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Bat-Winged Boy
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in The Velveteen Saint's LiveJournal:

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Saturday, December 25th, 2010
7:09 pm
Monday, July 19th, 2010
1:49 am
almost nobody still reads this
I was thinking earlier about how I haven't been doing much deep blogging since I got down here. I just left the Chautauqua tour and the first post on my "latest entries" page is a recap from last year's Chautauqua. I've mostly been on Facebook for maintaining a LOT of new friendships... and most the writing I've wanted to do involves some personal things I didn't feel like airing out at the time and is filling scraps of paper, hard journals, and notes tucked all over my hard drive. Little tear-jerking scraps that I can find in years and chuckle at the shortsightedness of my past self.

It's been almost eight months since I moved out of Bellingham into a pretty poor Latino neighborhood. My road is where all the auto shops live; two blocks over are all the outlet stores you'd ever need, as well as our neighborhood taco truck. They blow musical car horns when they open in the morning.

That is Oakland in a nutshell... we don't have singing birds, but we do have crowing taco trucks. Our wildlife noises come from the roaring trains, the car horns and ambulances, and the rattling wheels of shopping carts pushed by scavengers looking to score something good out of the waist-high piles of trash. My neighborhood is covered in beautiful murals and dutifully ferocious junkyard dogs. The little girls down the street love to say hi and bye.

Oakland is big and very, very human. San Francisco is also incredible in very different ways. This place is going off - every day, all the time. Today we went into the city to see a free circus show that kept us from seeing the other free circus show... then we saw a free Caravan Palace (the Parisian lovechild of Django Reinhardt and Daft Punk) show in a park where I'll be seeing a free They Might Be Giants show in a month. In other words, it has been a lot of yee haw.

I just finished an eight-week tour. Tuolumne, Seattle, Bellingham, Portland, Oakland, Vancouver, Bellingham, San Francisco, a week of Chautauqua, SF Pride, another week of Chautauqua, Arcata, Eugene, and back to Oakland. I had half a mind to stick a few more festivals on at the end. I've never felt more energetic in my life as when I'm traveling and touring, but I needed to get back here and take time to prepare for studies this fall. The tour was very successful; I doubled my expected take from my two big festivals and came back being able to afford the rest of my Burning Man expenses plus a few months' front rent, which should cover for the slow season when the streets dry up. Plus, I'm booking mad gigs throughout the fall - including getting to perform for Gavin Newsom! - so presuming no huge cancellations, I've got expenses paid through the end of the year. All the comfort with no complacency...

Things have generally felt brilliant and beautiful, almost too much to describe. I recently performed for a crowd at Wavy Gravy's summer camp; that crowd also contained a clown named Patch Adams. I did my thing on stages all up and down Highway 101, bracketed by IJA medalists and the Flying Karamazov Brothers. There have been world-class fire festivals and massive crowds. There has been lots of living going on.

I have been stifling a lot of the uncomfortable things by being so quick of foot that nothing can cling on. I am interested in seeing how several things develop in the coming few months when I have things like an apartment to handle. For now, I'm footloose and fancy free. BURNING MAN SOON.

Here's the my last routine that made it to the YouTubes. It's already quite obsolete, but it's the best that's up right now:

Haven't been DJing at all. I just got my speakers back down here. In the next couple of weeks I will have an actual place. Then it is ON and the beats are droppin.
Monday, April 5th, 2010
12:18 am
It was also Con Weekend in San Francisco, apparently.

I told them, "All my friends back in the Northwest are also at Con."

She went, "OH! SakuraCon! Lots of my friends are there, too!"

"Yeah, or NorWesCon."

"So, why don't you come to Con?" she asked.

I told her I had to go to rehearsal. Which was true, but then I got thinking - busking, rehearsal, circus show, yoga (which led into tonight's unexpected and lovely potluck with the neighbors) - no time for fandom. Which feels very weird.

Miss you guys.
Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010
5:42 am
Tuesday, February 9th, 2010
4:20 pm
An "I'm Not Dead" post
The last time I posted here, I lived in the Pacific Northwest. Facebook has taken over, of course. It's the difference between one or two posts a day and trying to consolidate all that info into a bigger post every week, and I find that it's a lot easier to do in stride.

Even now, I'm considering ditching this post in order to resurrect my DJ blog, which will become the feed at DJ Velveteen Dot Com. An artist has to have a web site down here. Everyone's an artist down here, and hence, a business[wo]man. Or, in my case, two businessmen. It's been a trick not spreading myself too thin around here; I had a hard time doing that in Bellingham, when there was about 1% as much going on.

I've moved to Vulcan Studios, a.k.a. Oakland Below. I live with these crazy people, and subletting from the guy I came down here to brainpick in summer of 2008.

