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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Degrees of Exhaustion!

Degrees of exhaustion. Tired. Extreme fatigue. Staying up late watching theatrical madness. One show after another show after another show.

If you performed the previous evening, and your own show went well, the state of exhaustion is mingled with a sense of euphoria.

If you performed the previous evening, and your own show didn't go well, the state of exhaustion is mingled with a sense of futility.

I have experienced both of these states. Let me propose the obvious: exhaustion mingled with euphoria is transformative. Much better for the head and soul. Take it from someone who has lived thru both states.

Luckily this weekend the exhaustion/euphoria combo was perfectly proportioned. Deep in the bone tiredness mixed with an all-pervasive sense of accomplishment. Whether it's all just a figment of my imagination or not doesn't seem all that relevant.

And then a day or two passes and the exhaustion is now just a dimly remembered cloud.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Void - It's All OK for Now!

The day after the day after. That's when you feel the void in the pit of your stomach. Let's say you've performed at an event many years in a row (see previous post), and now that fest is no more. It's gone. A memory. Just another thing that now only really exists in your head.

So you carry it with you, which is cool, but not really adequate for the moment, the now, the plans going forward. And you don't really have any plans, or even ideas of plans going forward at the moment. There's just that void. That "empty void." 

And you are not even really ready to fill that void yet. Maybe you will just let it sit in the pit of your stomach for awhile. Let it brew, tenderize, percolate. And maybe you will figure something out, something new or different, because a void cannot hold. It's not acceptable in the long-term. In the short-term? Yes, okay. Let it be. The void - "Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream, it is not dying, it is not dying..." 

Yeah. It's all ok for now. But then, there will be a "Then What?!" moment and you will want to act on that... yes. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Uncountable!

The Last Abbie Fest. It is done. Complete. Finished. Kaput. In the books. An amazing journey. A wild ride. 28 consecutive festivals. 28 editions x 72 hours of (pretty much) non-stop theatrical madness. How many acts? How many performers? Uncounted. Uncountable.

The power & the glory. The love. The compassion. The selflessness. 

A weird cult. A brother & sister hood. A crazy, creative community. A very odd, unique, strange brew. Everything on stage and off. Everything. Alive. Aware. Now. The constant now. Waves of humanity. Waves of creativity. Waves of experience.

There was total love flowing in the wee hours. Exhaustion. Exhilaration. Ecstasy. Sadness. We carry the dream, in our hearts, our heads... the last fest has come and gone, the dream, the myth carries on, will never die, instead the dream & the myth will grow larger, and more resonant, more powerful as it fades.



Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Sloppy Roar of Human Experience!

Years past, I would write a day by day recap of the Abbie Fest, but this year's model is the last one and I feel sort of humbled by the whole "last" thing. I guess it's the finality of it all that is sinking in, and it makes me hesitant to try to sum up or contain my thoughts and feelings about the whole thing.

Safe to say, I will truly miss this festival. There is nothing quite like it. It is irreplaceable, irreducible, uncontainable.

What an exuberant, rollicking, unholy, over-stuffed, 3 day phenomenon. I feel so lucky to have played a small, very small part, in the whole thing. 

Energy. Life. The sloppy roar of human experience. Today is the last of the last. Then it will all be gone. Alive only in our heads, our hearts, our spirits. A fever dream. A hallucination. A prophecy. A promise.

It is a little microcosm of the macrocosm. Here and then gone. That's how it goes...

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Play it Loud!

I get to the place. My "job" is to hang with a motley gang of characters. Chill for the afternoon. The place I am at has a classic stereo system: a phonograph, powerful amp, hefty, impressive looking speakers in the living room, and an array of speakers embedded in the ceiling in the kitchen. Let's just say the sound is massively superb.

And on the phonograph, already in place, waiting for a spin? John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band album. Maybe, probably, for sure, my favorite all-time record. Dark? Yes! Inspiring? Yes! Brilliant? Absolutely. Lennon stripped bare.

Anyway, a coincidence? Maybe. I don't think so. But who decides?

