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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Blowing Off Retail Steam

This is THE shopping season and for survival I work retail. The farther I get in my professional life, the more it becomes apparent to me that my momentum is building, the less patience I have for working a "straight" job in the "real" world.

I made it through most of yesterday, but the last 2-1/2 hours were very challenging. For the sake of entertainment, I'm including a quote of part of a post I wrote after the fact:

"I've got a degree, I've hiked to the top of Mt. Fuji, I've walked the great Wall of China, I can speak portions of a couple of languages, and I can explain the very basics of string theory, witch. You just have insurance, a house, regrets, and a 401K."

The part that hits me, is that it's true and I forget to look at that sometimes. I don't have a house or insurance or a 401K. Sometimes that's all people want and they think it will give them security, stability, and/or happiness and they find out later that it's not everything and it's not what makes a life. I have lived a spectacular life and there is more to come. It's uncertain and sometimes difficult, but I'm thankful.

Friday, December 9, 2011

I'm Feeling Kind of Official

I just wrote my first mass email to the people who are attending the workshop I'm teaching on Sunday. Every step I take to laying this thing out makes it more real and the terror transforms to intrigue. I'm not talking about the engulfing, compelling initial confusion of Inception or the first time you saw The Matrix, but the kind when you get home and someone leaves you a trail of notes promising a surprise at the end.

Here's the transcript:

Hey everyone!

Thank you all for signing up for my very first workshop here in the wonderful Twin Cities. Trust me, I'm more nervous than you, but that's all right: we're guinea pigs in this thing – together.

We're all guinea pigs.

As I'm "reviewing" the "material" I have "laid out" for the workshop, I'm coming to the realization that what I have outlined – coupled with the amazing amount of people who have signed up – may make the workshop run over. We are generously being allowed the latitude to do so, so if enough of you are able to stay past 3 until 4 at most: cool. We'll continue. Anyone who must leave at 3 should go ahead and continue to do so, and will be justified in shooting me steely glances as s/he leaves.

But only if it makes you feel better. I won't hate you.

Remember: dress to move, wear closed toe shoes, bring a notebook and writing utensil if you want to jot stuff down. See you in a couple of days! Sunday 1 - 3 (or 4)


Wow. This is real. I'm looking forward to working on another longer series already!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kobe Was Done, But I Forgot to Finish

I seem to have forgotten to include the last show rundown of my year on Kinoshita. Otherwise, I would not have kept the show schedule. Here it is:

30 2-show days
21 3-show days
  2 4-show days

total shows: 131

And that wrapped my year on Kinoshita.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I Am Such a Twit

I finally started a Twitter account.

I say "finally" as if it's been some long-awaited move, but the back story is that I've been considering it for the past couple of months. The thing that tipped the scales was a very cool job posting. A national public radio company posted a job listing for music writer/blogger with broadcast experience and some skill taking pictures. The only broadcast experience I have is from back in high school, but I speak really well and am no stranger to a microphone. Pictures? I have that tied up.

I could think of a dozen niggling, nit-picky reasons why I'm not technically qualified, but as I plowed forward I thought of as many reasons why I'm well-qualified and felt the confidence surging. Although Questioning and Doubt never left, Confidence always kept giving them swirlies and wedgies and taking their lunch money. As simple as I had heard that Twitter is, I decided not to let a lack of firsthand experience with it get between me and the possibility of landing a sweet grant-based job with an extremely convenient duration. Now was the time, and who cares if someone thinks I started it out of desperation just for this job. I had already figured its value to another blog venture I'm struggling with right now. This was the extra push I needed to make step my toes into the Twittie pool.

I've lost track of how many days ago it was, but I think it's four or five now. I'm not a whore for followers, but I just reached 30 the other day, blocked one, and am not embracing #followbacknation ideals of automatically following anyone who follows you. I know the stuff I just spit out there and I don't really want that from someone I don't know even though I could just simply unfollow. It's like receiving a Facebook request without an introductory or exploratory message. If you're a friend or I know who you are, fire away. If I don't know you, that's kind of like just picking a random person out of a crowd to have sex with.

