Tag Archives: Street performer

Deep Background on an Earl Warren Supporter

ecclesiastical faith based winemaking....

Back in ’64 when cigarette smoking remained a virtuous activity for an aspiring up and coming young man San Jose was a place where one of the largest stone fruit crops in the world was still grown. Apricots, peaches, and nectarine orchards were still a defining feature. The Jesuits were still growing wine at the Novitiate up in Los Gatos. They didn’t just turn grapes into wine they were busy forming men into priests. Our current Governor Jerry Brown was making grapes into wine there back in the day. But as it turned out the Jesuits were unable to turn an unwilling Jerry Brown into a priest.

Albert Gonsalves, my grandfather was in the last years of owning his saloon. Sinatra in 1964 was recording Fly Me to the Moon, The Best is Yet to Come and My Kind of Town. It would be a few years before we all would come to understand the meaning of all of this.

In the end it all became crystal clear. My grandfather would end up buying up most of the Novitiates Vintage 1964 Ruby Port.He kept the cases at Tambo’s the saloon he owned down at the corner of East 14th Street and 98th Avenue right there in the heart of Elmhurst- a neighborhood on the south side of Oakland.

Back in the Day

At home in his closet was stacked a good five cases of the deep red port wine. I’d come by now and again. My grandfather enjoyed a good one way conversation. This was one of those can’t get a word in edgewise type of conversations. In point of fact you couldn’t find a detectable gap in his speech where it seemed it might be alright to butt in and form a dialogue. No, this was impossible. Grandpa was a monologist, a man who pondered conundrums, scolded the morally weak, and waxed eloquently on the beauty of the steam engine and its close second cousin the whiskey still of which he had first hand experience and was something of an expert in how to use one of these devices.

What I came to understand about my grandfathers speechifying was that he had found in that Novitiate Vintage 1964 Ruby Port the perfect elixir to serve as a way of softening up  any guest so that he might turn that visitor into his audience where he could demonstrate his most amazing oratorical talent of telling stories in such a manner that the only way to get out of such a fix was when my grandmother would come into the room and by way of mercy save grandpa’s now Port soaked victim from her husbands singular talent of holding a person speechless against their will.

My grandfather and I played a game of cat and mouse as those years rolled by. I’d show up for one thing or another and he’d walk out of the closet with a bottle of the vintage ruby port. All I had to do was agree to have a glass of wine and next thing you know there I’d be right back at the dining room table right back in the same fix all over again.

Port wine induced listening

About all you need to know now is that I loved my grandfather, even though I can’t remember a thing he said I still seem to have a vivid memory of that wine, you could say it was almost a religious experience.

BANKRUPT HEART                                                   THE SECOND NOVEL

            “Look at me, why, why do I always pick the biggest dreamer in the crowd.”

            “I guess you like big dreams…”

            “They’re always these tough guys, cooking up adventures to go on, nobodies making plans to stick around,”

            “You wouldn’t be attracted to that guy…”

            “Guys like that see me coming a million miles away…”

            “Jackie, the dull guy who’s buying hooks at the Western Bait and Tackle knows better than to try and take a bite of your apple. Man who’s got the courage to feast in your garden, that’s a different beast, whole different critter, this a feral animal, mercurial, master marksman, he devours weaker creatures, those are one night stands, women like that don’t stand a chance, but when that man spars with the likes of you, look out, sparks fly, man like that goes to the edge of the known world, you take him, force him to walk up to the cliff, and its like you take his hand and say come on let’s jump, mister tough guy,  lets fly, I’ll take you to places you’ve only heard of…”

Before We Leave this Earth

There is no giving, there is just this human doing we are all part of...

I was at the Roberto Cruz Branch Library inSan Joselast night. It is out onAlum Rock RdinEast San Jose. This side of town is the other side of town. The library was a newer facility. Next door was an independent gas station. It had the dilapidated look nailed. I wouldn’t change a thing if this was the look I was going for

You should get out more. This is my advice. I was alone so I gave this sage wise guidance to myself. One of the wonders of the world is a river. Looking down over a footbridge into the crystal clear cool waters spawns joy.

