Tag Archives: Street Theater

The Love

If I hadn’t gotten all drunk and stubborn  and insisted on putting a down payment on that double wide I fell in love with there would not be that much in my life to be ashamed of.

End of my show I use some musical tracks mixed down. I do my own editing. I’ve got plenty more mixing to do. Then, there is synchronizing the musical tracks with the volunteers who’ll be caught up in the show’s ending. None of this can be rehearsed. You just go out and try it on a crowd to see how it fits.

This musical closer is pure street theater. It belongs to the street, and is a form of group improvisation perhaps singularly suited to the here and now.

I find love a particularly salient theme, but you have to handle the conveyance of a loving theme with a certain cold disdain so as to not overshoot your audiences appetite for such intimate insights. Sneaking up on the powers of heart with a good laugh is close enough.

However it works in your life- in a relationship, not in a relationship, single, married, lifelong bachelor, married once but never again, never married but suddenly head over heels, these things are not choices, we are not in control, our heart sees the world through its own eyes and makes its own decisions. We are along for the ride.

Some busking types might say it is all laughs, that it’s how much you make in the hat, how big a crowd you can draw. My goal is to touch the four year old, the eighty-five year old and everyone in between with the notion that our loving one another is where everything begins and ends. Imagine having a show that works on that level every time? I’m such the romantic

When I work in Mexico there’s this guy that pushes a cart through the neighborhood selling bottled water. Well, it turns out he’s got a sister that sells hot water that a married man can never get out of.

Pedal to the Metal with A Thousand Clowns

?
?

Norm Ornstein describes the partisanship to have metastasized into tribal warfare. Tribalism is about being a member of a group that you are above all else loyal to. Privatization, sending programs back to the states, rejection of spending on infrastructure, no new taxes, lower old taxes, and dismantle social welfare programs. That’s the village they want to live in.

The scorched earth strategy is not a tactic and it decidedly not a means of governance, it is Donald Trumps first and last Fox Television tested means to all ends. All of this ends in stalemate. Until the tribe can get back into the White House. Then, they’ll ram through the tribes greatest hits and most damaging harms.

The tribal members on the Supreme Court have been perfect shills for Big Business. Follow the money and the spigots they open or close attune perfectly to what is big and powerful and away from what is small and not wealthy. Messing with the right to vote is just a bon bon to their tribes efforts to hold on to power. The rest of it is disinformation to cloud their penchant for wanting to help those born with silver spoons in their…..

The tribalism around Scalia’s exiting this reality is pure rocket fuel. The tribe already in a spiral, many wondering when the whole stinking thing will blow, has found a sword to fall on. Teddy Cruz and Marco Rubio (both suspected of being ineligible to actually be President by circumstances of birth as explained by a political Republican operative in Nevada) promise full on filibustering any nominee put forward by the obviously illegitimate executive presently illegally occupying their home on Pennsylvania Avenue.

That’s us in a nutshell, and what a nut it has been. Tribalism, not movement conservatism, comes closer to our understanding what the country is up against. The flippant tone of my comments aside this kind of behavior is dangerous for all of us. I never thought I’d see us going off the cliff in a clown car… but, that’s looking more and more like one version of our end to this current hell we find ourselves stuck in.

How Sweet It Is

Pouilly Fuisse
The Most Beautiful Places in the World

Timing is everything. A good location doesn’t hurt.

But, it’s the intangibles that will get you.

“To be completely honest, although I love living in the city, it’s not my favorite place to perform.”

What?

“It seems to have an overly-politically-correctness vibe.”

Really? So, we haven’t changed; they have?

“They seem to repress some of the fun and energy that our typical street show presents.”

For the love of show business.

Street act is foreground, cityscape is background.

A performer is barely on earth. We’d like to be, but you know it’s tough. We tend to be on stage, in bars, at rehearsals. Why isn’t that enough and if it is why doesn’t it come with a dental plan?

Once you have an act you are set. You get to be witness to more death than a mortician. There’s a lot of turnover in this industry.

One day the best act you’ve ever seen turns out to be a plumber. That unexpected incarnation put the fear of god in you.

As Jackie Gleason opined after a sip from the good stuff at the opening of his schtick.. “How sweet it is…” He’s only making that crack because of all the cadavers stacked up backstage.

So, the hungry acts know that you best keep the hook baited. Nothing but nobody waits for spit.

That’s the game. In these modern times. We used to be lousy with gigs from Salinas to Santa Rosa. But, that’s all dried up and nobody left instructions for what to do next.

You want a career in show business? Buy a suitcase, look for cheap tickets. Keep an eye on your back. Change is coming.

