Tag Archives: human folly

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…


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


You’re No Dennis Conner

New Zealand briefly ahead...Spithill would soon put a stop to that

“I know Dennis Conner. Dennis Conner is a friend of mine.” Said a patron at the tavern I bellied up to. His friend from Scotland older and more subdued knew Dennis too. The two men offered by way of beer induced barrier reduction their back of the envelope opinion on this current incarnation of sports oldest prize.

“Not going to work. It is going to ruin the sport. Ellison is ruining the prize.”

I’d spent the day just north of the historic Midway now in repose in San Diego and open for business as historic artifact to tour. Seated with feet dangling over the piers edge I chewed the racing fat with nomadic armchair sailing types from such distant ports as Santa Cruz, Austin, Seattle, Newport, Yorba Linda, and San Francisco.

These are boomer men. Nearing the abyss of retirement they fend off the day of their uselessness by finding one way or another to remain in the game. But, a boomer man needs a good foil and lining the dock is a wide assortment of women. They won’t let on how much they know while the men can’t help revealing how little they do. This is the real fun. We don’t need to know who won or who lost. We just want to learn the truth by way of a thousand tangled fallacies. It is good for blood pressure.

As spectacle Friday worked better than Thursday or what I saw of Wednesday’s races. The French and American boats fight it out today for first place. Those of us on the edge of thePacific Ocean yesterday witness to the sports most technologically advanced racing machines vanquish their competitors with the brutal vengeance of such earlier masters of the match racing art as the esteemed Mr. Conner.

We bickered among ourselves over the start. Who had the advantage and who screwed up, each of us knew nothing while making up our opinion from whole clothe of pure speculation. And this is the thing. God knows how much it costs, but yesterday for the cost of some time and gas money I was permitted for free to appreciate a few fateful moments between boats on water. Because of the history of the cup we suppose significance, and there must have been something to that. But, in fact it came down to watching two boats and ten sailors see who can best the other. I’ve never had so much knowing so little and having it turn out that I would enjoy myself so much.


Dawn was pristine. The air crisp, clean, the sky empty, the sea was true, chasmal…blue. No chop on the water; no cloud in the sky. Limantour Beach was alone, still, breathless. Not another soul had set foot here this morning, but for Ry and Finn. It was the first day, the New Year. They walked barefoot in the sand at the surf’s edge, acquainting their thoughts to the booze-soaked resolutions they’d taken the night before. The least waves arrived.  The Pacific was in repose between storms.  The surf’s soundtrack was a languid slow curling muffled splashing that reverberated up and down the beach.

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith

Long Hops and short stops

“I know what you’re thinking, what a horrible way for a chicken to have to make a living. Well, there are a lot of chickens working at Safeway and they’re not having half as much fun.”

In the early 70’s as the counter cultural movement took to the streets the first wave of artists built shows from scratch. We had no templates to work from. By the early 80’s that was over. Acts arrived at venues derived from the first wave shows of the late 60’s to early 70’s. We felt a tremendous sense of freedom in the beginning. Audiences like artists had no expectations. Still it was at its heart a form of theater and as such there were rules. The basic rule was gather a crowd, hold
them together, turn them into an audience, and if done properly at the end when you passed your hat there would be a fair exchange between artist and audience.

Over the span of almost 40 years I have created about 6 different closing routines. These are the best of the best material, the surefire, knock them dead, take no prisoners, this is the one you’ve been waiting to see routines. Perhaps the wildest most talked about stunt I’ve ever devised was to juggle fire while balancing a chicken on my head.

American Airlines Magazine 1988


In the winter of 1986 Will Soto brought a lot of us together in Key   West for a festival he’d titled Buskerfest. Talent scouts from Europe and Canada were there; in particular Edmonton’s brilliant festival director Dick Finkel. He imagined our shows not as mere minor additions to a larger show or festival, but instead he imagined our shows as a festival in and of itself. He bet that he could make street theater into a stand alone festival.

With that in mind Dick went about the business of finding out who among the many acts practicing street theater were doing first rate original work. It was this group he believed that he could build a festival from. And with an eye on quality he believed his audience would return the following year. He was right and the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival in Alberta, Canada will present its 28th festival in 2012.

Some of my most cherished experiences have come while performing in Edmonton. In addition to simply performing our shows we also combined our talents and present special productions. Late Night Madness was one, and a late night fire extravaganza another. I had the privilege of writing, directing and performing in some of these larger productions. Some of these audiences numbered in the many thousands. Under such circumstances we were able to test and prove that our material was versatile enough to engage audiences of all types and sizes.