Last night a gathered audience of children, mothers, fathers, neighbors and friends joined me for a show. The audience was quiet. The children were well behaved. At first shy, but they got where I was coming from and began to open up. They began to believe in themselves, to gain confidence, and see their own natural goodness.

Always beneath the actual presentation is the invisible subtext, the vibe, how it is going, who is in and who is out, what is connecting and what is not. Shows can go off the rails or they can slowly build momentum. This increase is the result of something happening between the performer and the audience.

I get the best feeling from a simple library program. I get this feeling when the audience opens their hearts to what I am trying to do and join me, trust me. They trust a graying husband, father and grandfather. They believe me when I tell them for my finale I will reveal the secret to having a happy life while here on earth. I give children a chance to try things, and they believe me when I tell them that if they try as hard as they can that there is no limit to what they can accomplish, that they can trust this and know this, and believe this.

Mothers and fathers are at the library to help their children learn to read. They know for their children to have any chance in this world they will need to get an education. I come by and do a show and encourage children to believe in themselves.

I loaded out. Spoke to the children who wanted to talk after the show. Put my equipment in my truck. I turned on the radio. The Los Angeles Police Department had surrounded the Occupy LA encampment. I listened while a talk radio host described our government’s decision to remove the protestors who they claimed were unlawfully assembled. Our compact between the government and its citizens is in tatters. I know we can do better, some among us have. For all of us, or at least my version of all of us is the great vast majority of the middle class of us need to build a bridge to a better tomorrow. I saw that better future running like pure clear spirit in the hearts of the children I was with last night.  It is so simple. We need to reach with our hearts hand and do what we can to help these new souls up….

 

The End is Near and Dear

We shape nature in our own likeness

Refurbishing a wooden sloop for the first time is an act of faith.

So, first off forget about having things go according to plan. It is like the rest of life things don’t usually go that way. Life goes its way and you try to ride the wave or get the hell out of the way. This is the Lee Iacocca maxim.

Working over a long time horizon is an odd experience. I like my work to be completed as soon as is possible. I don’t like things to take long.

The lessons we think we are learning are in fact seldom the same as the received wisdom the experience imparts upon our lives. In fact I am coming to terms with the fact that while I start out doing one thing I end up doing something else by the time the thing is finished.

Fix a boat, copyright for the second novel

I probably would not have been capable of writing a novel, and now two, had I not struggled from 2001 through 2007 with the restoration of Maestro. But, that would be too narrow, too scrawny an answer for what happened during those years to me as a person

Authoring novels is first of all about writing. But, it is also about understanding people. It is about soul, spirit, personality, behavior, youth, aging, the middle years, being single, having a job, falling in love, getting married, remaing single, your sexuality, friends, family, weather, where you live, what you do, and on and on… Narratives are constructed by events. Any event will do so long as the author has the passion to place the reader into the center of that moment and pull the curtain back on how that moment impacts the people who have been brought to life in the story.

Fates Long Shadow

So, whether we roam about in travel trailers performing a juggling show, or spend our best days laboring to restore a wooden sailboat, writers imagine patterns, we see into the fabric of reality the workings of human experience and from there we take a leap of faith, and build out that vision, that story that we see and then we serve that vision up to our readers.

And finally the circular firing squad of paradox aligns with boat restoration and authoring a novel. We won’t know until we’ve put everything we have into the thing whether it will float and hold water or will sink and vanish into the depths… Life is not just good, it is also an unpredictable pain in the…

As much as I might not always like living in a world where everything I try doesn’t succeed, every game I play I don’t always win, and everybody I ever loved never leaves, the truth and secret to a well lived life is to appreciate not how it turns out in the end, but what you can do to make the doing something worthy of being an end in itself. Here to my way of thinking is the trailhead to authenticity.

Little Dog Big Heart

BANKRUPT HEART                        THE SECOND NOVEL

          Tonight was a private after hours, members only affair, whiskey drank like sacrament. The men had gathered for this random ritual over the years. They cussed, drank, sucked on toothpicks, and blotted out whole stretches of time before dawn trading stories for laughs based on the cheap thrills and the numbskull miscalculations of others. Tonight was different. One of their own had taken a blow. They’d conjure up preferential sympathies. The men would ignore the hypocrisy.