Just got back from a business meeting for the Circle Academy, a school of circus arts and sustainability that's opening in Dodgyland, AKA West Oakland. They can really use my help as an organizer and I can really use a small piece of their capital to stay alive. I'm hoping to get set up as their PR director, basically doing the same thing as I was doing for the Circus Guild, only for actual money. The plan is to write press releases and play liaison to police and city officials while organizing graffiti artists and a garbage crew to clean up the neighborhood. And teaching contact workshops. And DJing art parties. Y'know.

And that's been about it; living it up and re-building the study habits. Definitely spending more time in the office and less in the studio, but it's not a bad tradeoff when the office time around here actually pays off. When I left Bellingham, I was basically spending all my time in the studios because I wasn't going to make any money and I wanted to be as good as possible before getting down here and jumping in the pool with some ridiculous talent (seriously, if you only click one link in this post, it should be that one). Still, I'm getting in a good 10 hours a week at minimum, and that's growing a little more all the time. Putting wicks on my contact staff next week; working behind-the-head rolls with ball; conditioning for handstands, tumbling, and maybe a little trapeze.

I'll likely be back up for Folklife, staying at the quarry for a couple of months and working a little more with the Circus Guild while traversing the PNW festival circuit. Planning to throw a dance party or two while I'm up, and maybe a contact intensive to boot. In the meantime, I've already blown an afternoon sitting in front of the machine. Time to go stretch and juggle!
Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009
1:47 pm
Promo video - it's finally done!
Soooooo due to performing as ambient entertainment at the SF New Year's Eve party (www.seaofdreamsnye.com), I decided it's long past time to have a more significant presence on the interwebs.

Hence my purchase of www.gravitydefiance.net and the completion of my first promo video. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Sunday, December 20th, 2009
4:06 pm
Seatbelts - Dijurido
I leave Bellingham in eight days. I will temporarily make a new home in an old forge, drilling acrobatics and fire staff in preparation for the cloistering I will do over the next four years. Then I'll go back to homelessness, touring in a loop around the border of the United States for six months.

If I don't see you, I'll be back at the end of May, when you'll be able to find me at Folklife and Oregon Country Fair. It'll be my first time visiting Bellingham as a non-resident, though I think it'll always feel very much like I still live here. But the roots are pulled up... that feeling like I'll just move to the next city soon is coming true.
Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
10:56 am
Vaudevillingham tonight!
It's my last show in Bellingham! Come check the Bellingham Circus Guild's monthly fundraiser at the Cirque Lab (i.e. Consign NW's garage - 1806 Cornwall) tonight at 8 and 10 PM. Admission by donation (we pass the hat at the end rather than charging admission at the beginning).
Friday, December 11th, 2009
11:55 am
Nothing to do while the washing machine sucks up shower water
Slowly saying goodbyes to Bellingham, one acquaintance at a time. Last night, the air warmed by a couple of degrees - or maybe people are just getting used to the cold, finding their scarves and their gloves, going out by night to wander around and populating the streets again. Turn one corner, see old friends back in town for a visit; take the road less traveled through the Co-Op and find traveling friends who haven't been around for a year.

Basically down and out right now. The plan was to come back to town and make some money this season; instead, I got back and all my gigs dried up simultaneously. Shit. I've been living rent-free for a month and will be doing so for another two weeks. This means work trading at the Lookout Arts Center and crashing Mom and Dad's guestroom. Not glamorous, but it's what I can afford. There's two gigs this weekend, one on NYE in San Francisco; and then I'll live in a place where there's more than a single lousy pitch to play on the street. The trick is raising moving expenses... thinking about selling things. Going to clean a car right now in hopes that someone'll buy the thing ($1200; 1998 Ford Escort ZX2; 105K; new tires); otherwise, big question marks. If I can show up in the Bay with $400, I'll be fine... of course, WWU just shut down its job board for non-students, so there goes any hope of finding reliable short-term work.

I'll be spending two months in the Bay. As of March, I'll trek across the country to Asheville, NC to join a tour with the Runaway Circus, followed by a trek northeast into DC, Philly (where Archedream lives), New York and Boston, and a couple of circus schools in Brattleboro, VT and Montreal. This puts me near Toronto for a big festival in May, and gives me two weeks to get back to the PNW for Folklife at the end of May. So if I don't see you, I'll see you around June!
Wednesday, November 25th, 2009
11:53 pm
Back on the road
Fuckin hell!

Not feeling a lot of energy for things like blogging lately, though I've felt a furious need to write. An hour a day, starting - oh idunno, immediately? After this vacation, at least. I've had what feel like stunning revelations, only they're all regarding projects that I'd finished big chunks of but had decided I probably wouldn't finish any time soon. The good news: that spending an hour a day on them - maybe start smaller, like an hour a week, to keep it manageable and let it build up over time - will solve the problem of my not having enough practice at them to make something worthwhile.