Great Canadian Audiences


So, this is one small fragment of the whole. Whether on stage in front of audiences that looked something like this or, backstage after a show hanging out with some of the local fans who looked something like this, I can say that working in street theater has turned out to be one of the grand adventures of my life. To all the audiences and to all the artists I’ve shared time with I will always be grateful.

Volunteers waiting backstage..........


Mort watched his best act from the
back of the room. To his ear he was trying too hard. He knew how Ry’s mind
worked. He watched his eyes. It wasn’t the lines, it was what he was thinking,
not what he said, what he was feeling, how he worked the room. Mort could hear
the whirling gears inside his best acts mind.

“I think timing is everything,” Ry
was shifting gears, “fundraiser’s are good things, giving a little is good for
you, good for the world, good for these kids we’re putting this event on for,
but I mean, talk about timing, what’s going on with Wall Street? All the lousy
luck, it’s a bad time for newspapers, they’re getting smaller and folks I don’t
know if you’ve noticed but the news it has been getting bigger.” Ry laughs at
his own line of thinking.

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith




Total Displacement of Your Fate

Two point Five tons of fun.......

I sailed into an unexpected robust 29 knot steady wind
Saturday in San Francisco.
By October the autumn pattern has taken hold and with it lighter winds. My wife
and I sailed with another couple departing from the Sausalito Yacht Club. The
gentleman owns a Hinkley 43. It displaces 25,000 lbs according to the numbers I
looked up. Our Jeanneau

Sun Odyssey 36.2 displaces 12,500 lbs. There are a lot of
other disparities between the two boats, but lets just stick with the two
vessels total weight. What do these two numbers mean? One thing it means is
that the heavier displacement vessel, the Hinkley was built with the purpose of
sailing offshore, whereas the Jeanneau can sail offshore, but will handle and
feel begin to get pushed around when the wind and waves increase in speed and
size. For jaunts up and down the coast along California the Jeanneau is sufficient to the
task. Properly prepared the Jeanneau could be sailed offshore in the middle latitudes.
The lighter vessel will need to reduce sail area when conditions intensify, and
sooner. Depending upon the seaway it might be that the lighter vessel is more
difficult to settle down against larger swells and surface chop. The lighter
displacement vessels are attractive because they are designed to move in
lighter conditions where the heavy displacement vessels are ready to slog it
out in a blow. The heavyweight champion in the Hinkley 43 range would be the
Hans Christian weighing in at 31,500 lbs. The Island Packet and Westsail 42 all
go north of 30,000 lbs. J/133 weighs 17,500, a Baltic 42 tips the scale at
16,400… these are the boats that answer to their lighter angels…. The Beneteau,
the Jeanneau tip the scales right at 20,000 lbs. A Swan and Hanse get close to
that same displacement as the Hinkley. If you want to think about the character
of a boat a great place to begin is finding out how much the vessel weighs.
This will tell you much about what kind of sailing you will experience. Did I
mention that the A/C 45’s they’ll be racing in San Diego next month weigh 3500 lbs.? This
will tell you something about the nature of extreme sport. You don’t always
want to bring a knife to a fight sometimes you want a feather.

Bankrupt Heart                                                    The Novel

 It was almost
dark when into the channel the motor yacht Finn was piloting appeared. Her
navigation lights were illuminated. The deep throated rumble of the twin
diesel’s produced a resonant basso
profundo tone. Finn tooted the twin air powered horns announcing his

arrival and alerting other navigators to his movement. She was a sizable boat,
fifty feet long, fifteen feet wide, made of wood, displacing more than eighteen

            Philippe recognized her as soon as
heard the motor and approached the deck overlooking the channel. “Come, Finn
might need a few extra hands…”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith

Water Wonder Dog World

Yacht-Doggie as Sailor


Lacey is a good dog. I tell her that. I say, “Lacey you are
a good dog.” She’s deaf now. Can’t hear me, didn’t listen when she could unless
I said, “Where’s the ball?” Then she heard me! She’s 14 years old now and sinks
like a stone. She doesn’t have the energy to doggie paddle any longer. She
traveled with me to Sunfest in West
Palm Beach, Florida
back in 2003. We did shows for a few days and then we sailed off to the east of
Key West and
anchored off and snorkeled for a few days. Barracuda were mighty impressed with
this furry lure. If I dove in off the stern Lacey followed. She didn’t want to
miss a thing. She’ll bury her head beneath the water to look around, at least
she did back in the day. Now, she’s just an old dog. So, we sail the San Francisco Bay together. On blustery days she gives
me a look like, “who do you think, you’re kidding. You call this fun?” Other
days when things are not too raucous out there she doesn’t mind. I used to
leash her to the stern of the Golden Gate
sloop we owned and she’d spend the entire sail mesmerized by the wake kicked up
as the sloop healed over close hauled. Waves to a Jack Russell are like smoke
rings to a cat’s imagination. She can’t hear much anymore but she still helps
me see the world, or in this case the water, through her terrier eyes…This is
dog as lesson, lessons of wonder, life as never seen before….