The Land Yacht… When Dreams were Big and Fuel was Still Cheap

Road Dog Deluxe

I found my Streamliner in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was the ultimate. I mean it was the full fantasy. In 1974 I was on the back lot at Circus Vargas. We had jumped over from St. Louisto see the show in Springfield, Missouri. They’d come off a mud lot and the trucks and trailers that arrived had been pulled off the last lot with tractors. Most rigs had buried their axles at the hubs into the mud. The center ring circus stars were the backstage mechanics who had to pull repack the bearings on their trucks and trailers between shows while preparing to jump to the next stop.

The new acts traveled in whatever they could scratch up. The families who had spent their lives in circus, the families that had come from families that had spent their lives in circus traveled in a rather distinctive manner. They pulled Airstream trailers with these massive Cadillac’s. These were the 500 cubic inch motors of this era.

Most circus shows worked east of the Mississippi and for good reason. West of there were mountains. West of there were long distances between towns. West of there were small populations. It was hard to scuff up enough people to make a show worthwhile.

Pulling an Airstream with a Cadillac on flat ground was not too hard on equipment. You don’t break down as often. You don’t fry transmissions. Motors don’t give it up going over a mountain pass.

I had plenty of years to consider how I wanted to do it. Dodge king cab diesel pickup truck with dual rear wheels was off the shelf perfect. Streamliner travel trailer looked good on her bumper. I already owned a proper towing hitch.

Big Bad Dodge Pulling a Classic...take that Shakespeare

She served me well while I owned her. Wasn’t a long affair, but it was a grand and elegant stop along the road called life.

Sold her to a collector out of Austin, Texas, he took ownership in Tucson, Arizona. When I bought the Dodge diesel was still under one dollar and fifty and when I sold her a gallon was running five bucks! Pretty much ended the heavy duty era of my touring life. I tried holding on for a spell, but unless it was a high dollar multiple week contract the trailer couldn’t come, didn’t pencil out.

Still it isn’t like I had to have that setup for the rest of my life. It wasn’t like I was going to need to vow devotion to a trailer. She came, did her little dance in my life, and at the right moment she departed, and a time and place of my choosing. Wasn’t more than six months later that I swapped out my Dodge Cummins Diesel for a Toyota Tacoma. Six diesel turbo powered cylinders for four naturally aspirated combustion chambers.

As a fellow performer reminded me once, “It isn’t what you have, it’s what you can tell someone you had.” So, there you go. If you’ve been thinking about running the highway with a rig and trailer like this I’d be careful. Be sure you know how far and how often you’ll need to pull her somewhere. Rig like this will eat you out of house and home in this day and age…

BANKRUPT HEART                THE SECOND NOVEL

Ry turned down the alley. He walked out onto the pier. There were fishing boats, some worn by work, others painted fresh. There were Purse Seiners and Long Liners mixed together with commercial sports fishermen boats. Across the way near the warehouse, the bigger vessels in the fleet were tied up at the docks. He counted two trollers. The next one looked like a Gillnetter and last, a ship built for fishing far offshore. Ry leaned on the rail. Tied up below was a Monterey Fisherman, a capable sea-going vessel. It was not big. Time had taken its toll. Hard for a one-man show to make a go of fishing.  Ry knew a few who still tried. Hard to make ends meet. Fuel bill, cost of bait, cost of ice, and a slim catch could eat up a man’s profits. A few seasons of that and a fisherman has no choice but to throw in the towel. Ry inhaled. The sea air was ripe with salt, the stink of fish, and a wisp of diesel fumes. Scoma’s, one of the oldest fish joints in the wharf, was set back out here above the bay water on the piers.