Too vague? K, working on finishing the novel I half-wrote during NaNoWriMo 2007. I haven't come to hate it after one and a half full reviews, and it's still high-concept, which means that I never feel like I have the necessary qualifications to write it. But I sank a bunch of effort into it over the past couple of years, and now it's like 80K (though could plausibly double by the time I'm happy with it). However: if I do finish it in a reasonable time and with the right kind of effort, it will fucking shine. I guess that's every work of art, isn't it? But the thing about writing is that you have to do it, like any craft. I'm thinking the same thing about music production - wanna be good at Ableton Live, don't wanna spend the hours hacking away at it. But if I can get to doing it an hour a day, I'll eventually get good at the tools (carry writing pad, find out how to work through creative blocks, develop and record rhythms, et cetera) and it'll get easier.

Soooo there's a diversion that I guess I needed to write out. Lately, I've been traveling through the South with my father, who's brought me along on a vacation through the South. Two weeks of time I was about to spend shivering and thinking about the Bay, since I'm basically packed and ready. I'll be getting back at the beginning of December, which gives me that month to scour all of Bellingham for any spare traces of my presence, try my best to tie 27 years of Bellingham into a relatively neat bow (i.e. massive granny knot), miracle up some Xmas/moving money, and get down to SF for New Year's Eve. It looks like I may be a roaming performer at this: Sea of Dreams.

I've been through big pieces of the South in the past few days. Austin, which is basically Portland with more y'alls, also contains my cousin Jake, which I almost mistyped "brother" there because we've always had a zillion things in common. Which is funny, because we'd only ever hung out for an hour before last week - and that was about ten years ago. In other words: we played same video games as kids, listened to the same music, did the same awkward goth phase, played more of the same video games, and wound up moving to hip towns and maintaining very similar tastes - including beer, anime, WoW (which we both recently quit playing for lack of time), wild conspiracy theories, and so on.

After Austin, it was Mason County, TX - scorpions, cactus, Mesquite barbecue, and violent family feuds that lasted into the early 20th century. Indian anxiety due to racial violence that still exists within living memory. Directions to Aunt Joy's house included the phrase "First left after the third cattle guard." Discovering some really amazing things about my father's family; feeling significantly more destined by knowing more about this part of my ancestry. Confirmation bias? Probably. But I feel much more confident in my trip knowing that I come from a family of scientists - people with a vested interest in and love for progress.

Aunt Joy and I got along fantastically as well. This is the first time I'm meeting most of my dad's side of the family; they all live east of central Texas, and all south of the Mason-Dixon Line. As it turns out, all my dad's relatives are particularly compassionate and considerate and we've all gotten along with a natural ease. We all walked around the countryside skipping rocks, dodging fire ants, making fun of the feral donkey calls, and watching the most starlit sky I may have ever seen (second perhaps to Lasqueti Island).

Dad's hitchhiked thousands of miles as well; we used the long trip as an opportunity to share road stories. The country out there is amazing; no kind of territory I've ever seen before. A much different kind of desert than the one I've visited; dangerous animals, strange rocks and fossils, almost entirely alien foliage. It really reminds me of how little of the planet I've covered; stoked to start putting groundwork in on my plan to hit Europe in the summer of 2011. European Juggling Convention... yesssss.

Tonight, it's Grenada, MS. The swamp. Currently visiting Great Aunt May, the oldest survivor on my dad's side. She's over ninety, though doing pretty well for it. Dad and I have been driving around with her all day; we met up with Dad's cousin, and a bunch of first and second cousins removed and all that. We're going to eat Thanksgiving dinner with everyone down here... a trip and a half, eating Thanksgiving with a huge section of the family I really didn't even knew existed and am now growing close to very quickly. I did a contact show in the parlor and taught my second-cousins-once-removed some basic juggling steps while all the grownups (read: 60+) talked about how it used to be, and about their friends' health.

Great Aunt May has been a trip. She has taught me one thing: that even when I am super-old, I will still have the capacity to be amazed by all kinds of shit. She is amazed by the biggest things and the smallest things. She basically saw me jump from age three to age twenty-seven. My dad is going through all the places in town that have changed, appeared, or gone away in the last twenty-three years all at once. By the time I'm a hundred, there's gonna be some shit have gone down. Which makes turning 27 right now not so lousy whatsoever.

Tomorrow: Thanksgiving in the South. They do not fuck around here when it comes to food. Next: New Orleans adventures; one or two days, one or two good leads, no hard plans. Yes yes yes.
Thursday, November 12th, 2009
4:16 pm
Birthday/going-away party
It's time to get outta town! I'll be traveling from Nov. 17 through Dec. 3 and will be arriving in Bellingham in time to throw my 27th birthday / get-outta-town party! Then it's a couple of weeks to hang and pack and get ready; I'll be leaving for Oakland for good right around the new year.