I followed that great, elemental, essential advice: "Play it loud!" Life-affirming, powerful, transporting. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Losing Yourself in the Moment!

I used to think it as "Flow." I now think of it as "The Timeless Now of the Divine Spirit."  Losing yourself in the moment. Being so aware, so alive, so in the moment, that the self disappears, and the "what you are doing in the moment" is everything.

Time falls away. The rest of the world disappears.

I could sometimes get to that state by long-distance running, sometimes by deep meditation. I could often get there acting in a play or performance piece, and lately, rarely, (usually in rehearsal), I can get there playing music.

It's funny. Many years of performing, many years of losing myself in the flow. That is the kick. That is the secret. That is the glory. Better than accolades, better than awards, better than applause, better than money or fame.

Losing yourself in the moment...

Thursday, August 18, 2016

History in the Making!

I think, in the past year, I was a bit frantic about the 2016 Presidential Election. There was a brief period of uncertainty. And I do know that in some sense any time, any day, "anything can happen."

But I am not frantic now. I am pretty damn certain I do know how it's all gonna shake out in November. We are watching "history in the making." Which, if you think about it is a ridiculous phrase. In one sense isn't every moment, "history in the making?" As soon as the moment passes, it is history.

But in another sense, yes, we all know what that phrase means, something is happening, or is about to happen that is extraordinary, unique, something that might actually make the history books. Do people still print and read history books?

We actually have two pretty unique, extraordinary events about to happen. A woman President, AND, "the worst Presidential Candidate of all time!" Kind of interesting, kind of entertaining.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Eventful Day!

Yesterday was an eventful day for my lovely companion and I...

1. Had a wonderful meal at P.S. Bangkok - fire spinach & long-life noodles.
2. Visited the Chicago Music Exchange, a vintage guitar mecca and bought some Martin Retro Acoustic Guitar Strings - "Tony's Choice!" (Who is Tony?)!
3. Ran thru the tech for our show at the Den Theatre - lights, action, sound!
4. Reversed the "Macbeth curse," (see previous post) - yes we went to the old theater building spun around, cursed, spit and knocked! It felt marvelous, I could feel & see that curse just lift off my shoulders!

Not a bad day.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Curse of the Scottish Play!

Macbeth is my favorite of all of Shakespeare's plays. All that darkness, blood & revenge; I discovered it in high school and it was right up my alley, a little bit of  Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah and Martin Scorsese all mixed up together. 

In retrospect, now that I think of it, I do believe that I am a victim of the "curse of the Scottish play." I actually did speak the name "Macbeth" backstage during the run of our show "Free Henry Goodbar, Telepath," in 2006. I just blundered into the curse. And I didn't remedy the curse, ("he or she is required to leave the theatre building, spin around three times, spit, curse, and then knock to be allowed back in"). Instead, I just laughed it off.

And then, all hell broke out in my life. I lost a dear member of my family (almost exactly one year after I blindly uttered the forbidden name), I lost friends, I lost a job, I lost money, status, self-respect. I spiraled down into a black hole. Yep. It's true.

I hit bottom. I had to re-make my life. Get back to basics. 10 years later, I'm still in the process of rebuilding my life. Funny. I didn't put all of this together until yesterday morning, when I heard on the radio that August 15, 1057 was the anniversary of Macbeth's murder. 

And this morning I have resolved to go back to that old theater building and "reverse the curse." Yes, it's about time, 10 years living under this curse, a long time.  I am well over-due for a full reckoning! I dare say, better late, than never!

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Last Abbie Fest!

It actually sort of pains me to write these words, but write them I will... 

The Last Abbie Fest is this coming weekend. The 28th edition of this rollicking mess of a 3 day festival of plays.  Our group Black Forest has performed at something like 16 of these in a row, which is a significant chunk of time. We have lived, and grown, and changed, and aged, right along with the fest.

Let's say our work could be summed up by Sergio Leone - "The Good, The Bad, The Ugly." We have always tried to do our best, but really it's all just a journey, an effort, a "going to," "a searching for..." and that was/is the kick.

Highly, highly recommended.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Everything Falls, Everything Dies!