Hyperbolic, I know, but it's my hyperbole, damn it! I like it and it stays!

I've even managed to send a few tweets from my five-year-old not-smartphone. I've amassed 52 tweets so far and look to improve the quality and wit and content as I grow. It will be 53.

As soon as I can embed this link . . .


Friday, November 4, 2011


Roughly two months ago I had an audition for a company called Pro Crisis, which specializes in crisis intervention training. It's rather improvisation heavy and I've done quite a bit of improvisation, so I figured I could do it. The audition was a very cool experience that had me leaving pensive and feeling capable while also slightly out of my element. This week I had my first round of dates working for one of the training sessions.

At the beginning of each day's sessions I was nervous. I wasn't sure if what I was ready to do would be good enough to bring credit to the company in this high-stakes contract. Every scenario I had to perform was something new to me. Each day ended with success, relief, and increased confidence.

Today – the last day – is one that I would count as the most unique of the acting experiences I've had: I was able to cry in a scenario.

I've never been in a role or show that commanded that. I've not really done much scripted or "legitimate" theater at all and what other acting I've done usually called for either comedy or just to play straight and "natural". I can't say for sure if I was just in the right state or what appreciable amount could be attributed to the last months of stress, distress, frustration, and depression, but I cried; real, screw-faced, runny-nosed crying. Even with the pauses and restarts during the scenario, I was able to pull it back and then start it right up again.

I had hoped I had it in me, but never knew whether or not I did until now. Earlier in the week, I had worked up to the point of tears, but didn't get that far. That was impressive enough to me. After the crying scenario I had worked myself up to that point again. As stupid as it may sound, as insulting it may be to all of my other fully legitimate clowning and improvisation experiences, I felt like this was the moment that I really felt that I actually had chops and that I was a "real" actor.

This week exercised a whole other application of my improvisation training and made a whole mess of my years of work seem to pay off. All of these corrections officers and case managers and nurses were affected by what my colleagues and I did throughout this whole week. Our bosses were ecstatic about what they saw us do and the feedback they were receiving.

After the end of the scenario in which I cried, the group and the coach filed out of the space and I was left alone. I looked up to the window and noticed for the first time how bright the morning was. I watched orange leaves fall from a tree. No matter how the rest of the day would be, right now was a very good, beautiful moment.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

An Open Letter to Whatever

Okay, whatever is biting me – I presume by this point that you're a spider and not bedbugs because of the lack of bedbug sign – may we talk for a moment?

What is it? Why me? When are you biting me: at night in bed? Sometime in the evening before bed? It's my long-sleeved shirts, isn't it? Or my First Avenue coat? Are you getting me at Godiva in the back room?

Look: we're both just trying to live in the same space. You're a small thing that I can't find and I'm a big thing that hasn't finished arranging the apartment from when it moved in. There's plenty of space and cool hiding places for you right now until I get my crap together. You've got time. I've got distractions.

And don't think you're off the hook 2011. I still want to have a sit-down with you, but this is just more pressing right now.

Thank you,


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nothing To Lose

All of these opportunities are coming up every now and then, goading me to apply for things that I'm more than half – but not 100% – qualified for. What's the deal? Why the compulsion?

Easy: I believe that I'm smart enough to fill in and learn what I lack. I have the essentials down. I'm creative and I'm not run-of-the-mill. Sometimes I believe that an employer could go with that rather than with someone who fills in all of the bullet points.

And I'm stubborn enough to try.

If I don't try I'll never know for sure, will I? Sure, I may get down and bitch and gripe and get bitter if I don't make it, but at least I tried. Sometimes I actually believe that it doesn't matter that you don't get medals for trying.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Self Referential – Snap Decision

Okay, I'm cross-posting. Some would say it's cheating. I see it as economy. Besides, I don't do it very often.