This means party at the Cirque Lab! 1806 Cornwall, in the back of the Consign NW building. Bring food, bring booze, bring good vibes. Show up around 8 and party 'til whenever!
Monday, November 9th, 2009
10:40 am
Oakland Ho: Another dear departed mutant
It's been a month without posting. A lack of power and a laptop at the doctor means I've not only been lurking LJ, but have also been away from Internet access for long stints in general. I feel like I've had a harder time answering the "How's it going?" question because there's just so much. Fall has been a time of extreme change for me; heartbreaks and homelessness, inspiration and insecurity, travel and freedom and cold and hungry. Over the past month or two I've been living in a hut in the woods when not surfing couches and guest rooms in town. I'm essentially living out of a car - which is good for keeping down the number of material objects, but not so good for keeping them organized. The rest is in storage, awaiting the day I once again live between a regular set of walls: books boxed up at Poplar House, clothes in the trunk, DJ booth set up in the Cirque Lab.

Living in common space is tough - it's almost impossible not to impose. So I'm sticking with my road principles - do your own dish plus one, feed the animals, cook when your host will let you, and leave the place looking better than when you came by it. In the mornings, I've been awakening to dress, tie up my hair, and pack my bed away like I won't be sleeping in it again. Maintaining the trackless step.

So where does this go? I'd decided to move to Oakland last year, but plans haven't firmed up until just now. I'll be visiting in the end of November in order to plant seeds, explore schools, and break ground in the place I'll be living. That place is Vulcan Studios, an old forge that's been converted into a warehouse complex filled with performing artists. Manifestation win: the Vulcan was one of the few specific destinations on last year's hitchhike, and the seeds planted then are now coming to fruit. Oakland is live-work paradise; the industrial-park-turned-performance-studio is not a unique occurrence down there (one response to a description of the Circus Guild: "Oh, that sounds like about ten or fifteen of the troupes down here!"). But this'll be a good one: "Intrinsic Self", a short doc about several peeps I have come to know and love. They speak it truly - circus is filled with passionate, inspired, kind, and beautiful people, and I feel blessed and excited to be able to explore this new and strange avenue.

December 4th is my 27th birthday, falling ominously before the year I'm supposed to get wildly famous and die off in a blaze of glory. I suppose I'll make it a going-away party as well - seems like a good way to spend a Friday birthday. By January, I'll be gone.
Sunday, October 18th, 2009
5:23 pm
Holy crap - just got featured on Ministry of Manipulation!

Also, the new dubstep demo is out - come hear what's on the front line of electronic dance music and the war against the bombardment of pre-chewed and mass-marketed tunes. http://www.megaupload.com/?d=DN71G43P
Friday, October 16th, 2009
12:29 am
Any of the Portland peeps having a couch to throw a body on for a couple-few days? Got a sudden interest in putting together some seriously last-second options for PDX Decompression... wanna come kick it in P-town for a few days! Likely rolling in tomorrow midday and leaving Sunday/Monday. Thoughts?
Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
3:40 pm
Burning Man: The First Half

Besides Sunday's Big Emotional Chaos, I'd been on a bit of a rollercoaster with a few other people, as well. Got picked up, let down, picked up again, let down again, picked- you get the idea. I feel like I've been riding pretty rough since then - got home, got the bug out on the turntables (relief!), got one day to hang out and then did Soapbox Derby all weekend, had super fun, had some super not fun, had some more fun, a day to move my important stuff out to the quarry, surprise laid off by Rumors, surprise last paycheck from the Nightlight. What a trip... I'm taking it all right now as an exercise in good humor. Like I'll look back on this and just laaaaaugh!

Which led me to totally forget the awesome part of the week and post about that instead: that I was probably among the top five contact jugglers at Burning Man this year, definitely in the top ten. This isn't saying very much considering that there were probably no more than fifty on the playa, and not all the really serious ones came.

But several of the really serious ones came. Specifically: Mr. Om, Greg Maldonado, Jeff Calafato, and Lorq.

This year, I camped with a whole pile of excellent and dedicated fire dancers (OMCC). Just about everyone around had proficiency with scads of different toys and techniques. All day long it was workshops with big nerds like these guys. Like last year, they got placed on Center Ring, which meant that we all lived across the street from Center Camp.

Here's one thing about Burning Man: it's not just a huge party in the desert. It's also an experimental temporary autonomous zone, a convention of psychedelic theorists, a yoga summit, and so on. And for most of the day, Center Camp is the object manipulation convention. For instance: hoop jam. It's right in the middle of the city; world-class performers come and go at all hours, there are huge audiences until about 6 AM, and it's basically a massive, all-hours jam session for toys of all varieties. Like all-day Juggle Club!

Soooo being across the street, my friends and I would just kick it over there any time we wanted to practice. And since there's a grip of amazing artists around, you've got a bunch of eye candy for while you're stretching and warming up, and they're getting tired and making space by the time you want to go in and bust out. Then you've got equal time to practice really hard business - which you can do because you're surrounded in hardcore performers who are all filled with positive feedback and constructive criticism - and play around and teach workshops and hang out with people after you're tired. I must have spent five-plus hours a day in Center Camp on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. By evening, I was usually down for just a little bit of exploring before bed - often going out to parties where I'd wind up juggling for big crowds anyway.

A couple weeks ago, a retired performer offered the Guild a piece of advice: every performance is worth ten practices. At this point, I'm inclined to agree. After workshopping and performing for about a week straight, I'm feeling rather like I've gained a level.

