Tag Archives: transformation

Southbound Along Baja

Charting Passage South

Departed San Diego on November 19th at 0830 hours. We arrived in San Jose del Cabo on the southern tip of the Baja peninsula on December 1st at 1030 hours. We made stops in Ensenada, Turtle and Magdalena Bay before arriving at the southernmost tip of Baja in San Jose del Cabo.

The length of the entire trip was somewhere near 750 miles. We were offshore overnight on four of our legs. Conditions between Turtle Bay and Magdalena Bay were the least agreeable. Wind was blowing us down the coast more often than not. The leg between Turtle and Magdalena Bay was sailed against the wind. Swell was coming both north and south with steep surface chop beating at us from the west. This made for an uncomfortable ride. That is probably accurate but not the whole story. Miserable is more like the fact of the matter. A real gut buster. Rotten and no good come to mind as well. Could have done without that leg, but that isn’t how sailing works.

From the bow

The two most experienced sailors had been in such uncomfortable sea states before. We kept a close eye on our two other less experienced crew. After a long day sailing south and the boat heeled to port pounding and yawing fatigue and motion sickness began to set in. Fatigue, lethargy, and the inevitable mental confusion. Winds increased overnight to 30 knots with gusts higher. Seas built but it wasn’t their size so much as their chaotic mixing that did the most to make matters uncomfortable.

Nobody was frightened by the rugged day offshore so much as feeling a bit discouraged. Making our way south in late November off Baja is generally expected to be a downhill run. Having to bash our Gulfstar 50 south against the wind in such conditions is an unpleasant motion. We would have avoided the entire mess had weather forecasting large swells expected to make Turtle Bay a mess. We picked what we thought was the least uncomfortable choice. In short we were cornered and did what we had to do.

Most of our way south was much less fraught. Beyond Mag Bay we had a fine warm breeze to set our asymmetrical chute and spent most of the daylight hours driving our boat at 6 knots upon a docile sea. Crew were busy snoozing, making meals or on watch for sea turtles. Attire was shorts and sunscreen, sunglasses and a good hat to fend off a bright sun. The motion of the boat only somewhat later in that long day ever tested our crews mettle. More wind foreword of the middle of the boat, the beam, began to cause mild concern among the now veteran crew. Best of all the two that had taken it the hardest hit on the worst days were now all the wiser more seasoned and capable sailors. Most crew do get their sea legs over time.

We are enjoying shore leave here in San Jose del Cabo. Our boat is being scrubbed clean in preparation for her crossing to Puerto Vallarta. Two of us will fly home to San Francisco to leave the skipper and first mate to negotiate the shorter distances and jumps from harbor to harbor.

In our longer passages we were three hours on during a watch. One watch came every nine hours. Between watches crew either napped, was eating, reading or observing the natural world we were surrounded by. Only the darkest and earliest morning watches were manned by a sole member of the crew. We made sure to keep our least experienced crew scheduled to stand watch on the earlier time slots. Checking the boats progress on her course, using radar to spot any approaching boats, or the AIS to see if more distant ships were closing was most of what a person standing watch was responsible for. Otherwise a quick scan of the horizon and those standing watch had an easy time of their duty.

Being offshore is its own world. You are isolated. There are a thousand and one things changing over the course of a day. Still when the sails are drawing wind and the wake is singing off a speeding hull there is nothing quite so enrapturing and as peaceful a way to wander about this one world we have to care for. Sailing as ever is not just about where a boat takes you, but how a boat stirs a soul. We are transported to distant unexplored interior shores. We arrive at the next port knowing more about what we are made of. Wind power is revelatory in that sense. Sailing is about so much more than merely traveling somewhere.

Every Kind of Phenomena

San Benito Island Sunset

Sunset off the Isla San Benito Islands. This group of three sit fifty miles west of the Baja Coast. Toss overboard all your small selfish comforts. A swell and chop tossed sea filters the few from the many. Three hundred miles south of San Diego is no longer a mere dance of make believe images passing through the imagination. Off Baja is in the mind.

Crew and skipper gathered in Spirit’s cockpit for the show. Sketched out hanging in front of the blue above were an intermingling mix of clouds, some billowing where another section was rolling then another misting into a vast and vertical fog.

East of our southbound sailing ketch Isla Cedros stretched out by rugged mountains that crashed into the sea. The shoreline measures twenty miles north to south. Spirit was swaddled by islands, ocean and sky. The source of matter and energy was nearing that interval when our planet would turn on the sun and allow its lighted beams to burst out on fire

A sole mariner was nosing north and west. Further south out of sight but on our display was a pleasure craft underway moving at cruising speed toward our position.