I like rollercoasters. The most enjoyable parts for me are the loops, the corkscrews, and the speed. I prefer steel coasters to wooden ones. I prefer the solid feeling to being rattled and knocked around. Steel coasters also reach faster speeds than the wooden ones. Steel coasters allow for the integration of technology such as ability to use magnetic induction to forego the need for a climb and the first drop.

This is year has been a year of rollercoasters and I'm on another. Momentum has been building over months

I'm definitely at the top of a big drop.

My yoga blog

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

One of My Favorite Places

I like t-shirts. I'm not a slob. I can dress myself and I can dress really nicely. Some might even accuse me of being a metrosexual at times, if they still used the word. Aside from, one of ym favorite places to get my t-shirts is a place in Des Moines, IA called Raygun.

Raygun is an independent shop that used to be called Smash. I honestly liked the name "Smash" more, but some band or some other store out in L.A. gave them one of those ridiculous cease and desist notices that bands and organizations in the United States of America tend to file as if they were going out of style. The funny thing is that I would imagine that there are plenty of places named "Raygun", not the least of which is a magazine that was intermittently pretentious the last time I looked at it. The difference is that they didn't get all litigious over the mere idea – which is actually underestimation of the public's intellect – that people would get confused.

I have purchased quite a few things from their shop. One of them this shirt with a James T. Kirk quote. It was at this store I also scored a pair of Chelsea boots (Beatle/Temptation boots) and a couple of nice prints, like one featuring the Traveler's Insurance umbrella, which is a Des Moines landmark.

Did anyone say stickers? Yeah, I've bought a sticker or two from them.

What can I say? I love my hometown. It's not a huge city, but who cares? It doesn't have to be. More importantly: it doesn't feel the need to be. It's a great place to be from and it was a great place to grow up. I'll usually take issue with anyone who speaks ill of it!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Post Fringe

I used one of my days off this summer to drive back to the Twin Cities for an audition. I think it went well, but I'll find out soon enough. Because of the trip timing and my girlfriend's schedule, I had the evening free and I decided to use it to catch two Fringe shows.

I saw "Entwined" by Amy Salloway and "Fletcher and Zenobia Save the Circus" by LiveActionSet. Both shows were great. I felt great. I got to see MN produced independent performance and support people I know at the same time. It also helped me formulate a short version of one of my goals.

There are many talented people in the Twin Cities. I just hope to eventually be counted as one of them. It's up to me to keep working and to show it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Worlds Collide, Places Switch

( In which our author succumbs to a brief bout of fandom-based action.)

I had an amazing moment today after the second circus show at Circus World: something from my past came sliding back into my world in the guise of role reversal.

After each show, we form a meet and greet line outside the Hippodrome entrance. Quite a ways through the line of exiting audience members, one mother and her boys walked back to our line of performers and wanted to shake my hand and take a picture. My brain started screaming: "You know this woman! You know who she is! She's familiar!" It didn't take me long to put the pieces together.

This woman was the bassist from Champaign, IL's Poster Children; her husband was guitarist and lead vocalist of the band. Holy crap.

Back in college at Iowa State University was where I found out about the Poster Children. Thanks to Lee Bellon and the Ames Independent Music Society, I was introduced to my new favorite band. It was instant: love at first sight. They rocked from start to finish. They weren't huge or famous, and their sound and energy told a different tale. They didn't need fame. They didn't need a big label as their later releases proved. They just needed a gig and stage time and they would take care of the rest. I saw them many times after that first show. I even booked them in The Maintenance Shop once when I was the director of that magical space. Lately, I didn't know if they broke up or if they just took a life-imposed hiatus.

Normally, I decide not to talk to "famous" people. I don't want to be "that guy".  I once passed by Bj√∂rk at Boston Common when I was on Ringling Brothers because I didn't want to bother her when she was obviously doing some simple sightseeing. I couldn't let this go by. College Greg quietly pushed himself to the surface and fessed up, admitting that I recognized the two of them.

"I think I recognize you and I just want to say that you guys were my favorite band in college and my friends and I just went nuts over you guys. Thanks for coming to the show and I'm glad you all enjoyed it."