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…

BANKRUPT HEART

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

THE SECOND NOVEL

Cast Your Fate to the Wind

Excuse me there must be some mistake, I am first

 PHOTOGRAPH BY SHELIA LAVERY

Must have been that some of the worlds greatest sailors listened to Vince Guaraldi’s hit song, Cast Your Fate to the Wind. I’m no expert. What do I know? I’m looking at the same thing everyone else is looking at. I see a mark on the water and imagine how I might get to that mark before the next guy. Evidently the worlds greatest sailors neglected to ask me how I’d do it. My first bit of advice. Do what Spithill does. If that doesn’t work take up golf and go after Tiger.

 

Skipper James Spithill sailing Oracle bested opposing skipper Yann Guichard of Team Energy of France this last Saturday. Spithill is a piece of work. Ellison I am sure figured after having Spithill cause so much trouble it might be best to hire the Australian rather than be run over by him.

 

Yann Guichard Energy TeamFrancelooks on paper, on water, and in photographs to be a worthy adversary to the ever voracious Spithill. In a race for romance I’d bet on Guichard, but even that might be a bit of a risk. Spithill I’m sure would find his way into the heart of the same woman faster than his French counterpart.

Jimmy's Peeps

On Saturday Energy Team after rounding the first mark went to the next mark taking the north side of the course while Spithill went the other way to the south. For a while that looked fine, but then Guichard kept going and going and going. Guichard cast his fate to the wind. It was death on that side. There were neither wind shifts nor stronger winds. All the armchair sailors I was seated with agreed that the French skipper had lost the race as he remained stubbornly on this side of the race course.

 

I know nothing about these guys. I’m guessing to be the sailor that steers one of these machines you got to be pretty good. But mixed into these great helmsmen is an outlier. That’s Jimmy Spithill. I’m also guessing that Jimmy has got the rest of the helmsmen talking to themselves. He must be annoying. He must be witty. He must find his way under their skin. He’s probably nice to them while planting little seeds of doubt in the subtext of their comradeship. He probably smiles, keeps his cool, then heads out onto the course and bashes their brains in again and again.

 

If one sharp knife in your drawer is not enough, and you are billionaire Larry Ellison get a second sharp knife. His name is John Kostecki, Oracle’s tactician. Jimmy this is your brain when steering, and this is your mortal lock second mate confirming what you already know. “Nobody, do you hear me, nobody, beats Jimmy and Johnny, you understand?”

Inconvenient Truth What was Al Gore doing there?

PHOTOGRAPH BY SHELIA LAVERY

Well almost nobody. There is still the inconvenient fact thatNew Zealand even after this past weekends races leads the series by one point!

 

Who is this that dares to get in Jimmy Spithills wake? Dean Barker is his name. He is older than Spithill. He is from New Zealand. Born in Takapuna. A native, racing for his country. Like Spithill he takes pleasure in vanquishing those who dare get in his way, There is a one point difference after this last week of racing in San Diego. That’s it, that’s all that separates Spithill from Barker.

 

I can hear Larry Ellison’s instructions to Spithill, “bring me his head….”

 

BANKRUPT HEART                                      THE SECOND NOVEL

Finn looked at Ry’s face. He seemed more relaxed. The harbor oozed tranquility and coaxed an unhurried demeanor from the people who lived there. Seagulls sat resting on the metal boat shed roof, mallards explored afloat on the water, while crows hopped about the docks— there was always a chance something to eat would turn up. The harbor was juxtaposed next to the freeway where rush-hour traffic was headed north at a crawl, bumper to bumper. There was a treasured serenity as the boatyard emptied of the men and the women who had finished up their work for the day.

            “You can stay aboard if you like. I’ve got to get going.” Finn said opening the icebox and inspecting its contents. “I’ve got beer on ice, there’s a steak I need to cook, it’s just going to go to waste; I’ve got vegetables, bread, cookies for dessert, you’d be set up— galley’s got everything.” He was smiling, trying to coax a ‘yes’ out of his friend.

            Ry was quick to decline. “No. I don’t think so.”

 

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith

 

The Road that Never Ends

Refurbishment of the Venerable Touring Rig

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
decreased.

Unplanned Small Town Stop...

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.

Stage Coach Stop, Gold Mine, and Hot Spring

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.

Gourmet Coffee, Great Views, Terrific Service

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.

It Must Be Love

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…”

            Ry
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