn’t have a restaurant. It did have a
convenience store. Next day local welder cut the bearing off the axle and
pressed new bearing into place. I installed the axle and was back on the road.
Here I am parked in Warm Springs, Nevada. Had
a good camp alongside a desolate stretch of at the junction of Hwy 6 / Hwy 375,
the roads skirt the edges of the northeastern boundary to the atomic test site.
If you look into the back of my rig you can see on the right side a large aluminum
water cooler. To the left I stored food, Coleman two burner stove, pots, pans,
plates, silverware, had a manual powered coffee grinder. There is a modest
sized ice chest. With care and planning I could eat fresh good food for a week
without coming in from the wilds. I shared the camp with this gentleman biking
across the country.
Here I am in Hells Canyon on the Idaho
side taking a much needed lunch break along the Snake
River with Sunshine. Main thing to understand that touring
grassroots isn’t just about going from one town to another, one show, one
audience to another, it is also about being good to yourself every mile of the
journey. Emptiness is no longer uncomfortable. It becomes your living room. It
is where you live between shows.
If I had a lot of time between dates I would make myself at
home. Here I am parked at a hot spring for a few days while waiting to play a
date in La Grande, Oregon. When I had the time, and when I have the time, I’ll get my tent out and set up camp. Having a hot spring to soak in makes snow camping a treat. This is the Ukiah-Hilgard Hwy.
It is a remote and rugged seldom visited area of Oregon. You have to be comfortable in your own bones to be here. There were no
telephones, cell phones, computers, any digital devices of any kind. At night I
might try tuning in my AM radio see if I could pick up a skip signal off the atmosphere
and catch the news at the top of the hour.
I had the opportunity to hang with some dancers from the
Joffrey Ballet. Audiences are not aware of the rigorous testing that artists
undertake when heading out on tour. In 1967 the company traveled from New
York to San Francisco to play at the Opera House. The entire company arrived by way of a station
wagon that transported them 3000 non stop miles. It is in facts like this that
our imaginations muse upon the life an artist lives off stage as well as on.
BANKRUPT HEART THE SECOND NOVEL
He continued to
just thumb through the pages of the book he’d picked from the shelf. He plunged
into the prose, selected at random, where it read, “…The abyss had been furious
with me. The barometer continued to
sink. Winds had increased from a full
gale to storm force. Under bare poles,
sea anchor deployed, hatch sealed, I wedged my body for safe keeping into the
rear quarter berth, faith in my vessel resolute, she was not the weak
link. If there was a chance something
might fail, that risk resided in character…”
was tired. The book fell on his chest. He fell asleep. The book startled him.
He lifted it up. He continued to read. “I had been called— a cruel insistent
demand. Luck’s allowance fully spent, it
was time to pass through the eye of my worst fears…”
Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith
My career in show business spans almost four decades. For
many years I have presented somewhere around 300 performances per year. That’s
a solid number. Some years I didn’t do that many shows and in other years it is
likely that I approached as many as 750. There were a chunk of years that I did
shows in Fisherman’s Wharf, at a rate of 15 shows per week. Do the math. I’ve
done a lot of shows.
creatures of the stage. We are always in front of audiences. We dial in and
fine tune. We can feel energy. We can remember the last few days and if an
audience is tired or uptight we pick it up right away. We know how to handle
it. We know what to do. We are prepared. We’ve come up with solutions to
situations and have tested the material. For a veteran act we can work with
confidence. In one situation it might mean trying harder, picking up the pace,
or perhaps it means slowing down, relaxing and accepting the audience’s
collective consciousness just the way you find it.
I’ve put up numerous pages now. If you stroll through my
performing blog pages you’ll find pictures and stories from a wide range of
different points in my career, a wide range of different shows, presented in
different places. It is difficult to sometimes convey how this mosaic of
experience affects us. We can be the center of attention while we are doing a
show and can be utterly alone and isolated moments after the performance is
complete. We can travel for days and do one show for an audience and then pack
up and travel again for days before we do another. A solo performer must be
good at being alone.
emphasis upon heart. Show business requires a certain kind of mental toughness,
but it also demands sensitivity. We must be capable of empathy. We have to feel
our way into a performance. We need to read our audiences. Look at a face and
know by that quick glance what that person might be feeling. We listen
carefully. Too much noise and it might mean the audience is restless, maybe
they can’t focus, perhaps it is late in the afternoon, they’re hungry, tired.
You have to know how to pick up on these things. A performance is collaboration,
a two way street, it is audience and artist, the world’s oldest biofeedback
Our lives are different. Our children, our partners, friends
they see it, they know. It is more roller coaster than merry-go-round. We get a
big fat contract and find ourselves in the chips and the next month we are
scuffing up work here and there as we can. It is a groundless life or perhaps a
secure life. Learning how to gather a crowd and do a show and then pass that
hat if you are skillful can be something to depend on. Still I would suggest
street performance is heart driven, you have to put the whole of your heart
into the thing. If you don’t want to use your whole heart, you’ll want to get
off the roller coaster and buy a ticket for the merry-go-round. Each ride is
its own experience….
HIGHWAY HOME THE FIRST NOVEL
She was rail thin, clad in denim, a
cotton blouse, and a white straw cowboy hat. She had white hair gathered up
with a silver and turquoise clasp into a ponytail. She’d been riding a while
and sweat had come, and dust clung to the wet patches on her shirt. She had a
pair of leather gloves stuffed in her back pocket and a handkerchief tied
around her neck. Noel didn’t know how old she was. She moved better than she
looked. She had lace-up boots with a riding heel and spurs strapped on. She had
an easy look in her eyes. They were brown, clear, and kind looking. She looked
into Noel’s eyes when she spoke, otherwise she tended to keep her eyes held
away from things. She had a way of being polite and giving a person their
space. Lot of sun had damaged her skin. Parts of her face had lines, other
parts had deep creases. Her skin had been wrinkled by what appeared to be a
hard climate and a long stretch of time.
She admired his van. “Got a pretty good
home away from home. Looks like you know how to take care of yourself.”
“I’m out here for a few days. Maybe
“Taking your time out here. That never
hurt nobody; more harm in rushing.”
Highway Home Copyright © 2009 by Dana Smith