Wait – I forgot to mention that they mentioned and blatantly, non-verbally expressed that they enjoyed the show. THEY ENJOYED THE SHOW! The best part for me was not only did they enjoy the show, but her reaction was that her smile grew even bigger and she trotted toward me and hugged me.

Wow. I actually performed for two members of the Poster Children and their kids and they had fun. This is a great summer.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My May Bell

My May Bell by cookiepants1973
My May Bell, a photo by cookiepants1973 on Flickr.

A couple of weeks ago, I received the banjolele I won on ebay. I've been practicing quite a bit already and now have about three songs in my repertoire.

I fought it. I didn't want to be yet another performer who plays uke, but I have plans and I like the sound of the banjolele. I'll work so I'm not "just another".

More Waves

I received a birthday card from home today. Although I knew it wouldn't, part of me expected – hoped? – to see "Love, Mom and Dad". Of course, logically, it didn't. Another moment, another wave. I hadn't thought about that one coming, even though it obviously would. Part of that is probably because I process my birthday differently than it seems some people do. I never know what to say when someone asks me what I want for my birthday, I'm not one of those people who goes around announcing the coming of their birthday or the lament of the next year added to the count of their life. As such, I don't go around expecting cards or get salty if I'm not wished "Happy Birthday!"

It reminded me of last year when I was in Japan and it was the first year ever in my memory that there wasn't a call or voice mail from Mom singing "Happy Birthday". It was a strange absence and I felt something wrong. I suppose in a deep, intuitive place I knew a lot was wrong. I did learn that she was in the hospital at the time.

Earlier this week I also received something that was more forgotten than unexpected. My girlfriend had told me of this company that makes keepsakes out of funerary roses. She and I had gathered some roses to get this done to surprise my family. My rosary arrived a few days ago. I don't say the rosary anymore, but my mom always did, so it's a special, meaningful keepsake.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Eight Arms to Creep You Out

I welcome you all to the first formal telling of what I'm calling "The Spider Story".

Years ago, I embarked on a personal quest not to kill spiders just for the infraction of being spiders in my personal space. Spider catch flying bugs, which are more annoying to me than spiders, so it made less and less sense to kill the things which would help thin out the insect menace. This quest has become easier and easier over the years and I've found myself pausing more to observe the spider in passing rather than pausing to remind myself of my pledge. Although I have admittedly and understandably found myself violating this pledge from time to time, I mostly stick to it.

One day back in Minneapolis – before my circus days – I found myself mired in a situation that thrust my face into the mud pie of the limits of my self control. One night I entered the bathroom/kitchen area of our apartment (as they were rooms next to each other) and I was slapped in the face with a sight I had never seen before: hundreds of baby spiders. Somewhere in the crawlspaces between floors of the old house had been a number of egg sacs and they all hatched at the same time; and hundreds of baby spiders found their ways to our ceiling in the bathroom and kitchen; and they were crawling all over the ceiling and lowering themselves on their amazingly thin, yet horror-inducing silk lines. I had never been witness to such a sight before and I silently freaked, realizing that I was outnumbered and could not stem the flood of tiny spiders.

I shut myself in my room, scanning the ceiling every few minutes until I went to sleep. Every twitch of a hair could possibly have been a spider touching down on my skin, maybe to crawl its way into the dark, damp recesses of my skull. When I awoke the next morning, there was no sign of the arachnid apocalypse.

Last Sunday, history repeated itself on a small scale.

I had entered clown alley, our dressing room. I tied up my hair, put in my contacts, and began putting on my greasepaint. I brushed at a small tickle at the top of my forehead, thinking it was a loose, single hair. I looked at my finger and saw a tiny spider carcass. I apologized – probably to the dead spider – and continued. While applying the flesh tone a few moments later (Mehron light egyptian, for the record) I noticed the sight of another baby spider lowering itself from one of my dreads. I dispatched that one as well as its companion that was on the other side of my head doing the same thing.