Promo video out by the new year!
Monday, September 14th, 2009
3:56 pm
The Betty show: easy come, easy go
Geez, times of rapid change indeed. Here comes the hard part. Rumors just called, told me not to come in on Wednesday.

Here's the rationale: two weeks ago, mid-breakup and half-homeless and slightly packed for Burning Man, I flagged down DJ Postal to cover my shift at the Betty Show. This is nothing we haven't done a number of times. This time there was one difference: I totally spaced telling Betty about it the week before. An unpleasant surprise, indeed, but one I apologized for as soon as I got back the next week and realized what I'd forgotten to do. Betty forgave me and thought nothing of it. Management didn't.

Here's the reasoning: Rumors has been laying off a bunch of its more tenured employees, and hiring new ones who'll take a pay cut. This corner-cutting has been happening everywhere from the bar to the DJ booth, and my replacement will apparently take a lower weekly guarantee. In other words, it's just business - though I'd thought it was the kind of place where they at least give you a chance to take a pay cut before they just cut you loose.

Here's the effect: income halved, now back to living on under $1000/month. Fortunately, I am making a decision now that will reduce my cost of living by about the same percentage: moving to the Lookout Arts Center to help build a circus arts retreat. I've also been complaining about not being able to go to Vancouver to study with the posse of mind-blowing contact jugglers up there who jam on Wednesday nights, or attend certain social events that happen every Wednesday here in town. Not to mention the unholy alliance I want to start striking with Blessed Coast - this is finally my option to start talking less retro and more DUBSTEP.

I've still got the show at New York Pizza, and that's not going anywhere for the foreseeable future, so I've still got money to put in my mouth and over my head. I'll have to look at this as a blessing in disguise and a sign to start exploring better opportunities.
Sunday, September 13th, 2009
3:51 pm
TRAVEL BLOG: How to pack for the road
Some time ago, I found myself drafting a packing list for an extended trip (Chautauqua, I think). It made me reflect on my journey of last year: two beautiful months on the road. Over two months, my possessions changed as I left behind useless items and picked up what I needed on the fly. After two long hitchhikes, and a three-week tour, I feel like I've really got a solid pack.

Anyway... since I've got my list handy, I'll also post the packing list for my road kit here for reference and in case of interest. It's also partially for myself as well, since I may well be living on the road for a six-month tour next summer (!!!!). I intend to provide this as an in-depth reference for anyone thinking of doing a similar journey with only what you can carry on your back or pack into/onto a thumbed/Craigslsited ride.

SLEEPING BAG: Obvious. You may be sleeping outside, and no, clothes will not keep you insulated against temperatures even in the 60s.

GROUND PAD: I always travel with a heavy blanket which I use as a ground throw while busking (blanket, hat, props - instant venue). It also works as a ground cover to keep a body insulated. The ground is COLD and will steal the heat from your body all night. At best, you will be too cold to sleep; at worst, you will get hypothermia. You can sub out a bedroll, but it looks very hoboish. Of course, by the time you're taking off on a hitchhiking trip you're probably past the point where you give a fuck about people's snap judgments, but you're already going to get mean-mugged by people for walking into a bar/cafe/store with a big pack and may as well minimize that factor if you can.

TOILETRY KIT: razor, little bottle of Doc Bronner's (one that will STAY SEALED instead of coming loose in your pack and getting soap all over everything), SMALL brush, tweezers, condom, hair ties, nail file, toothbrush. Basically everything you need to execute a very fast and clean bath in a public bathroom, plus some amenities. Hobo shower directions for a hot day: remove shirt, wash hands, wash face, wash armpits with soapy hands, rinse all of the above (including shirt) with cold water. The wet, cold shirt will keep the sweat factor down and dry relatively clean, which is good for ditching offensive smells, which some people will already be sniffing for when they see your pack.

CHARGERS for personal electronic devices. The only thing worse than being stranded somewhere is not having the necessary communication tools to get you out.

FLASHLIGHT for the same reason; it is dark outside at night. They make cool wind-up flashlights now that you'll never need batteries for. While I lost my sweet wind-up flashlight on the playa, I found a really kickass solar one. I.E. Flashlight batteries = mostly obsolete, just expensive.

DAY BAG for going out. If you've got a place to stay, you don't want to pack your extra sets of clothes and your sleeping bag everywhere you go. Mine carries a decent set of juggling balls, two water bottles, a book, my laptop, and enough spare room for groceries or toys. Think bookbag.

APPROPRIATE CLOTHES are always hard to figure out. I do four pants, four light shirts (t-shirts or light button-up shirts), two long-sleeved shirts, a warm coat (ranging from hoody to peacoat, depending on the season), and a night hat for sleeping. How many socks should you pack? One for every day you're likely to be incapable of doing laundry. This is usually no more than five days in a row for me. Stay aware of your sock count if you're traveling over long times or distances; five pairs was not enough for Burning Man last year (ow and yuck). Important note: TAKE CARE OF YOUR FEET.