If things were "forever," everything would be static. It would be like living in some grand, unchanging prison. So, wishing for forever would be like wishing to live in an eternal prison.

Instead we live in a world of transitoriness, change, eternal change. Freedom. Everything falls, everything dies. We should celebrate!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

"Timeless Now of the Divine Spirit!"

I am reading a sort of dry, weighty, musicological tome. And in the reading, I come across a quote from what I imagine is another dry, weighty musicological tome, written by a guy named John Blacking, "How Musical is Man?"

And then I come across this phrase, "Timeless Now of the Divine Spirit." And I see my life flash before my eyes. I realize this is where all my energy has been directed for many, many years. And whether this state is mythological, or very real; hard to find, or easy to get to; I realize that all of my work in theater and music, all of my creative activity, has been steeped in the search for this special state.

And I know I have glimpsed it. Yes, indeed. In rehearsals, in the working thru, in performance. Not often, but once in a great while all elements conspire and that special state is revealed.  I have experienced a state where "old age, death, grief, thirst, hunger and the other afflictions of this world are seen as transitory events."

This state, this quest for the "Timeless Now of the Divine Spirit," is my guiding light and experiential philosophy. It's very gratifying and enlightening to find answers once in awhile!

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Need for Solitude.

Solitude. It is essential. A way to find space. In the world. In yourself. We are always on the move. Sometimes it's essential to sit in one place. And let time roll over you. It will expand and deepen. It's a good thing. An oasis. A hideout. A soft place to land.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Kicked "Ass-Mar?!"

It is possible I've kicked asthma? Or as Piggy from "The Lord of the Flies" called it, "Ass-mar." Maybe so. This is a malady that I have suffered with since I was a wee lad of about 13. Many decades of wheezing,  of extreme drowning in my own bodily humors. 

Over the last year or so. Nothing. No wheezing, no coughing, no allergic reactions. No "can't breathe" episodes. In the past, all manner of things could trigger an attack - dogs, cats, extreme heat or cold, stress, pretty much whatever.

And now? Nothing. No problem. No malady. I breathe easy all the time. I was gluten-free for awhile, maybe that helped? I'm not gluten-free now, and still no attacks. Also, and this may have nothing to do with anything, about a year or so ago I started adding lots of cayenne pepper to my food/diet. Maybe that helped? Who knows? I really have no clue. Very weird. 

I have always been a healthy eater, I've always been active, and pretty fit. Nothing changed on that front. It's a mystery. A happy mystery.  But one that I can live with it for sure! Asthma free!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Power of the "A" Hole...

Okay, I admit it, no deep political analysis here... the GOP Nominee for President is clearly, a USDA Choice, Grade A, First-Class Asshole i.e. arrogant, rude, obnoxious, or just a total dickhead.

Yes, no doubt. And even that crude description just doesn't seem to do the man justice.  This 2nd Amendment flap is just the latest example in a string of examples.

Of course, being a Total Asshole doesn't disqualify this man. In fact, many of his followers are following him because he is a loud, no-nothing Asshole. That's just why they intend to vote for him.

For these folks it's not a flaw, it's a feature!

I suppose this man is showing us that being a Total Asshole can actually work in your favor. Nothing ever shames the man. Nothing embarrasses the man. He is never, ever in the wrong. He clearly knows very little, and believes he knows everything.

It is laughable. Every morning you flip on the radio and expect to hear that finally the man has disintegrated, imploded, spontaneously combusted... but I guess, he's too much of a determined Asshole for that to happen.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The Real World

My long time companion turned to me and said: "We don't do the real world very well."  My response: "Tis true."

Monday, August 08, 2016

Someone Else's Thing!

I'm living in someone else's reality. It's a funny way to make a living. Sleeping in someone else's bed, drinking someone else's coffee, walking someone else's dog. All my usual routines are thrown up in the air and remade in a slightly different configuration.

It's sort of like vacationing in someone else's space. Sort of. I'm still me, doing all the typical "me" things, but the surroundings are all switched around. It's odd. A bit disorienting. And sort of agreeable too.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

A Perfect Day!