It was at this point that I started to think it wasn't just one spider that I picked up from walking under the trees from the house to the alley and that something might be amiss. A few moments later, I spotted two more lowering from the ceiling. I started to come apart – I could feel it. Somewhere in the wagon was an egg sac and it was probably in the ceiling space. This could have been the end or just the beginning. As any proper story would have it: it was the beginning.

All colors of makeup applied, I made my move to the outside to powder. On my way out the door I noticed it: the front of the wagon was ground zero. Dozens and dozens of baby spiders were crawling around on the left curtain and the rope that was holding up the curtains. The right curtain was untouched, but bearing to the right as I exited and to the left as I entered was no solution: they were covering the left (south) curtain and the rope that stretched between the curtain halves.

All bets were off: my pledge was null and void. I remembered that my partner Neal had a can of Yard Guard somewhere in the alley. I found it, shook it up, and not caring one bit about the fumes I was going to subject myself and the dressing room to, I stood back and I let loose with a few well-aimed puffs and sweeps.

After propping open the door for ventilation and letting my breath out, I finished powdering and re-entered to check my work. They were dead very quickly. I grabbed the vacuum to clean up the exoskeletal carnage and found the hatched egg sac on the outside face of the curtain. The devils had been there God knows how long! It didn't matter anymore. I had freed myself and the alley from the spidery menace, but I would pay a price for my vigor until after the first two shows.

I had slightly fogged myself and for a brief while I could taste the faint taste of the chemical death I dealt in my mouth if I breathed too deeply through nose or mouth. I was sure I'd recover. I had made certain that the pursuit of comedy would not be hamstrung by tiny arachnids that day.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

New New New (New?) Start

I've been a writer of some sort or another for most of my life. When I first started I was young and wrote about anything and everything for no reason except that I just liked doing it. I was inspired by stories and ideas and I had some in my head that I usually wanted to get out, for better or for worse.

I started out dealing chiefly in science fictiony fare, but by third or fourth grade, the poetry bug had bitten me. As I entered writing contests and repeatedly lost, I kept learning more and more about different forms of poetry, building the idea in my head that those who judged writing contests for school kids had no interest in anything resembling science fiction. That tendency and drive to write science fiction slowly faded, marked by a brief nova-like flame out that included writing a light-hearted, bare-bones science fiction play performed by friends for both classes in fifth or sixth grade. Much to my horror, a few of my friends from those days remember the play – and I think I successfully penned and put up a sequel – and one of them still has a copy on the original dot matrix printer paper. In a turn of humbling events, those same friends express enjoyment and marvel that anything like that even occurred.

Eventually writing faded from my self-image as I was busy with a number of things. Most of those things involved keeping grades up like a smart kid was supposed to do, denying any inclination to pursue clowning instead of a Smart Kid Career, and subsequently changing majors multiple times while stressing myself out by trying to do what a smart kid is expected to do. The moment that I realized that I was the one at the helm and that college could be anything I wanted it to be was an empowering one. One of the things I did was to listen to my penchant for performing. Another important thing I did was to search my insides and realize – remember, more specifically – that writing was once something that I loved doing.

My poetry turnout started climbing up from nothing to a point where I could tell when something was forming and I'd write it down on any paper I had available. In rough times, I would crank out quite a bit. This was something that continued well through my Ringling years, where I experienced a lot of frustration, mostly of the confidence and romantic kind. I now have a couple of folders full of typed up and printed out works, as well as those and other works in their hand-written form. It's been very important to me to write out poems by hand. There's something perfectly tactile and to me, essential about writing it out on paper with the faint scent of ink drifting to my nose. I've even started playing with the idea again of making a chap book.

I started writing freelance music reviews and preview articles in college and kept at it through my first year on Ringling Brothers. I reached a point where I was tired of the rat race to review CDs and get interviews with bands. This was 2001, still before the internet reached anything resembling the convenience it now has. without recording equipment I couldn't reliably do phone interviews, and without reliable internet connectivity, I couldn't make submission deadlines. I left the freelance music writing game.