Just for this one sunset we had been nonstop from Ensenada to Turtle Bay for more than 33 hours.

In this dusk a chorus of scarlets and golds interwove through wild blue yonder. Beyond the core bursting precious metal like bangles were distant feathering lavender smudged atmospherics. Each carnival of pinwheels, all the darting twinkling scabbards of luminous dusk appeared as its own most original once in a lifetime taxi time traveling speed of light to another and then another soul boggling transformation. Above the San Benitos Islands we found the symphonic fires played by an orchestra in the the great muse’s sky. We sopped up the incomprehensible stowing each taunting beam of delight into the hungry heart of our color seeking imaginations.

Richard Henry Dana’s classic aboard the vessel Spirit

South downwind into the night Spirit gathered the force. Whatever witness, whatever testimony the cosmos had bestowed upon us was more than enough. For some measure of our transitioning from daytime to night we were afforded a seat in the grandest of grandstands. What dusk offered initially was at its extinguished end taken to be ethereal tequila with a lick of salt and bite of lime. All the dancing phantoms, all the kindred forms of light were murmuring in our inner soul tides teasing us to treasure what moments before had been described by this crew to be some of the most precious light painted beatings of our hearts in our passage here on earth. Amen.

Watercourse Weaver

High latitude summer nights are short. In Grand Prairie they come near midnight. Dawn is visible by four. 
A dusky summer sky at latitude 55 germinate latent spirited seeds. All is ever so fleeting. Brevity of darkness strikes a chord.
There is an urgency to drinking evening in up here. I went walking the trails along Bear Creek in the heart of town. Found elms, blue spruce, magpies and scrub jays all hustling about.
After a whirling dervish of a festival in Edmonton the chance to go bounding lost along a watercourse unburdening my pent up store of memories and emotions was much needed.
Tricky footing this terrain. Not giving up on shows, that isn’t the aim, but giving back hard won physical skills to the passage of time that waits for no man, that asks us to find grace realizing a piece of what we can do has been merely loaned to us for a moment. 
I walk soaking in all the twilights meandering steady as I go. Promise me, I said. Whatever chance you’ve had, whatever luck you’ve found, added all together, holding this fortune of memories is to bow to the indelible rules. Previous moments are my waterway— my slipstream. My aim has been to appreciate that living out the life of a street performer would be misspent if I’d not thought it would be enough. Here is an end in itself. I am complete. Busking is enough
 

Time Whispers

I am no longer at the intersection wondering how much further I have to go. The cast playing the Edmonton International Street Performer’s Festival needn’t say a word. Time whispers in my ear.

Street theater is physical. The quickest wits, the sharpest reflexes, these gifts on loan from the gods are asking to be returned. Another season in our life arrives, another page to our story is written.

I have wanted to be a street performer for more years of my life than I have wanted anything. I’ve wanted to be my best version. That is enough.

The kind audiences here in Edmonton allow me to slip into my show. Gracefully I am allowed one more sip. Obey the unwritten rules. Go about the work. Be kind to the children, be comfortable in your own skin. Have an unshakable faith that what you have been put on earth to do is exactly what you are doing. You are enough. You are fulfilled.

I lean into the wind. Hold my wife’s hand. Piecing together next steps. I hear it is wise not to keep holding too tight to yesterday, to not look out too far ahead to tomorrow, to spend most of what you can on making good use of today. I’ve two shows. For today that will be enough.

White River National Forest

From Meeker, Colorado it was another 30 miles out to Ute Lodge. The property borders White River National Forest with good access to Flat Top Wilderness Area. 
To penetrate into the interior of this region most visitors hire an outfitter. They’ll ride one or two days then establish a base camp. Early June this year the higher country is still snow covered and travel is impractical.
Carl the proprietor of Ute Lodge is a rail thin father and husband. By my count he toils the day long running between 15 buildings plugging leaky roofs, fixing broken windows and plumbing fixtures that pick the moment to no longer cooperate.
Read some fiction, took off in three different directions for a few hours of hiking. Fixed a one cooking pan dinner off my portable stove. Thunderstorm shorted sunset chasing me inside my petite cabin sooner than I’d have liked.
Drifting the emptiest corners of the American West casts a mood over my day. Squirrels scrambling away for their lives, grazing elk spotted in meadows, brook babbling as I hike alongside tend to calm my modern world mind down to a workable pace. 
I’m bound for Fort Collins. I arrive tonight. Tomorrow my first shows in Old Town.  