Then, you know, the phone rings, they need somebody for some spot dates in Northern Arizona on the Navajo Indian Nation’s territories. “Are you available?”

“You got to be kidding me? I’d do that date for free. When do we leave?” That’s how it is in my game.

You get the regrets and those of us with the moxy to have stuck it out we get the unpaid bills.

Nothing is free but for love and even that bargain comes with baggage.

I got an Australian friend in Dubai playing his swami act with a fake Indian accent to the Emirates. That’s some kind of con he’s got going. And YOU wanted to be in show business…

 ????????????????

 This is what the professionals look like…

Academy Awards an Oligarchic Pie in Face

???????????????????????????????

Oligarchic Nightmare Goes All Hollywood

That pesky liberal agenda featured on the Academy Awards was a bit of a thumb in the eye to many people not sympathetic to such an agenda. These are the issues being systematically blocked by a do nothing Congress.

Voting rights, equal pay for women, spying and immigration reform come to mind. There was the issue of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and ALS…

Some loon on the radio urged the liberals in the film making industry to put a sock. He was suggesting that the big corporate money was behind a more conservative agenda and since they were the masters that the artists were supposed to behave more like servants. This guy gets today’s ass kissing award for media performing in a supine role.

So, let me see? I have a majority of women in my family. Advocating for equal pay isn’t some kind of liberal agenda item. It is pragmatic. The more they earn the less I have be concerned with their welfare.

Are the NSA surveillance programs a partisan issue? I’m not so sure. I think it is dangerous to democracy in general and a concern to both left and right in particular.

Voter suppression is an oligarchic issue. Case in point are Social Security and Medicare. About the only piece of the conservative movement that wants to mess with the two programs are those people who can afford to be messing with those programs. We call those rich mo-fo’s where I come from.

We are defunding basic research because of schmuck’s like Author Laffer, Larry Kudlow and Steven Moore. These are the loon right fake economic elite who have been embraced by the no new taxes freaks.

Neil Patrick Harris was something of an odd vortex. Sucked down by his version of hosting was warmth. He seemed too scripted but for a few asides and the scripting while terse played emotionally brittle. He didn’t take over so much as draw the audience into his tone and orbit. He glowed where numerous hosts in years past shined. He won’t be back is my guess.

I haven’t seen Eastwood’s American Sniper yet. We may not be ready to celebrate sending our best soldiers working as snipers in foreign wars. That isn’t too difficult to understand. It can’t be a zero sum game and it isn’t. I’ll have more on American Sniper after I see it.

I had seen Selma. I loved it. It didn’t do that well because an intangible secret energy level was missing in the script. And then Birdman a film I loved this last year indeed captured that secret energy level. One person’s secret energy level is another’s fingers on the chalkboard moment. I’d recommend both of the movies. Each has much to admire.

My personal disappointment was that Keaton missed earning his first Oscar. One of the last things from the stage was his approaching the microphone after Birdman winning Best Picture and starting to say something then breaking it off, “Who am I kidding? I’m just lucky to even be here…”

And that my friends is how this juggling novelist lives life. Bravo Keaton…

???????????????????????????????

Fuel for Thought…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prizefighting the Godzillas in the Room

Wives and Lovers...
In the Ring…

“As far as entertainment goes clinching a barbecue fork in my teeth and performing this stunt stands at least one foot higher in the minds of audiences than topless dancing does.”

The Godzilla in the room of a performer’s world is to know when to build new material.

A huge dividend is paid for having polished a routine. It is a reliable tool in the shows running order. Anyone who has honed their act to this razor sharp edge is reluctant to abandon the surefire for uncharted waters.

I have no such show. Twice now in my four decade career my performing dogs have retired leaving me to start all over from scratch. New jokes and stunts are devised. Most of the old show has to be abandoned in its entirety. A few pieces are cobbled together and survive. But that killer closer you’ve been doing for a decade is now an old flea bitten hound with cataracts and hearing loss.

This week I’ve had no less than two superb variety acts make no bones about it. They aren’t building material right now. “Thanks, but no thanks.” The shows working fine as is and it really just isn’t what they want to do. I was racked with envy. Talk about a couple of lucky stiffs.

Build new material? Of course not! It is a source of flaming pains in the ass followed by spiraling pangs of doubt that are halted once your confidence has been shattered beyond reach of repair. Unless the dogs died why in the name of vaudeville would you set out to make yourself so utterly miserable? Nobody needs to man-‘splain this. This isn’t fanny patting this is butt kicking welcome to your own personal little hell.