My dad has always been on me about keeping my journals and blogs straight to allow me to write a book about my travels and experiences. Although I don't have the confidence he has that any appreciable amount of people (and by that I mean "any number that would buy a nice load of books from a publisher who might take a chance on me). My friend Sean and his wife stopped by Circus World Museum with their kids yesterday and both of them asked about my writing. Sean talks me up as blogging before blogging, as I used to write and mass email update screeds to friends.

It all just prompted me to shut up and listen and look at myself again. People still ask me about my writing and comment about my writing. People are still encouraging about my writing. I decided this past week that I would make a commitment to write something in each of my two public blogs at least once a week. I failed at this before, when I was a blogger for Juice magazine blogs in Des Moines. I just stopped submitting after a while, wondering why the heck anyone - if anyone - would read what I have to say about my life touring or making things work between tours and between contracts. I wasn't writing about sports. I wasn't writing about politics. I wasn't writing about sex or social issues. Those were the blogs getting the most hits.I didn't even write my editor. I just stopped blogging and stepped back.

So: once a week I shall try to write something. I don't think it should be difficult. I have a thing or three that has been bumping around in my head. I'm in the middle of my most creatively productive summer yet, I had a great story from this week involving spiders, and there's still the saga of Twilight and "Glee" that I have to tell.

I may even start to lay down some poetry. Don't worry: it's far shorter than my prose.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Just So You Know

Just so you guys know, I have not declared "your mom" statements as being off the table.

For example, such an exchange with me is still all right:

Me: "That doesn't quite match the first one."
You: "Your mom doesn't quite match the first one."

Really. I mean it. Besides, someone has already tested that social boundary and I was okay with it then. Sure, there was a respectful pause and a "Too soon?", but there was also a sigh of relief as I assured the person in question that I was not going to rail on them and even welcomed the idea that if something is serious, sacred, or close to one's heart, that it can still be fuel for the pursuit of laughter and release.

I loved my Mom and yes I miss her, but despite her outward reactions, she enjoyed a nice not-quite-nice quip every now and then.

Friday, June 3, 2011

New Kind of Normal

The visitation and rosary for Mom was Wednesday and the funeral was Thursday. This was a very unique experience for me and I felt like I truly did experience it and live it rather than simply go through it.

My family and I saw many people we haven't seen in a long time, not face-to-face anyways. People tend to say hat they wish it weren't under such circumstances, but I count myself as a little weird because my personal proviso is "Yes, but we are still seeing each other." That still makes me feel good. Drawing something positive from a painful experience, maybe? I learned afterward on Thursday that there were people lined up out the door and some people couldn't stay for one reason or another and had to leave to tend to their obligations at hand. I saw relatives that I didn't expect to see because I knew they had something pretty dire going on in their lives. We wouldn't have blamed them for missing Mom's funeral, but they came anyway.

One thing that touched me hard was when friends who didn't even know Mom personally came. My friend David rushed down from work to attend the wake. When I saw him, I rushed over to him and hugged him. Then he got up and made a statement at the end. I almost died. The next day at the funeral Jeff, one of my best friends from ISU came. Then I saw another best friend and his wife who drove down from Roseville (Saint Paul), MN just to support me. It meant a lot to me.

My girlfriend came down and blew her cover on her own at the funeral home. Before she did that, she tweaked a couple of things on my mom as she lay in state. She did the same at the church before the funeral started. She apologized, but to me it was something she felt she could do to help, and my family appreciated it.

I hadn't said the rosary in about 20 years. Since then, they've added a fourth set of mysteries and they have added a "gift" to each mystery which is the equivalent of a concept of each mystery on which to contemplate. I said it like I hadn't skipped a beat. I participated in mass like not a day had gone by and like I had never left. I knew the steps and the church and even though it didn't feel like home anymore, I didn't care. I knew mom would have liked it and I was doing it for her. It wasn't about me.

Life is surreal without my mom.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Uncle Moments!

Last night, we all went out to Applebee's to eat, partially for ourselves and mostly for Dad. When my nephews had to go to the bathroom, the duty (heh- I said "duty") of escorting fell to my brother and me because my brother-in-law was trapped on the inside of the booth. Since we passed the boys over the table, I held onto my younger nephew and kept holding him aloft, flying him to the bathroom.