Tickling Artistry

clock and pressure

Take Your Time, There’s No Pressure

Back in LA. My life had been overtaken since the end of April. Shows at the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, off to Kona to visit family, preparation of boat to sail offshore to Santa Catalina Island, house preparation for going on market, circus arts summer camp instructor, attending Hall of Fame ceremony for Shelley Switzer for her work as artistic director with the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival; add the Saskatoon Bunny Hug 30th Anniversary Celebration of the quirky and brilliant Canadian performing duo Flying Debris and there goes what we know as time as it is related to the comedy of being overscheduled.

New sails arrived. A house received a facelift. There was an oil change, books devoured, and lots and lots of vegetables eaten. The Berkeley Bowl is a venerable institution.

There was the no small matter of moving from one storage unit to another. Culling through possessions, sending unused but still useful items to thrift stores, other items to the dump. I tried selling a double oven on Craigslist only to be inundated with scams, trolls and con artists. That was a modern day wakeup call.

food

Eating for Health

Napa County’s Measure C an oak woodlands and watershed protection law went down to defeat in California’s June primary by a razor thin few hundred votes. Important to mention because a fictional version of this event is the subject of my fourth novel and more than three years of my time.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the brilliant Steve Aveson, the man I toured with in the Royal Lichtenstein Quarter-Ring Sidewalk Circus in 1974-1975 went from his anchor seat at KRON-Television in San Francisco back to New England after a two year stint. We managed a few sleepovers and one bon voyage party in this period of time. Lucky to have had him out here and will miss him like a right arm.

Shakespeare Brothers

Al Krulick, Steve Aveson and Yours Forever (My New Stage Name…)

Reading a sailors 1956 account of sailing and shore side life while in South Africa and while crossing the Atlantic. I have found the sixty-four year old tale jarring to my sensibilities. Our modern day frantic pace of life, the complexity of the new technologies, the fingertip access to any fragment of information we may want is all so smarter and more than clever. Still there seems more than ever to have been spun fog, veil and confusion. We are less able now to make a sensibly constructed holistic narrative of where we are and what we might best do.

The shelves in stores are too full and too complicated. Engineering demonstrates a disdain for simplification. I can’t be sure I will even know how to turn on a television in a hotel room— forget about grasping the embedded algebraic function in an Excel Spreadsheet.

In 1956 a sailor with a copy of Nathaniel Bowditch’s Practical Navigator, a chart, sextant, compass and chronometer could leave sight of land and arrive after a long ocean passage of thousands of miles within a six thousand feet of their planned destination.

Sextant Moon Light

Moon, Light and Destiny

Technology is not only revolutionary. Disruption is our moments primal scream. I look at a gridlocked highway and wonder why the engineers have no answer for the chaos, pain and suffering the automobile is inflicting on us all. We have arrived at a moment with the finest cars than can barely get anywhere. We can fly to the moon and still nearly fifty years later not know what to do once we have proven that we can go there.

As is the case for most of what passes for communication in this day and in this age I am reminded of a cryptic note by Charlie Pierce on Twitter, “Hello? Is anyone listening?”

Edited Red Star

As always buy a book, book a show. Tickling is my art

March 19, 2018 Harvard Square Veterans

Al Krulick, Steve Aveson and Dana Smith

Chop Bar- Jack London Square- Oakland

Good Monday morning. Solstice and first day of spring just ahead. Always a good sign in the busking life. Warmer days mean bigger audiences.

Pictured with me are two of the great improvisational talents of street theater from an act dubbed The Shakespeare Brothers. We rode that first wave together. Anyone having witnessed a street show in Harvard Square circa the 70’s will have memories of some of the most high energy street performances to ever be seen then or now.

I am the one of the three who remains active as a variety act. How the long and winding road has allowed me to arrive all the way out to here remains both a mystery and proud accomplishment.

Like vaudeville my community is a living tradition of human beings who embody the show, the experience— we are the physical link to street theaters earliest days. Robert Shields, Harry Anderson, Michael Davis, A Whitney Brown… just four of our best of the best who went onto much great success.

Travel Day for the Left Coast Busker. More soon. Remember to buy a book, watch my video, and come on back. I’ll be here love to have you hanging around too…