Tag Archives: Road Dog

Spartan Shave Kit—Suitcase Efficiencies

Rolling east next week— it’s the road and it’s out there waiting mile after mile to be devoured. Over the years I’ve kept in touch with people, some are friend’s others are business contacts. If I had not been so frequently back to one place or another it might have not been practical to cast my relationship’s net so far.

Nearby Baker, Nevada heals what ails

Out of sight and out of mind, many don’t put in the time to keep in touch. Back before the digital revolution I’d call or send a letter. I traveled with a Smith-Corona manual typewriter, good supply of envelopes, typing paper and stamps. As I mapped out the year, I’d send notes ahead of my traveling through for shows to my support network.

Anticipating a return to a favorite venue, an enticing town, a backwater along a river— there are mental images that wet the appetite. 

I get how when we are one place, we might not have the space in our head to remember all the details of the second place. If you tour the list crowding the imagination is long. In Winnipeg there was this after-hour’s joint, the sofa outback under the building’s porch roof, this was where the cast drank beer disguised in paper sacks, fooling nothing and nobody, this was a modern day speakeasy, the cops could be kicking the doors down at any moment, the performers swept up and taken away in paddy wagons.  

Got your fresh water and your gray water tanks- simplicity

Comfort zones come from sleeping in the same bed. You want to force yourself to get out, stay with friends, pitch a tent, get a room, stay at a musty hotel. You can become too attached to your dog— our gardens can entrap us— staying home becomes a debilitating habit— it’s a form of adventure surrender. Everything is in play when you unexpectedly drop on by, disrupting comfortable stuck friends is a form of liberation— they should be thankful— a few are, some never will be. 

The touring act dropping in for a day or two provides a degree of discomfort, this is healthy, the host will survive and only after you leave will­ appreciate how fortunate their lives are for having you stop by and scramble their calendar. How long are you going to stay? That is the key question. Two day’s is a brilliant conceit, just long enough.

Travis T Hip’s old digs Silver City, Nevada

Knocking about town to town is a skill set of its own kind. Getting comfortable in faraway places, not feeling out of sorts, once your wandering mode is as natural a state of being as your being in one place mode you’ve really made your mark— you’re a wanderer in a kingdom that is all your’s.

The vagabond, gypsy and busker have suitcase efficiencies and spartan shave kits that will spark envy of sedentary types, the itinerate artists are perfecting the high art of traveling with only what is necessary, anything that is not needed gets or donated— travel light move quick. 

Then comes the turn, that could be the date on your schedule, sometimes it is measured by the furthest distance from where you are from the place you call home, this is when in your mind’s eye the thought of getting back begins to take hold. If you are in a hurry to get back, this is not the interior state I’m marking. If you are returning with the same sense of ease and expectation as you were when you were leaving, that’s what I’m talking about.

Nothing but salad and a view

Cooking for yourself is easier in your own kitchen, many meals cooked off a tailgate have little to recommend them other than the terrific view you might enjoy. Doing dishes hunched over a bucket on the ground, little discomforts will keep many harnessed to where they claim to belong.

One such helper is a woman named Becky. Growing up in Nashville she’d become friends with a juggler, he stood out, but he was young and employed as a chemist. Decades later while I was working at 5th and Mill in Tempe, Arizona we met, conversations ensued and an invitation to stay in a room above the garage was offered, “anytime you’re in town, please come on by…”  And so, I have. It was only years later I realized this young juggler she met in Tennessee was my colleague— Robert Nelson. 

Crawford Bay, British Columbia there is a fine friend I see that lives here when he’s not living in Banderas Bay, Mexico. Another lifelong friend an hour further west in the Slocan is there too. This is a region of the interior known as the Kootenay’s. These are deeper more complex relationships, one extends back to my teens, met Virginia in 1967. The other Angus I worked in Vancouver BC with doing shows in English Bay. Conversations are thick with history. 

Runs off Deep Cycle Batteries—

Returning the favor, a magician friend out of Phoenix in May will be my guest, rarest of all events is catching a gypsy in domestic relapse. I’ll show him the oddest of sedentary proof— he’ll get the chance to sleep in a guest bed and eat vegetables from our garden. 