TOWEL - one small enough that you can just get your body dry with it. Thinner dries faster, which is important because packing a wet towel 500 miles just sucks.

TWO WATER BOTTLES - I use GT Dave's kombucha bottles. Some people get sketched out by packing glass, but I think they're sharp and nice and heavy enough that they can take a little rough treatment. I'm also an expert at losing water bottles, and replacing a Sigg for $30 or somesuch doesn't beat paying $3.50 for a new glass bottle that comes pre-filled with delicious kombucha!

PENS AND PAD - Just write it on out. These tools are absolutely vital for keeping contacts, since you'll be meeting LOTS of new people and going to LOTS of unfamiliar places on the road. Take lots of notes, and it'll prevent you from getting lost, which can prevent you from getting stranded.

LAPTOP. This one's controversial, and I get incredulous looks from travelers and non-travelers alike: "You bring your laptop on the road?!" Here is the thing: the laptop gets the best treatment of anything in the pack. I've packed this laptop a thousand miles already and my last one two thousand. I definitely recommend a soft case. Both computers survived a trip to the playa.

If you're staying smart, you won't get your laptop stolen; out of sight, out of mind. Remember that most people aren't thieves, and those who are will usually steal your lighter, but nothing like a computer or car. Even of people who do, a little psychological deterrent (leaving it deep in your pack, keeping it in its case or in your day bag when not in use, and using it places like coffee houses instead of hostels unless you have a private room) makes this not really a problem. Especially among groups like Chautauqua, the chances of my laptop getting lost or damaged were almost zero.

I had a conversation with a kind of neo-Luddite hippy kid in a coffee house in Long Beach. He insisted that technology was too arcane, and not worth spending time on learning. I assured him that my laptop can be thought of as a kind of spellbook; it has spells that summon rides from city to city (Craigslist), noses out underground networks of places to stay (Couchsurf), allows me to speak to distant friends at almost zero cost (Skype/Adium/Facebook/Google), acts as a miniaturized and fairly reliable encyclopedia (Wikipedia), and knows the map of almost every place I go (Google Maps). The laptop is the most useful tool in my pack, hands down.

ODD TOOLS - spoon, knife, corkscrew, fire, box of first aid strips. Floss is really useful on the road as well (pretty strong!) - and it's nice for keeping your gums nice as well. Floss your teeth!

FOOD - trail mix for protein, granola/bread for carbohydrates, and fresh produce for vitamins. It's especially important to eat well on the road because you're not going to get to do it very often sometimes. Malnutrition isn't necessarily the problem; often, you just won't get a chance to get one or two particularly important things in your diet like vitamin C or iron. The lack of just one or two essential nutrients in your diet makes huge differences in everything from finding rides (nobody wants to pick up a grouchy hitchhiker who hasn't been eating enough fats and oils) to coping with a sticky situation like getting stranded in unfamiliar territory after dark (hard to keep your wits when you're hungry).

Try to minimize trash with your food choices; you're not always around a trash can, and packing trash sucks. There are fewer worse impressions to make on hosts than to open your bag and have a bunch of stinky trash fall out. This means packageless food - granola (buy in paper bags and burn them later), fresh produce (skins and pits can be discarded in the woods - pocket the stickers), and whatever kind of stuff you can otherwise find (bakery dumpsters are often a massive haul for those important carbs).

PERSONAL NECESSITIES. In my case: juggling gear, two books, a top hat for busking... this category also includes musical instruments, beloved makeup staples, and so on. Don't go crazy, but don't go aescetic about those things that keep you sane (or, in the case of traveling artists, fed). Did you remember your wallet? Leaving the keychain behind is nice, though I keep one with two good luck charms, a bottle opener, and a sturdy little 8GB thumb drive.

And finally: ROOM! It's tempting to keep packing things into your pack in case you might possibly need them, but you're going to come across things on the road that you're going to want to keep. These things will be approximately one-third Things You Forgot You'd Need, one-third Things It'll Be Nice To Have More Of (often easy to score extra clothes of the type you'll need from free piles), and one-third Trinkets, Toys, and Fetishes.

Hope this helps, if anyone's interested.
Thursday, September 10th, 2009
10:36 pm
And just after an afternoon of self-indulgent angst on LJ, here comes a fine reminder that we are very, very tiny sparks in a giant firework.
12:10 pm
Burning Man: Sunday

I didn't take any pictures this year. On one hand, I wish I'd had; but at this point, I only need still images for publicity. Otherwise, the important ones are burned into my mind, and they'll leave only to make room for experiences more valuable.

This song came to me after a woman I've loved for the past year found fit to break my heart on Sunday morning at sunrise. It felt just like the year before - the playa's final message: Fuck off, get out of here. You have a life to lead. Jump out the nest. The playa doesn't live forever. Go!. I still hadn't found a reliable ride home; my best bet was across town, with a crew that had driven a broken-down truck to the playa. Why I expected it to work, I don't know, but my head wasn't in the place to make decisions.