I have to tell you about our great day, yesterday. If I don't, who will? whitewolfsonicprincess played at the Evanston Lakeshore Arts Fest, and it was one of our best outings for sure. Our leader singer, who is a very tough grader, no curve, gave us a B+. Perfect weather, lots of fans, and ducks. Happy ducks. We also watched & listened to Swing Gitan, incomparable Gyspy Jazz! We sat in the shade and ate vegetarian tamales and they truly hit the spot. And then, thanks to our a very good friend we got to sit at the feet of the great and inspiring Jon Langford performing at the The Wine Goddess. I must say, Jon is my musical hero. I don't know what it is, he just has "it" - the charisma, the passion, the guts, the glory. Totally knocked us out! Yesterday was quite the day, no doubt!


Saturday, August 06, 2016

How Resilient We Can Be!

I think we will see how resilient our democracy in good ole USA can be. And even though it is somewhat horrifying to see how many common folks really can imagine the Short Fingered Vulgarian, fingering the nuclear button, the vast majority of us, are quite horrified by the thought, and well, I do think common sense and reason will win the day. And it's probably nothing to be complacent about, but it is sort of gratifying to see that a very stupid, horrible person can really unite, if not us all, at least very, very many of us!

Friday, August 05, 2016

Who Do You Let in the Room?

Who do you let in the room? I mean this "literally" and "metaphorically." This is of critical importance if you are working on a creative project. Who gets in the room?

We have been experimenting lately with some new players, musicians, for a project. Each individual brings their own world with them into the room. 

And it's all about trust, respect, the ability to listen, the ability to let go, and give it all, to the group. The collective group creates a unique energy. Can those walking into the room leave their egos, their day to day world behind them?

It's not just about musicianship. 

We are always looking for a purity of purpose and intent. The creative circle, I believe, is a sacred place. And one false move, one poor choice, can destroy a very delicate construction.

You know when it's right, and you know when it's wrong. It's always so obvious, although, sometimes it takes time to really understand where you went right, or where you went wrong.

And you have to be open, and giving, and understand a greater vision, bigger than the immediate thing. That's really what we are creating. An amazing entity, built from a collective energy, that transcends any one individual.

When the group is strong, when everyone can trust, respect, listen, when everyone is fully there, the true creative "magic" happens. And there really is nothing like that high.

And when it's right, the circle expands, and the group grows stronger, and can extend into new areas, new ways of being. And when it's wrong, you can't hesitate, you need to identify the problem, and extricate it - or else the circle will disintegrate. Extricating can be painful, but the creative space demands it.

Who do you let in the room? That's the all important question...

Thursday, August 04, 2016

When Will the Horrible Idiot Slink into the Darkness?

I now realize that between now and election day in November, I will wake up, I will turn on the radio, log into the internet, and ask: "What has the GOP Presidential Nominee, that Horrible Idiot, said today?"

It is not the way I'd like to live my life. But there it is. And every time I ask that question, I will wonder if finally my fellow citizens have heard enough. 

And I will hope for, and count the days, before the Horrible Idiot slinks away into the darkness, never to sully our national consciousness ever again! 

Isn't Democracy wonderful?!

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

A Life of Coincidence...

You get your insights wherever  you can find them. It could be a great book, a good friend, or while you are binge-watching "Better Call Saul." 

Not sure which character said it, but these words have been kicking around in my head for days and days...

"Maybe all life is just coincidence?" 

Yes, indeed: "a situation in which events happen at the same time in a way that is not planned or expected..."

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

A Bad Actor, Acting Badly!

"Bad Actor." You know, not a clueless thespian, but an actual "unruly, turbulent, contentious individual."

A shit-stirrer. Sometimes you want to stir the shit, or maybe sometimes it's good for the shit to be stirred. But sometimes not.

Just like anything, it all depends on the time, the place, the circumstances. A bad actor can be a useful, necessary phenomenon, or a very negative, corrosive entity.

Right now we are being inundated with the thoughts and actions of a very, very bad actor. It's a sensitive time for our Democracy. And maybe it's all a lot more fragile than we think.