Sunday I’ll be in Silver City, Nevada hosted by a showman. Wednesday arrive in Salida, Colorado again hosted by a showman. World renowned, both in the grip of learning to belong somewhere.

Friday night I’ll pick up my wife at the airport in Albuquerque. Then, Saturday we’ll spend the day in Santa Fe with one of my favorites, she’s an abstract painter and has been for most of half a century. Abstract painters are hilarious, fun loving, like to laugh and live sun up to sundown with a passion all of their own. 

Nothing for as far as an eye can see— also known as everything

What is on my mind are the Pueblo People of the Southwest. We will go to Chaco Canyon, then further west to Canyon de Chelly. This is the Navajo Nation, where the Dine’ people live. 

Maybe a hot spring dip here and there, some long hikes and stargazing for sure. Will be home in time to harvest the cabbage and green beans. There is a doctor’s appointment, teeth cleaning and soon after a trip up to Seattle to see the kid, as if turning 30 isn’t insult enough, the kid is a fully realized woman I have thought of as my child. It’s all catch and release, every bit of everything we do, from shows to sleepovers, to growing vegetables or visits with good souls. We come and we go, some of us will never come back while other’s return time and again. 

A restless foot shows me the way—

Crumbs of cinnamon buns

“Well, I’m excited to be here and by excited I mean I want to do something, and by something I mean I want to give you the best 20 minutes of entertainment packed into 60 minutes that you or any audience has ever seen.”

Backstage before the show goes up our one man solo production team is bounding about fleet of foot and fogged of mind. As ever I am prepping for one more swig of the unquenchably intoxicating elixir of performance life.

This present decade proceeds at a more measured pace. The previous decade each year I made some 500 appearances before my audiences.  

There is a backward and forward command of your material when working so incessantly. In place of such a regime I am now deploying a more rambling-rollercoaster-improvised style. Like a pesky fly the improviser dashes from one near death like moment to the next dodging the swatting like silence while awaiting another sure laugh to land. The beloved house fly dodges web and window sill while dreaming of succulent crumbs of cinnamon buns. Authentic laughter is no less delicate and uncertain a fated final end.

While working with my show-dog Lacey our five thousand performances once developed was ‘error’-tight with minimal variation between any two performances. Improvisation demands that our work be fueled by cognitive super powers. We live and die by such gambits. Rare is the performer that can rise to the occasion 500 times each and every moment of every show across the timeline of a year. There must be such a talented soul buried out there in this sea of performing humanity.

Between June and July I’m figuring I will launch somewhere near one hundred shows. By the end of July the audiences and performances sent into mayhem, mirth and orbit will then return to earth. Instead of landing the shuttle in the Mojave it will be a Prius motoring southward over and around the Canadian Rockies, pondering life along the Grand Ronde River, lingering on the backside of The Sisters, Oregon and finally safely back in the hangar where we make our home in this sprawling sea of high priced real estate famously named California.

It’s one thing to be the world’s great lover and it is another thing entirely to be the world’s greatest lover’s lover.

Listening to their every word, laughing at their every joke and then it’s back into the bedroom.

All the cards, the flowers and chocolates… and then its back into the bedroom.

This isn’t just about love, this is about the championship of love, you hear that inner voice that says, “go on kid, you can do it, take one more for the team.”

Now you know that there is no way out other than going all the way in.

She’s perfect and you’re perfect. The whole thing is perfect even though you know there is no such thing as perfect and even that’s perfect.

April 24, ’18 Road Dog Redux

Coast to Coast

the road

What a Juggler Sees

Physical training while touring can be gigantic pain. If there are long jumps between dates you’re going to miss your workout. The best of the best jugglers train every day. The length of a workout varies. Physical intensity is relative to the mental focus the act brings to the training process. The uncommon acts have stellar focal power- they stand out because they’re talents are many and easy to recognize.

We deal with the distraction of touring. If the virtuosity of a stunt is so high that it can only be attempted under optimal conditions then the trick is dropped while on the road. You’ll scale back and include only the stunts you can do drop dead stone cold one hundred percent every time. Your audience only sees a fraction of your best work.