I am between rounds. Angelo Dundee’s in my corner. Half-way through the fight and I’m giving, as good, as I’m getting. When you are prizefighting, and when you are building a new show, you know you are in the ring and if you’re going to win the fight you’ll need to face the fact that you are going to take a pounding.

The lipstick on this pig is that I can see the light at the end of the funnel. Testing proceeds apace. I’m taking the now proofed pieces to my lego-comedy-puzzle and have near finished erecting the all shiny new framework.

Dundee slaps me across the face. I stand up off my stool. The bell rings. I’m heading back into the ring. It’s all fancy footwork and tactics now; my audience won’t even see it coming. I’m back and I’m packing a knockout punch.

Don’t believe me? Get in line. Buy a ticket. Put your money where your mouth is. Working cheap is for suckers, and winning fights is what you do when a career is on the line.

Drop by the slaughterhouse of comedy where this act works six nights a week. I either kill or I die. Last night it was the audience picking itself up off the floor. Damn right they deserved it. I worked hard for that victory. And that’s how a new show gets done. You got a problem with that?

in the round

“My volunteer will toss the orange into the air over to me. The orange may well miss. Continue across the room and land at this table where this beautiful woman is seated. If it does stay where you are; I’ll go over and get her phone number.”

Hot Spring Honeymoon Front Cover

 Get it Here… 

“The love scenes are among the funniest I have ever read — and what in this world is better than funny sex? The author’s strong, unique narrative voice and high-desert dialogue are seductions in their own way and sure to entertain.”

Bat Show Audio…

Bats in the House

Welcome to the world of entertainment in the Riviera Maya. What we have here is a short clip from my show at Puerto Aventuras just south of Playa del Carmen. I’d just come on stage. I was perhaps 5 minutes into my opening monologue when a sizable bat with wingspan of a little over a foot to something less than a foot and a half winged on into the theater. What you can see is that behind me is a stage and curtain. After buzzing over the top of the audience the bat went up into the rafters behind me on the stage. I rushed over to the curtains and closed them and our bat was now confined backstage. It only took forty years for my performing bat to finally show up.

Hot Spring Honeymoon Front Cover

Click on Cover to Get Book Now

“Move over Moliere. Smith’s depth and wisdom give the reader a surgically precise but comic look into the relationship between the sexes.”

 

Edmonton 1985-2014 Thirty Fabulous Festivals

Edmonton 2014

 

This 40 Year Veteran Street Act Scuffing Up the First Audience of the Day

Saturday morning 11:30 show was mine to do. Alan Plotkin using a telephoto lens from “World Headquarters” took this shot. He didn’t bring me much luck the day before and discretion being the better part of valor stood off so as not to jinx the delicate art of gathering the first audience of the day. Forty minutes later the show ended with an audience surrounding this veteran busker.

I am here for the 30th anniversary. If you want you can read about the festival here: http://edmontonstreetfest.com/30-years-of-memories/turning-thirty-the-birth-of-a-busking-festival

I sold my first copy of Hot Spring Honeymoon after the show to a woman in the audience!

 

The Truth of the Thing

“I asked Norman Mailer which of the other art forms he thought being a novelist was closest to. “Acting,” he said.

Under the Influence, Andrew O’Hagen.  April 27, 2013 Financial Times

Petaluma Turning Basin

Following the River, Guided by the Light

WHAT WE USE

Most of us are familiar with the list of elements that the novelist utilizes in the building of a story. Here and there the best of the writers point at one element or another. How a character reads off the page influences our sense of the truth of the thing. Their behavior allows us to be swept along trusting that what will happen corresponds to our understanding of humanity. And so the actor/writer feels their way into the scene. We inhabit the scene and stake out what a character would do if placed in circumstances such as those we find in a story. What may not be as obvious is that regardless of the premise, the plotting, the outline, character sketches etc… there remains the task of entering into the realm of the situation. We net out the truth and dispose of what rings false. Most of it is by trial and error. Sometimes we nail it on the first attempt while at other times the task eludes us completely and we are forced to reconceive the entire circumstance we’ve concocted. Story proceeds by characterization. From there anything can happen so long as our expectations of how that person might act or speak rings true.

HOT SPRING HONEYMOON

“Hazel Harwood! I aim to peel you like an apple, lick you like a lollypop.”

Hazel froze in her tracks. She knew that voice. She slow turned and bent down picked up first thing she could find. It was a rock.

Keefe smiled and waved his arms wild like over his head.

She threw that rock at Keefe as hard as she could.