"I need to come clean," I'd said, with a bunch of other things. I finally told her I was crazy about her, that I'd a half-drafted stack of love letters from the past year. That I knew she had stresses about love, but that the more time went by, the more irresistible the urge came to kiss her. That I was capable of leaving my feelings behind, but only if I had to. My internal hope was that she'd either kiss me or lay my feelings to rest so I could move on; the sweet agony was becoming too much to bear. Or was it? Was I just not strong enough to let things happen naturally? I've lived in a haze of doubt since that moment.

"I like you a lot, too," she'd said. It was my one blessed moment of relief, and I savored it until it grew stale and crumbled to dust, leaving only a moment of hushed uncertainty. Then she said, "And I think you should leave your feelings in the Temple. I'm sorry."

The Temple burns on Sunday night, every year. People bring stories and messages, photos, divorce papers. Last year a woman brought the dress she'd worn the night she was raped. And this year, I wrote what would be my last love letter - another that she wouldn't read.

I'd thought that I would be able to stop thinking about her, but now I can't help but savor the memory of our painful embrace. It's a risk writing this online; this is one of my last avenues where she (and our mutual friends) likely won't run across it and mistake it for a cry for attention. Desire's trap still has its hold on my heart - I feel like I should leave her alone, even though the thought sends me reeling. I've been the one to have would-be suitors trying to desperately and selfishly get me hooked; I've been the one trying to do the hooking, as well, long ago. I feel like I have to respect her wishes. On the other hand, I can't dissect her final statement. Was it one of diplomacy, trying to let me go softly? Or is she afraid of what would happen were she to forge yet another emotional connection - a fear that it took me a whole year to overcome? Would admitting these feelings prove my devotion - or an inability to prevail over the power of desire? Time heals all wounds, after all, but there's a fine line between neediness and devotion.

As I wrote the letter, a hooded woman approached me and clasped my hand. "I have something for you," she said. Then she handed me a card that read: "PERMISSION." The reverse reads, "...TO BE EXACTLY WHO YOU ARE." Is it a sign to foster my feelings? Or to depart from this place and move onto the next chapter?

Despite my hope at the time to turn into a shadow, melancholy loops rolled outward from a bus and pulled me in. Dancing was out of the question, but I climbed up to catch the name of the track. Now, the song takes me back to the playa; when the sunrise was just beginning to conquer the night's chill, and the city started its inevitable dissolution into nothingness.

That night, I'd watch the Temple fall to pieces, my letter consumed along with thousands of others. The playa would give me a final embrace on board the Lady Sassafras, sharing wine with friends and dancing with Orkestar Zirconium until some time close to dawn. The playa provides, in its own funny way. But I still can't tell whether this is a lesson in manifestation or renunciation.
Sunday, August 23rd, 2009
3:59 am
A real post: the Portland freakshow extravaganza
I don't know where to start. This post comes with my timely re-entry into life on the road. I didn't think it would happen this quickly, but life intervenes. I've been putting off blogging because I'm trying to avoid talking about myself; I think it's a bad habit. On the other hand, people keep demanding I blog all this stuff - so I figure I probably should.

To sum up: I'm on a bus with a freakshow that's backing up a heavy metal tour. I'll be back with just enough time to watch Ponyo with my family, play my two weekly gigs, pack, and find a ride to Burning Man.

Here's the hard and sucky part: Malia and I are splitting up. It was easier than I'd thought, and way harder as well. My side: I need a lot of space, and that I was no longer able to assert myself about the time I feel like I need so long as we were co-habitating. Her side: That she wants a partner who's more present and supportive. The situation: my schedule has become a lot more complex than it was when we first met, and our tastes and ideals have grown somewhat apart as well. I sensed a downward spiral into complacency, a condition suitable to neither Malia nor myself. There's still a lot of compatibility between us, and interactions have been very friendly (if not somewhat more painful for it). Still, it's only been three days and I feel like I'm still doing a lot of metabolizing. I'm just starting to get out of the place where I feel too guilty about hurting someone to remember that the whole problem was taking so much of our energy that it's probably for the best.

It would feel better if I had the time to process, but work has been fucking crazy.

Here's the story: the Nightlight and I are done. They felt the need to consolidate duties among their promotional staff; I felt the need to spend more Photoshop time in the name of my friends and me rather than someone else's business. This means I have a lot more spare time - and freedom to travel, considering the hilarity that was trying to telecommute while on tour off the grid.

This also means that I'm now living 100% on art.

Which is a humongous "fuck yeah," and also kind of a crazy situation right now. Two good-paying gigs spinning records every week means I'm paying the rent and eating as long as I'm in Bellingham on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Not to mention odd work contact juggling - good crowds can net me $50/hour on the street. The trick: I'm booked every weekend until October, when festival season is functionally over. This means that I'm living entirely on income from DJing through the winter, odd jobs not considered.