How bad can things get? I suppose we will find out...

Monday, August 01, 2016

"A Smart Terrible Person" vs. "A Dumb Terrible Person!"

Maybe a terrible man and his candidacy for President can be a national horror-show, and a necessary purgative. Think of the Short Fingered Vulgarian as a "moral enema." Gross. Right?!

Maybe we need a candidate for President to show us the dark underside of America? Maybe we need to see upfront and center all the ugliness, the ignorance, the bold racism, the sexism, the xenophobia?

Maybe we need this guy to help us expel the bad, gross stuff.

No matter how bad you think things could be, this person is much worse, this person embodies all the worst qualities you could imagine, and multiplies them and pumps them up to "11."

And he is shameless, and clueless. And he is so shameless & clueless he actually believes these are admirable qualities, necessary to being a "winner!"

So then, in response, we get lots of soul-searching, and redefining, and scrambling to come up with reasons, and diagnostic explanations for how this man, and his followers, could be so totally clueless and morally suspect. Lots of good writing coming from all corners.

You get think pieces like this one from Josh Marshall.  Drawing the subtle, nuanced, distinction between a "smart terrible person," vs. a "dumb terrible person."

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Baby Authoritarian Meets His Big Daddy!

This image comes via Wonkette... yes, agree, absolute genius. The little baby Authoritarian meets his Big Daddy!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Gaseous Dirigible Named Roger Ailes Implodes!

Schadenfreude. Not very Buddha-like. To "derive pleasure from the misfortune of others." At the least, it's seems like bad form.

But I can't help but exult in the implosion of Roger Ailes. You hope to come to this planet, live your life, and leave it a better place than before you arrived. Or maybe, at least, "do no harm."

But of course, that doesn't really pay. Ailes has been an active malefactor for decades. He helped remake and elevate Richard Nixon. He helped create our corrosive political culture. He was the primary architect of Fox News - the great Right-Wing Propaganda Noise Machine of our era.

He has twisted and polluted our discourse over the last 40 years or so. As David Remnick of the New Yorker writes:

"At each stage of his career, he has helped amplify the reactionary memes of the moment: Willie Horton, Whitewater, Travelgate, Monica Lewinsky, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Benghazi, “the war on Christmas.” Ailes also helped weaponize the language of casual racism in the Obama era. When one of his hosts, Glenn Beck, declared on the air that the President had a “deep-seated hatred for white people,” Ailes hardly reprimanded him. “I think he’s right,” Ailes said."

So now he has fallen amid a slew of accusations of sexual predation. A man brought down by his own hubris, arrogance and bad action.  There is something satisfying in the tale. Man of power finally brought down by a woman, a victim, and then many supporting victims voices, who had the courage to call out his bad behavior.

Of course, he walks away from the big corporation with a fat paycheck. But the man is brought down, his reputation is besmirched. And now maybe his terribly negative Noise Machine can become a bit less noisy. That would be great!

Friday, July 29, 2016

See the Light, Pass It On!

I am a sucker for the positive pitch. Always have been. I see the glass half-full. I lean to the light. I love a sunny day, blue skies, puppies, flowers, smiles, kind words, happy people.

I do have my existential edge. I can go dark. I have my "dark nights of the soul," I can conjure the darkness with the best of them.

But when it really comes down to it, I am a hopeful, optimistic soul. Even in the darkest moments, I reach to the light, the positive idea, the last hopeful thought.

So yes, I am all in with Barack & Michelle Obama. And Hillary Clinton. And Joe Biden. And Tim Kaine. Etc. 

I know these people just stood on a stage this week, and said a lot of words. But words do matter. The "vision thing" is important.

I do believe in the progressive movement. I do think we can make a better world. I do think we have to conjure up the best ideas, imagine the best futures for each other, and try to implement them, try to improve life for every one.

I do believe it "takes a village." None of it is easy. There will always be darkness, pain, death, and broken dreams, but we do need to "wake up," and try to see the light, and pass it on. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Second Hand Thoughts on Trump

** Just watched Obama's speech last night. And it kind of renders what I posted below null & void. A wonderfully masterful speech. I truly, madly deeply love the man and all he stands for. The best of America. For sure. I do wish everyone would watch his speech.