This occurred two more times and I was pretty sure that the last one was just because he wanted to fly. A couple of times, I felt I had to fly him backwards just so he could fly like Powdered Toast Man.

Flying outside to the car, he saw another child and proclaimed: "A girl! Look, Uncle Gregory: a girl!" It was then the other nephew's turn to fly a bit.

They love flying the friendly skies!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Gone, Lady Gone

Earlier today at a few minutes before 4pm CDT my mother, Charlotte Ann Jones Parks, died of multiple health complications that culminated in a bout of hepatorenal syndrome. She let go as my younger sister and I were holding a hand.

When I was nine years old, the September 1982 National Geographic World magazine – now NG Kids – featured a cover story on Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, then under the deanship of Ron Severini. Any clown geeks might also recognize this as the class that spawned Jon Weiss, formerly or RBBB and The Amazing Race, currently on Circus Vargas and seen on screen currently in Water for Elephants. At any rate, that was it; that was the one thing that changed my world and eventually my future path. I had never thought of being a clown before and this new idea that there was a place that you could go to learn to be one and maybe get a contract with RBBB just blew my head wide open.

As a child, I was one of those gifted students. Reading came early and easy and I seemed to have a propensity to learn easily and quickly and a lot. I liked big words, I liked showing how smart I was, and I liked the praise and attention. Normally a kid like that is supposed to do something brilliant, maybe something scientific. Somehow I knew intuitively that a gifted kid was not expected to "waste" his potential on something like becoming a clown. Throughout my later years, I actually fought this and went through periods of denying that I really wanted more than anything to become a clown. Not just a state-fair, dunk-tank, or birthday party clown, but a Ringling Brothers circus clown. I was supposed to be an engineer or maybe a doctor like my paternal grandfather. At the very least, I was supposed to be some type of scientist, I thought.

I remember going to my mom a little bit after having read that article – which I had kept for years and then threw away with other archival items in one of my greater teenage periods of denial and now regret having done – and asking her flat out:

"Would you be embarrassed to have a son who was a clown?" Or maybe it was "Is it all right if I want to be a clown?" I don't remember the exact words she told me, but I do remember the spirit and sentiment I received as my reply. I received a motherly smile and a hug and assurance that I could be whatever I wanted to be and that as long as I gave it my best and wasn't doing anyone any harm, she would be proud of me no matter what.

And she always had been. Thanks, mom.

Creative Process

Well, one week down at Circus World Museum and there's not much freaking out. Okay, so a guy who's a really knowledgeable clown resource and a phenomenal clown to boot saw my solo gags, one of which featured a breaking prop and the no-real-ending ending I currently have, but the other audience members were really reacting to my gags. I've even got some ideas on tweaks and additions, so instead of being terrified and disheartened, I'm inspired.

Now that Neal has arrived, we've been working our duo material, which is the bulk of the work for this summer. Each day has found me adjusting the one-man-band rig in one way or another. My main problem right now has been mounting the drum solidly and getting the string to pull the kick drum beater consistently. The latter is very much a work in progress, but I think I've figured out the former.

However, I still need an ending to my microphone gag. If I just put in the time, keep trying things, and consult my friends, mentors, and associates, that problem should be solved eventually.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rewards of Daring

There are many times when I just don't feel like trying and it's honestly because I don't feel like dealing with the possibility/probability of failure. Then at other times, I press on despite my fears, hesitations, misgivings, etc. and it doesn't work out and I wind up feeling like a failure or wind up the bad guy/sucky guy in someone else's eyes.

But sometimes it works out!

The truth about the world I inhabit as a clown and improvisor is that I can't afford to pay too much credence to the doubts. The truth is that if I don't jump, I won't ever fly. Falling sucks, but damn, do I like to fly! Most of all, I like to have people there to witness it. I flew a little bit today. Okay, I glided. But I didn't fall!