That gets us to this weekend: Part 1.

I got booked for a couple of nights this weekend at a variety show in Seattle with a circus-themed swing/blues dance troupe. We'd run in through various avenues - particularly Dream Science Circus, but also through various friends in the Oregon Country Fair and the New Old Time Chautauqua. Aaaanyway, they wanted a contact juggler so I came on down. The show's premise: a toy shop comes alive after dark and all the toys and things come to life. I came up with this idea to be a Tarot card - the Magician in particular - which came to life and did a contact routine. INSANE stress due to picking up the gig a little close to the show - didn't really have as much time to work as I'd have liked, as well as picking up extra promotional duties for NYPizza (particularly, designing a print ad for the new DJ gig). Still, a close friend helped me out painting the thing and it's fuckin gorgeous. I feel like I brought some really good energy to the show; the houses were small and I lost money after all, but I came away with a really strong routine and a fucking awesome character concept. I guess that's art; some days you make $50/hour, some days it's -$50. But that's business - the art of making more of the former days, and fewer of the latter. And besides, it was a fun show, which makes the whole money thing pointless (says he with no money yet to buy gas to Burning Man, hardy har).

This weekend: Part 2.

As I write this post, it's 4:30 AM, and five hours ago I didn't know where I was sleeping. I've just taken the place of Mr. Om, the world-famous Australian contact juggler, on the Hellzapoppin tour. It all started when I got an e-mail from another circus friend, Sara Sparrow - an aerialist/acrobat/costumer from Seattle. She sent me an e-mail alerting me that Mr. Om was visiting Seattle and that we should be in touch for a workshop. He and I started Facebooking, and our Burning Man plans started to grow together, and he was performing at midnight right after my Saturday show wrapped, and did I want some comp tickets? FUCK YES I WANTED SOME COMP TICKETS! And did I know anyone in Portland who wanted to do tomorrow night's show for a hundred bucks? After frenziedly calling everyone I knew who might possibly know a contact juggler near Portland, I got to thinking: shit, I could just fucking drive there tomorrow, put fifty in the gas tank and the rest in my pantry. But the logistics were tricky: where to stow the car (fuck not downtown Seattle hell no)? How to get back to town? Was a hundred really worth it? I figured I'd stall until the show and see what's what.

The show.

So there's Penguin Boy, an almost-four-foot man with no arms (but he's got hands!). PB is covered in ink and does blockhead - nails in the nose, pulling concrete blocks with his earlobes, that kind of thing. And he's fucking good at it - great and appalling stunts that I've never really seen or heard of before, good crowd skills.

And appalling is the name of the game. There's guy named - seriously - Zamora the Torture King, who does all sorts of wild freakshow material - bed of nails, glass walking, deep piercing. Very very intense. It's also clear he's been doing it for a very very long time. I've got a friend - Justin Credible - who

Betty Bloomers is a sexpot. She strips, kicks, lounges, luxuriates, sidles, undulates, wiggles, and then flosses her sinuses with surgical tube. Her entire bag - which you would refer to as burlesque / sword-swallowing in shorthand, I guess - involves getting a bunch of hooting, horny metalheads as aroused as possible before whipping out a stunning gross-out routine. Particularly kickass: swallowing the curved part of a coat hanger bent in half, then tilting her head down so the damned thing comes out bent at a ninety degree angle.

Mr. Om was what I'd hoped. Two routines: one with eight balls and one with a single (BIG) ball. The announcer suggested that only fifty people in the world do contact juggling. I'd disagree. But I'd say that there may only be fifty contact jugglers in the world as good as Mr. Om.

After the show, Sara and Ludo (Om) and I got talking about Burning Man plans, and we got talking about Portland. Ludo asks: how do you feel about it? Bryce, the promoter (also the emcee and bus driver), says you can show him your stuff and if you want the gig, you've got it.

Doing an on-the-spot audition for my heaviest promoter yet and a mega-respectable contact juggler was a little harrowing... but! In one fell swoop, I got the gig, found a place to stash my car, got a space on the bus, and a bunk to boot. The only trick is getting a ride back north from Portland on Tuesday, but Portland -> Seattle is practically a daily trip. Plus I'll have gas money!

On keeping it together:

I've been stretching and drinking as much water as I remember to bring. Still, the eating's not frequent and the sleeping's barely happening at all. Crashed a couch last night with a kickass swing-dancing clown (though my neck kinda hurts); just a "wherever I lay my head" kind of thing. The plan is to Craigslist a ride out of Portland the day after tomorrow, maybe Couchsurf a place to sleep tomorrow night (because: fuck covert-camping in Portland). My car's parked in Seattle (with my new playa bike that I scored at a serendipitous roller derby garage sale today) and my bigass prop is staying the night at the circus space. Monday, I can swing into Seattle, grab the card prop, change clothes, shower, and pass the fuck out and thusly recover enough energy to stay awake for a trip to see Ponyo with my mom, dad, and little sister.
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