Trailer 1

My Beautiful Reward

Driving, eating and sleeping are all scheduled around performing. Your day is framed by the stage time. Maybe Lenny Bruce walked on but variety acts have to get ready. Props have to be set. Costumes, even casual what might at first appear to be street attire is worn because it can accommodate the range of movement the performer expects to make during the show.

You go out on ten coast to coast national tours and perform a few thousand shows across the entire lower forty-eight and you are bent by such a process. Gas stations, rest areas, hotels and convenience stores become habitat. Once in touring mode you become the student of regional patterns. There is a contrast between how a local person’s schedule is all caught up and tied to the concerns of their immediate surroundings.

Troy small

Between the Long Hops and Small Town Stops

While touring the performer is painting a story of human attachment to place and people. We are invasive species, foreign objects—curiosities. How we can survive without the familiar comforts of our own home is hard for a local to understand. Why we train so hard is to give form to that emptiness. We are working not just for a living but for our psychological survival. The best jugglers exercise many talents.

Buy a book, book a show. Tell a friend. Share my blog. Be in touch… Best of luck and love

Edited Red Star

March 27th Cultures Cauldron of Creativity

2009SPF00415.jpg
Feast of Fools at the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival. Photography by EPIC PHotography Inc…

I signed a multi-year deal to emcee at the Oregon State Fair. Small potatoes by show business standards but for a roustabout and lunch bucket card carrying member of the small time entertainment racket my hosting the stage was fat city after a steady diet gigs in places you can’t even find on a map.

Another agent that liked my style booked me to emcee at the Ohio State Fair. My duties included stage management as well as emceeing. I was a man of many hats. Simple enough. Set lights, sound check, here’s where you come on and how you walk off. Any entertainer worth his salt realizes they’ve got a sweet gig when they find an experienced hand taking the lead on a stage they’re going to throw it down on.

Orange Toss

Spearing a tossed orange with a barbecue fork clinched in my teeth

…arriving, loading in, setting up, killing time backstage, holed up in the green room, eating with your fingers from the deli tray, special ordered, all Italian sliced salami and sausages, peppers, succulent morsels, olives and onions, crackers and cheeses, a white tablecloth spread not necessarily enabling a long life- but while you were here it was at least a good short life, squeezing in and peeling out of costume, getting on stage, under the hot lights, taking your best shot, holding your own, sticking to the schedule, the final burst of applause, taking a bow, maybe help keeping the stage manager sane, then after going back to the hotel to hanging with the lineup of showmen and showgirls. Drinking whiskey, spinning tales of woe about long hops, pulling up to some  hole in the brick wall, hard to find barely advertised one night stand— long lost nights both on and offstage— and long after the last calls been called out by a weary ready for bed host, cashing a thousand hopes and dreams in, waving the white toweled bravado to the last breath, collapsing on your hotel room bed, so near to the crack of dawn you could touch it… Heavy eyed party-monger, falls off to sleep, waking too soon, scaring yourself in the bathroom mirror, using a cool rag to soak your puffy eyes— will the swelling ever go down?  Putting on your sunglasses, grabbing your suitcase, closing the door, heading back to the venue, sleep deprived but game faced, ready to play your hand all over again, for one more night, out on the circuit— custom built-perfection sized for the small-time up and comer’s, and then at long last after a too hot weekend of show after show after show, you load out, close the backstage doors and as this one comes to the bittersweet end instead of hanging with your own show biz kind, instead of gathering with your tribe, you’re rolling out all alone on that long white striped highway pointing you to the next destination, the gig slated for tomorrow and your fateful rendezvous with that big fat delicious break— that your fool mind keeps taunting you with— that lucky pot of belly laughs and applause— that your addled dream machine mind keeps teasing you with— that all you ever really wanted out of this show biz thing— was to earn a laugh and be given an honest shot at riding without so much as a care in this roller coaster ride of a world— and there you find yourself listening to to the whispering wind born love song singing in your hair…

Koots

Wanderlust Peeking Back from My Lucky Stars

Edited Red Star