Tag Archives: transformation

Soul with a Chaser of Wind

Casting my fate to the wind I confronted the last most credible year of my life— I had turned out to be a 29-year-old cornered by a demanding profession, the quest to find success in show business had left all matters large and small, both onstage and off devoured by the rapacious appetite of my most insecure self. Drowning in my own shallowness turned into trying to repurpose my time— I tossed a life preserver to my foundering soul and signed up for sailing lessons. I had no clue if this was even something I would like.

Outbound into the Alliance

Lessons were taught in a classroom and on an 18’ sloop rigged keelboat. After passing all the tests both on the water and off, I was qualified to charter a boat— I could go sailing on my own. Sailing solo seemed to matter— listening to the wind, feeling the direction of the breeze on my ears, making visceral contact, relearning how to be present without suffocating my feelings with words— to see and sail by my wits with the wind. 

Sailing on the Oakland Estuary, this was where the new sailor practiced. There was no plan to do anything more. There was no motor, no running lights, no electronics, no accommodations for eating or sleeping— there was just a boat and water, wind and sail, and this fragile younger newly minted beginner trying to reintroduce himself to the missing person I had become.

Until I’d taken lessons skilled sailors aboard larger sailboats had not attracted my attention— I’d hardly taken notice, my curiosity had gone missing. 

Maestro fitted out

In 1980 the Nordic Folkboat was a common sight on the San Francisco Bay. Fashioned of wood, 24 feet in length, the hull was constructed by lapstrake planking, the cockpit was an open design and the sailor sat low to the water— it was an advantaged position from where the helmsman could read firsthand how the boat was working with the wind and water.

Friends have come to play

Racing had no appeal, what I liked most was knocking about on my own terms without a care, playing with whatever wind and sea state I might encounter. The sage Folkboat helmsmen wore khaki— pants, shirt, and cap— khaki was the rule. In 1980 aviator style sunglasses were fashionable among this group. If a jacket was needed men would wear barn coats fashioned of waxed canvas with chocolate corduroy collars. 

Not ready to toss my youth away I resisted the khaki sheik raging fashion of the time. Polyester was only in its infancy, but brighter colors and tighter stretchier fabric was easier to move around on while sailing in a cramped cockpit. All these choices— what to wear, what sunglasses to sport, all was subliminal— I wasn’t going GQ so much as unwilling to toss my youth away and join the khaki craze— it would have been a uniform indicating I’d become a member of the Sears & Roebuck house of worship, — cementing my sobriety and celibacy to a fateful unquenched misery.

The socially in the know sailor is by nature smitten with the fine figured opposites found sipping white wine along the waterfront cafés. Among the vital maneuvers even a beginner sailor can refine is the nonchalant docking of a boat near such a drinking establishment so that you might pause to go fishing for the love and affection that incessantly goes missing in a boatman’s life. There is no such thing as luring a sullen moody above the fray catch while clad in khaki— this is as true now as it was then, it is this invincible khaki clad cotton constructed barrier to a more amorous life that must be avoided lest you toss away all hope of finding what instinct insists you must have in abundance. 

Live Aboard 2004-2007 and 2013-2020

Beer drinking on hot days— when one arrives after sailing the helmsman and crew will regal the day’s romp on the water. A thirty-something anoints the end of a sail with beer brewed bravado— these are peak experiences— no other cohort of desperate lads can mount a more well played winding down of the day. Distracted, suffering from a lack of affection and then once sated the landlocked misunderstood mariner returns first to the sea and then the saloon. Heartbreak runs rampant among this kind.

By 2001 my footing straddled both sides of my aging self. I could still finish off the day buying a round in a pub, but the lines controlling both a boat’s sails and a man’s interior tethers were afoot. My sailing skills had advanced— the newcomer to the sport was no more.

Not appreciating the magnitude of the task, with a kind of blithering innocence I undertook the task of fully restoring a derelict wooden sloop. Between 2001-2007 I made seaworthy a 25’ sailboat— the class of boat was named the Golden Gate. Not only had I the pleasure of knowing every fastener, every board, every piece of bronze I had also sparked the unanticipated deeper cultivation of pieces of my most difficult to repair character. From the boatyard where I would labor, I developed my focusing skills, breaking tasks into incremental pieces— fix one thing then the next— doing whatever is required for as long as it takes— getting it right was more of the point than the time it excised from my charade filled exploits as a land-loving sunburnt Romeo of a kind. Fixing a wood boat with tools and by hand had moved both man and his future forward— fixing the boat had indeed also help fix this sailor.

Maestro San Rafael Yacht Harbor 2005

My wooden sloop had been owned by the bass player for Huey Lewis and the News. Even prior to this glancing blow with rock and roll fame several other owners had sailed this boat to best boat of the year and season’s championships. Built in Sausalito in 1959 Maestro had earned much notoriety as one of the swiftest of all the 17 Golden Gate’s ever to sail on the bay. Flush decked this is a sailor’s sailboat— her personality on the water and in the wind marked her as one of sailings most capable craft. With the wind in her sails Maestro again and again said to her helmsman that something was right with the world and this right feeling you knew to your core, this boat spoke to you through the varnished tiller in your hands.