     Bankrupt Heart                          The Second Novel 


      “Finn possesses such character. I
know your friend well. I think the loon loves his boats more than he loves his
women.” The man began to walk down the dock.

            “You do know Finn,” Ry finished his
thought. “Right about now I’d say there’s a woman trying to change his mind
about that.”

            “God bless the woman for trying. We
should all be so lucky.” The man waved goodnight.

            “What is your cat’s name?”

            “Her name is Asia…I
call her Catalyst, she owns this neighborhood.”

            Ry laughed. “I used to own a whole

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith


The Way an Oak Tree Changes What I Know

Dressing Love Up


One hundred hours of labor can change you. I found the one hundred hours of work rewarding. I made some mistakes, gouged some of the edwood with the orbital sander, and was unable to repair some of the damaged wood prior to staining. But, we have to ask questions when doing this kind of thing. First, does it make sense? Why even do it? Since I already know how to do this work perhaps I should train a young apprentice so that I can avoid some of this drudgery while giving the world one more skilled craftsman a job and experience they can use to go forth and make wonderful all these many other redwood homes in need of this kind of refurbishment. I strutted around the house late yesterday afternoon smitten with my handy work. I have had this project in my imagination for almost two years now and the final result exceeded my fantasy. I love wood. I love to work with wood. Sanding wood, varnishing wood, repairing joints, using epoxy, utilizing penetrating epoxy to halt wood rot,  ppreciating the grain, the direction of the grain, the hardness of the wood, or its ability to resist rotting… The surrounding oak trees I think understand my love for what they are made of. An oak is fascinating living thing. It grows slowly. Most of the oaks surrounding our property are less than one hundred years old. A few ancients are here too. I am germinating some of the seeds and will plant more trees down the hillside in the backyard along the fence. Beyond the fence is open space. Steep rugged hillside where buckeye, madrone, bay, and two species of oak cover the land. They live there. They were born there. Everything they need is there. I go down there and walk among them. I talk to the trees. Not
too loud. I tell them how much I appreciate there being here. The hills and trees here are part of my first memories. They are part of my home ground, part of me. They are rooted into my soul. One hundred hours wasn’t just work, it was ceremony, sacrifice, a way of paying my respect to the trees who gave their wood so that I might take shelter and comfort. They are alive, and the older I grow, the more the slow growing oaks change the way I see their meaning.


Bankrupt Heart                               The Novel

She reads Ryan’s face, and she feels the
weight on him. “You look like you’ve seen your life flash right in front of
your eyes.”

pops out a sharp “hah… She’s good Finn. This one could be the one for you.”

“I’m not the one for anyone. A good love
life is a temporary, fleeting thing.”

“A heart of oak what are the odds?” Ry said.


Change Crashes into the Denial Puppet

When a House was Still a Man's Castle

There are no easy answers, but there are text book responses to some of our current problems. Climate change denial spews from the mouths of many a politician receiving funding from various Big Oil and Gas corporations. Curious how these brilliant minds seem to see something that an entire globe of scientists do not see. Pour more money into their campaigns and they see less and less human caused climate change. How much climate change would they see if we poured money from the other bucket into their mouths? I can think for myself thank you very much. Turns out that globalization has been VERY GOOD for multi-national corporations while being VERY BAD for the little guy. Globalization is a complex issue. We can see the linkages, we can observe some of the consequences, but with so much smoke and mirrors fogging the playing field we are having a very difficult time understanding what is happening to the world’s economy. I believe in narrative, in telling a story, one that is elegant, simple and that can be understood. We change the story to fit our master’s wishes and not her servants. And this comes back to doing what we know is right, it is why we have universities, why we have scholarship, why there is a difference between what a scholar at UC Berkeley thinks and some hack intellectual who is drinking the kool aid at the Heritage Foundation. Our great misfortune now is that a small group of misguided minds have decided that their interests trump the best interests of the common good. That what we have here is like it or not the next shoe to drop in the global economic evolution. It means some people are going to get hurt here. There are always winners and losers in capitalism. Really… I have heard the good policy prescriptions and yet I have heard the objections to those prescriptions coming out of the same mouths that deny global climate change. The systemic tilting of the playing field is the big thumb of big money pressing down on the scale of best practices. We don’t do what we know is the best way forward we do what is best for a small number of huge corporations. If you haven’t heard their voices loud enough or clear enough you haven’t been listening to Rick Perry. Now, this is denial on steroids masquerading as the common man. Where do we go from here? We need a real plan based on reality not denial.