Keefe was so excited that she’d noticed him. “Ain’t she something…”

The Western Writer

20121109_062734

I prepare for Australia. It is looming. Like all of us born in California my life is full and not one more thing may be added now. Still, I am unsettled from another clever interview with an author who grew up in Idaho and describes herself as a “western writer”.

We may all say where we are from and what we are made of. I am sure she was a westerner. Then she went east. So at the present moment she is not in the west and no longer under the influence of its force.

Tweeting is of interest to me. I was in Dubai in October and have bonded to a few American expatriate tweeters now living there. They are American’s in Dubai. In fact from Texas, but I don’t recognize their Texan point of view, I recognize their present point of view.

The good people I follow on twitter, the good people from journalism, from publishing, from economics are by and large in orbit somewhere near New York City, as far north as Boston and as far south as Washington DC.

We grow conceit of place. I am a traveling entertainer. I know what people do. They have an affinity for the place they are from. The center of gravity of the American experience is located by the majority of its geographically captive citizens on the eastern seaboard. I don’t mean this to be true, but it does seem to be so.

I don’t mean to sneer at this clan, this club, this group. I mean to welcome them. You are where you are. Of course I am a true native western American. I am born in Oakland, California. I have lived all of my life in the west. I have toured the west. I am at peace here in the west and own the west like some tender freshman from Connecticut that owns Yale.

We are fated to the place and time we are from. Shakespeare is imprisoned at the Globe on the banks of the Thames, Faulkner is crucified upon the kudzu vines of the deep south, and I will forever be held to account for being a western American man.

I have never thoroughly loved where I am. I have had flashes of such passion then it fades. I begin to long for unseen distant horizons. The western frontier of North American continent provides a vast empty expanse upon which I may plunge my discontent into an unquenchable wanderlust.

I am grateful for the space the world has born me into. I have been tooled to work with it, to be with it, and know something about how it feeds scale and scope, how the place shapes the frame of mind and helps to explain the plain fact of why we are comfortable in our own skin out here plopped down in this emptiness.

The west allows by force of space the time to think. We do more of that out here than meets the eye.

The Nevada Single-Leaf Pinion Pine Nut as Plot

They are right there... those are those dark spots on the hills

The Nevada single-leaf pinion pine (pinus monophylla) produces a nut. If you’ve ever made pesto you will recall that most recipes call for the use of pine nuts. If you’ve ever gone to a grocery store to buy pine nuts you soon discover that they are expensive. Retail they sell for near thirty dollars a pound.

Pinion and juniper grow together. The trees back in the ‘50’s were considered a nuisance. They removed them by hooking a stout anchor chain between two dozers and then our barbaric forefathers cleared the land. The land was now more suited to grazing cattle. Ranchers somehow overlooked the fact that beef earned them peanuts compared to what a crop of pinion nuts could bring.

Now the Nevada single-leaf pinion nut is not just some run of the mill pine nut. It is in the opinion of those who are supposed to know regarded to be one of nature’s most delicious prizes. Nevada pinion nuts are nature’s highest achievement.

If those old cowboys are anything like me they probably sat on their saddles looking out over their herd watching the sunset and the whole time they didn’t realize that they were looking right at the biggest cash crop growing in the Great Basin of the American west.

Biologists put pencil to paper and the value of the pine nuts in Nevada are an estimated 100 million dollars per year. That’s not a gold mine that’s a renewable resource. The eye popping economic value of this crop is a revelation. Add the ecological, spiritual and cultural significance of this prized nut and the wealth of this harvest boggles the human mind.

Before we knew what the heck we had we’d already removed as much as 90% of the original old growth pinion forests. Some folk are thinking might be another kind of nut if we don’t get our heads on straight and put new trees back in where the old ones once grew.

What’s this have to do with the price of tea in China? Exactly what I thought you’d be thinking too. What it means is that there exists a spectacular means to help the people right in Nevada to become self sufficient, care for the land, provide a valuable product to the world, and earn a wage that can help support a worker, a family, a community, a state and ultimately the whole nation.

We built the Bonneville Dam and it is as if nobody gave it a second thought as to what might happen to the salmon. Until taxol was discovered to be of use fighting cancer the Pacific Yew tree was a garbage tree of minimal value and of limited practical uses.

My next novel is set in Nevada. It is a comedy. I’m learning about pine nuts. I’m finding out about geothermal water heated greenhouses, Basque sheepherding, turquoise mining and land speed world records. I’m busy trying to make things up (plotting the novel) and it turns out truth as always is stranger than fiction.

Available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble for the handsome price of $1.00 What are you waiting for