Link here: http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/07/28/dnc-convention-barack-obama-entire-speech-sot.cnn

Kevin Drum's recap (see below) doesn't do it justice... Obama is talking about the best stuff. I don't understand how anyone could listen to this speech, see the man embody what he does, without admitting he's a fine American, embodying the best of us.

Certainly the finest President in my lifetime. No contest... what a speech-maker too...

This is what I had to say before watching the speech...

Actually I don't have anything to say about the Democratic Convention last night. Didn't listen or watch. I do hope to catch up on some of the speeches this morning. All I have is second-hand opinions to pass on. 

For instance: 

Kevin Drum is in the house, and I do like his wrap-up:
Tonight's speech roundup:
  • Michael Bloomberg: Trump is a con man.
  • Tim Kaine: Trump is a liar.
  • Joe Biden: Trump is a sociopath.
  • Barack Obama: Trump is an asshole. *
  • Decisions, decisions. Who's right?
    Whatever else you think of it, the Democratic convention sure has had a strong lineup of speakers. Even Bloomberg, who's a little stiff on the podium, was pretty good tonight. Biden and Kaine were both sociable and folksy, and Obama, as usual, was inspirational. We'll see how the public responds to all this, but it's hard to see how the Democrats could have done much better in the prime time hour than they have over the past three days.
    *My translation from the original Obamish.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Antidote!

Let's say you've fallen into a nest of vipers. And you have been bitten in all the usual places, and some unusual places too. And the venom is coursing through your body. And you are knocking on death's door. Poison. You are poisoned! That's what it's like this election season.

What to do?

If you can, watch this video. Right now. It is the antidote! A blast of hope. And positivity. An amazing woman. Professional. Accomplished. Beautiful. Graceful. Inspiring. The ultimate role model. A wife, a mother. A woman of substance. Intelligence. Blazing integrity.

Think - authentic, genuine, the absolute best. The best of America embodied in one tremendous package. If you don't agree, don't see her as the finest example of what makes America great, you are blinded, by race, by hate, by ideology, or some other malodorous condition.

For the rest of us... the antidote. I watched this speech yesterday morning, and walked around in a bubble of joy and good feeling the rest of the day... amazing, inspiring... 

Michelle Obama is not a politician, she doesn't talk policy much, but she brings it all into focus, as a mother, a wife, a woman filled with charisma and grace. Watch this... do yourself a favor. Get a healing of the spirit, the mind, the heart... the life you save may be your own...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Expect the Best!

I've probably written this before, because I know I've thought it before, but I have no desire to look thru my old blog posts...

Too much irony, cynicism, sarcasm, conspiracy-mongering, scapegoating in the land. Too many of us just don't believe a thing. We think everything is actually something else.

Now, of course, this "everything is actually something else," rings true for me. We live in the midst of a grand mystery. Everything is symbolic, and metaphorical. We live in a poem, a grand mystic poem.

But we need less "wise-guys" and more open-eyed, open-headed folks. We need more bridge -builders. More folks who want to roll up their sleeves and work together, try stuff, experiment.

We need fewer extremists, and more "pragmatists." Maybe even a few more moderates. People willing to pick and choose solutions from the vast middle of the argument. 

Give me a little hope & optimism. Let's give it up for some honest, heartfelt naivety and innocence. Let's try some trust, respect, and instead of stoking a blatant distrust of everyone and everything, let's give each other the benefit of the doubt.

At least, at first. Let's not assume the worst. Let's expect the best!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Grab Hold of One of Your Strings!

How free is free?  Does "free will exist?" Does it matter? Are we just biochemical puppets? Weighty questions for a Monday morning.

I suppose we are free to believe or not, but maybe that freedom is illusory? How illusory is illusory? And is the grabbing a free act, or not?!

"This understanding reveals you to be a biochemical puppet, of course, but it also allows you to grab hold of one of your strings." - Sam Harris

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