Bankrupt Heart                                The Novel

“I’m on the road. I have a weakness for games, I like golf. I’m the one
who picks up the kids after school.” The extra fine dark gray merino wool
suited executive set his elbow on the desk twirling his wedding band around his
finger with his thumb. He was cocksure.

Lyle Hess’s Tribute to Change

Handmade Wanderlust Incarnate

What you are looking at is one of the finest ocean going yachts in the world. Handmade by a New Zealander I met in 2005. The boat is about twelve years old now and has been circumnavigated. At present it is in San   Rafael. Chris and his wife Helen depart for Mexico, Hawaii and a visit back to New   Zealand this autumn. While the boat is only thirty feet in length she displaces over nine tons. Her purpose is for voyaging across open oceans. The design is based upon the Bristol Channel Cutter that one hundred years ago served sailors in the North Sea. While off the coast of Alaska Chris recounted a tale of waiting out at sea for a storm to pass for three days in sustained winds that were measured at 78 knots! Indeed these are stout vessels with great capacity to absorb punishing forces of wave and wind. They are throw backs too. Constructed of wood, systems are elemental, navigation accomplished by sextant, compass, chronograph and chart. Everything a sailor needs to go to sea is here. If you look at the photograph you can see that in the picture a roller furling headsail has been selected. Chris has carefully substituted new technologies for older when he has deemed the innovation increases safety. Here is a rare and wondrous sighting. Here is tradition rubbing against the inevitable law of change…

Bankrupt Heart                                     The Second Novel

            “I picked a pretty one to make my bride, but sailing was all of my life and it
meant something less to her, she’d come to do it, but not with her heart, she
did it for the sake of the marriage.”

            “You do it for your man?” Ry asked.

            “Well, not exactly.” Conner looked
at Gail. They gave each that telling glance. “I don’t think I know how long we
each looked at one another,”

            Gail continued, “It was like we all
thought of it at the same time.”

            “We looked each other in the eye,”
Conner explained, “and all of us at once, had come to the same conclusion, why
not work out a swap, I’ll take your wife and you can take mine.”

Bound to Change

Foreground same show, Background Different World

You’ll find the world is set up to be unpredictable even if you are adamant about insisting things remain the same. Keep the old cell phone, buy season tickets to the favorite team, don’t trade in the old car, you’re playing the way you like, close, keeping things just the way things ought to be. I had come upon a good formula for a show. Worked it for all it was worth, as long as I could, dialed in, polished it, but didn’t do anything that would alter the approach I had found superior. But, if it wasn’t me, it was the world around me. Something was bound to change and did. The world I’d relied upon to be my oyster had changed and I had to change with it. Of course a show is not a fixed temporal entity. It is alive and evolving and no two performances are ever in all details the same, even when you are trying to slow the rate of evolution, even when you’ve found yourself right where you want to be, there it is, one way or another, as they say, when you look and see change, you are looking at a  defining feature, one of the places in the cosmos where the rules that govern our existence are revelation.

“I’m just now coming out of Palm
Springs, worked there for the winter, didn’t suit me, before that I was going
nowhere living in San Jose, now, I’m headed somewhere,” he laughed,
“got oblivion nipping at my backside and trying to find the guts to make
my mark, while I’ve still got the chance.”

“Slow and steady, how a cabinet is
made,” Kenneth said. “Mighty hard on a young man waiting his turn for
life to finally come his way.”

Highway Home

The More Things of Change…

how does it feel, to be on your own, Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone...

I loved long playing albums. My first purchase was Highway 61 Revisited. I loved my 8 track stereo player in my 1939 Chevrolet Businessman’s Coupe. I enjoyed my cassette player in my 1967 Ford pickup. I dig my CD player in my Toyota.
I dig my stereo aboard my sailboat where it allows me to hook my Ipod into the system and control my recordings on the pod via the controls on the stereo! I still have some LP’s, cassettes, and compact disc’s. I gave up on the 8 tracks
several revolutions ago on the merry go round of life. I must be a merchandiser’s dream come true having repurchased pieces of music I simply can’t live without. It seems we are doomed to repeat ourselves as we reinvent ourselves all the while trapping in this innovation nothing new whatsoever…in fact the more things change the more things remain the……

Noel couldn’t suppress the thought that she had a spectacular figure. Her shape and bulges were arousing him and invoked a male driven delirium within. All men have this state of mind. All men, from time to time, are driven to the edge of madness by such a simple thing as the figure of a woman. Men do not cultivate lust so much as they find themselves the victim of its forces. These passions can be fleeting and even misguided, but while in the full thrall of this harbinger they can be immeasurable and utterly, irrationally wonderful.

Highway Home