A couple of years ago at a clown festival in Shanghai (to which I've not been invited back, which to me means I stunk) I did this bit with a microphone on an elastic cord. I liked the idea and have ever since, but I've not been able to make it a longer piece or even set the beats. After much fretting and hesitation I decided I'd use it as my second solo piece in the Circus World Museum circus show. Up until the spot came up in the rehearsal, I didn't have an ending and I openly admitted it to the director and the music director. The gag was short and simple and basic in premise. The ending was just resigning to abject failure.

The Russian kid laughed some and afterwards in my trailer as I was tweaking the foot pedal for my one-man-band rig – a very basic, first draft rig – he was outside entertaining me with his mimicry of it. If a circus kid likes it, that tends to be a positive thing. The only prop modification is to find supplies to make the bungee longer and to carve another plug for the end that looks more like a microphone plug.

It's not longer than a couple of minutes, but it's got legs now. It very well may be a gag that I have in my pocket that will have to always change aside form the premise. However, I'm glad I did it, found the little success, and accepted the support given me by the musician's improvisation and openness, the director/ringmaster, and the little Russian boy.

And now, I have ideas to spice it up a little. I just need to be patient now. I'll get my chance again after this weekend is done. And I'll have time to prepare – and hopefully to fly.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Playing Ketchup (Catsup?)

I've been very remiss despite having internet in my apartment.

After thinking about this and myself a lot, I realize that I tend to think that if I'm not off touring somewhere, I have very little to blog about. I've also realized that this is not true. I've had quite a few small adventures and slightly larger ones, all of which have happened in the seven months I've been back in the states, none of which - save the new car - have made it here on these pages.

That said, I have some catch up to do and tales to tell.

Let's start with right now: I'm in Baraboo, WI for the summer. "Why," you may ask, "are you in the middle of Wisconsin for the summer?" It's easy: my friends Neal and Jessi suggested me for a job that I accepted. I'm working with Neal as a clown at Circus World Museum through September. That means three-and-a-half months of daily shows working on stuff and hopefully developing and becoming a better clown and performer in general. I hope to achieve what I haven't yet done in the last six months, which is develop more material and get some of it on its feet so I can have something videotaped to send out and secure more work in the future.

I arrived here Sunday evening and started moving in and cleaning up. Fortunately the house is in somewhat better internal shape than it was most of the last few times I saw it. Monday featured more cleanup, setting up of clown alley and buying vacuum bags; making peace with spiders, spiderwebs, and Neal and my separation from our girlfriends, waging war on accumulated grime, spiders, and spiderwebs. We have a trailer just out in back of the hippodrome with a working record player and an air conditioner that will come in handy as the weather starts acting like summer.

I have yet to tweak some props, finish some sewing, and figure out a one-man-band build. Making props to this degree is a new experience for me and it's taking some innovation. The up side is that I have resources at my disposal and I should have a more extensive rig by the end of the summer. The plan is to put it to use well after this gig, hopefully to the additional promotional benefit of a couple of local organizations that I'm involved with in the Twin Cities. I have even more plans to learn to play ukulele and clarinet. I had held off on the uke for a while because it seems like everyone and their grandmother is learning uke, and not just in the clowning world. I have found my own spin and angle on it and I'm going to pursue that and have less fear than I did of being another person standing still with a uke and playing songs with an "aren't I quaint?" air about them. I openly admit to liking The Gooch on "Scrubs". Uke can be as entertaining as it is ubiquitous.

Ambition, time, and a bit of prejudice seem to be my fuels.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The New Ride

The New Ride by cookiepants1973
The New Ride, a photo by cookiepants1973 on Flickr.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present my latest taste of adulthood. I traded a car that I owned outright for a "new" car. I present to you my 2006 Toyota Rav4.

I had intended to buy a Mazda 3 hatchback, but compact cars are so low to the ground and car companies seem to want to put ground effects on all of their compacts. That will not work in the winter. Aside from the mileage, this car is pleasing me.

I eventually named it Jambavan, after the bear in the epic tale The Ramayana.