I bought her, fixed her, lived on her, sailed her and sold her. Maestro was shipped off to Moss Landing, her new owner would sail from this fishing harbor in Monterey Bay. 

I thought I would hear from Maestro, she was too palpable, so capable, so tangible, my hands were stained with her varnish and paint, blisters on my palms were still healing from the hours of swinging a caulking hammer. After I had dedicated to Maestro my best— just like that she was gone and in her place was fit a new boat— a fresh brand-new uncharted course. This four-decade long boat alliance was far from over, there were still too many lessons to be learned, too many ways I could go lost or be found— a sailboat enables the sailor to remain closer to the interior pieces of his soul, the right boat will share their spirit, you will know your boat and your boat I am convinced will come to know you.

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…

Do Not Enter

20171018_085351

Blueberries on my mind

My lifestyle caught up with my hairstyle. Black Monday’s deep dive has nothing on my temporal skyline. While I haven’t physically resorted to the comb-over there is a forensic team searching the empty corridors of my courage for suspicious activity.

My bandwagon finally collided with my chow-wagon. With my hair going full on canary in the coal mine and my fondness for renewables being what they are I thought I’d head on down to the corner plasma testing center for further guidance.

That of course led me to the door I didn’t want to walk through. The door you don’t want to walk through is the same door, located in the same place like right in front of your freakin’ face, carried with you the entirety of your life on earth. It may be locked, unrecognized, invisible, squeaky-hinged, or have a sign posted warning you to Do Not Enter. Trust me eventually you’re going to have to open the door.

I found an exercise bike waiting. Long walks were there. Extra time on the cushion meditating was there. There were old pictures of how I used to look hanging on the walls. New dietary guidelines. Admonishments especially slanted to the mind altering penchants and predilections of a certain person whose door this is. The self destruct Google Maps app especially designed to not know the directions to every single saloon within drinking distance was there. There was an enhanced Vegan Diet from Carnivorous Hell, smoothies made by retired showgirls, and a fine Pop-up Wheat Grass Beverage Cart all arranged to catch what’s left of my eyes.

Having spent two months on the other side I can tell you for a fact that Sinatra was absolutely spot on when he said.  “I feel sorry for people that don’t drink, because when they wake up in the morning, that is the best they are going to feel all day-” And that’s true, besides who wants to call the greatest dead saloon singer of all time a liar?  No, I’m here to figure out how to put some numbers up on the big board that won’t frighten a cardiologist or get my life insurance canceled. I’m living proof that at some point no matter how you cut the deck or keep a lock on that door eventually you’ll find out that what life is really all about is located somewhere between having less hair and eating more leafy greens.

There are no secrets to life just unopened doors.

 

 

 

Going Your Own Way

ship 3

San Francisco Bay

The Catalans vote to separate from the federal center of power in Madrid, the British vote to exit the European Union are unmistakable indications that national governance is failing to protect its citizens from the barbarians of business and finance.

City of London types leveraged influence upon British Parliament tilting policy away from the rest of the nation’s in favor of banking’s international financial interests. Madrid during the run up to the financial crisis of a decade ago had gone on a real estate spree. The culprits in government, royalty and European banking had their fingerprints all over the collapse in housing prices.

Lobbyists fanned out decades ago with the aim to capture the regulatory apparatus located at the nation-states nerve center’s: London, Madrid and Washington DC among the many. Supervision and regulation of the transnational corporations was relaxed. Labor relationships were smothered while entrepreneurial individuality was encouraged. Profits went to the top while flat wages were sent to the working stiffs lower down on the pay scale.

Agents who had gone to the worlds leaders to purchase their agenda had sold their policies in the false assumption that these changes would be cost free.

Capitalism and democracy have proven to be a fragile alliance in the hyper-intense internet of information era. What is rotten is not forgotten so much as buried in a fire hose of more information tumbling forth virtually toward exhausted consumers of the human condition.

With central governments besieged voters are keenly aware that the collapse of the climate changing ecosystem is racing full speed ahead and there is nobody home to steer the ship of state.

Responding to the well oiled stalemates voters are deciding they would prefer power be exercised on the basis of regional interests. Californian’s do not much care for other regions views on abortion, immigration, or climate change. Renewable energy, electrification of the transportation system and clean air all seem more probably solved by the state government in Sacramento.

It is no wonder that consensus is breaking down. While regional differences grow shrill shouts go out for separating from centralized political power. Head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, and the petroleum centric state of Oklahoma he has long represented is not a suitable policy interface for anything other than the multinational corporations he devotedly serves. The business friendly fringe responds by ignoring a world with problems they have no answers for. In the minds of an ever increasing percentage of voters if this is the case there is no reason to remain.