generation clown

Since last Tuesday, I’ve been involved in an online conference with a community of incredibly creative and fun performers.    Including presenting a lecture on working as a comedic performer during the Christmas season as well as leading a discussion on comedic performance and clowning in social media.  

I also took part in several “coffee talks” about the state of the union for clowning and family entertainment, including discussing the aging demographic that is found within the major organizations and trying to understand the reason why younger members are not seeing the need to join them.

We also had a discussion of social issues, including race, religion and identity in clowning and how the generational divide could be presenting a barrier to entry.  What I witnessed over the past few days hinted at why the younger entertainers might not find the organizations necessary.

I will first indicate the caveat that I have not been a member of any of the major international clown organizations for almost two decades. In the early 2000’s my business model changed and I was focused on different areas, while I kept my “feet wet” in clowning by lecturing, performing and attending different conferences over the past two decades, my needs moved beyond what either of the two organizations were providing at the time.

I will also note that many of the people associated with the Boards of Directors in both organizations back in the early 2000s  ARE STILL THERE.

I will also note that of the 20 people on the Board of Directors, I only regularly witnessed 8 members in attendance throughout the week…most members of the BoD WERE in attendance during the Annual General Meeting, final banquet and the few sessions DIRECTLY related to the organization and it’s operations itself…but many were MIA throughout the rest of the conference…

One has to ask if these are only symptoms?

Just prior to the conference, a young clown published a post on a clown discussion page, asking clowns what they are doing to reflect society’s ever changing values and what they are doing to grow and evolve. This clown has over 30,000 followers on social media and her honest and delicately framed question was met with derision, anger and her being blocked and banned for the sheer temerity of asking clowns to reflect on how they are changing with the times.

Further leaders in the field who have a keen eye on the future of clowning and comedic family entertainment opened up noting an ongoing history of gatekeeping younger clowns who have questioned the long held traditions didactically clung to by the organizations.

Even during the conference itself, there was a brief flurry of postings about appropriate dress for the final banquet. The organizers and the president, noting that only a precious few presenters appeared in clown for the conference, commented that attending in clown would be a fun way to celebrate being clowns. This was echoed by a few other members of the Board of Directors who also commented that it would be the first time they have been in clown for months, if not over a year. However some of the older generation “harrumphed” and stated that the banquet was formal because of tradition. No matter how many times people reminded them that this particular conference was FAR from a traditional conference…

The clowns won out in the long run. People had fun, the organization lives on and the world didn’t end.

However this only highlighted to me that there is a serious problem within the world of organizational clowning that is gatekeeping the younger generations. This is an issue that I have battled since I attended my first convention in 1995. Not everyone is like this, goodness knows I wouldn’t have remained in organizational clowning as long as I did and would not continue to attend conferences. But if they only knew the nastiness, the ego, the self-serving ideologies, and much more that the clowns of my generation and younger have experienced, their heads would spin.

It’s hard enough taking flack from non-clowns given recent movies and pop culture references to Pennywise, John Wayne Gacy and “killer clowns.” It’s even harder getting flack from PEOPLE WITHIN OUR OWN SHARED interest. Telling us that we’re not “real clowns” because our costumes and appearances don’t conform to competition rules and they may deal with more “adult” humor.

Would the same people say that to Avner Eisenberg? To Bill Irwin? To Patch Adams? To Iman Lizarazu?

The younger clowns may not look like what the organizational clowns from the 1980s through to the early 2000s looked like. Their humor may not reflect that either – is “Ring Ring” STILL relevant in an age where everyone carries a communications device in their pocket? But keep in mind that the younger generation HAS studied the history of clowning, including the Minstrel Show roots of modern characters AND acts, combined with commedia dell’arte AND clowning in other, non-European cultures…

Many of these younger clowns were born in an era where most homes had a computer and many homes had internet access. Their life experiences ARE different from those of us in the older generations and the organizations need to understand that.

The information which we originally relied on the organizations and deep dives into libraries is now readily available AND updated online. Not to mention resources from around the world not easily available to North American clowns until recently.

The younger generation IS well versed in the history of clowning, they are incredibly knowledgeable in the traditional skills of clowning, they ARE well versed in what the old traditions were AND trying to bring those traditions that remain relevant today forward and leaving the ones that should remain in the past, firmly in the past.

They also know that the old circus-style “full coverage” makeup designs used to emote to the balconies of hockey arenas and tents large enough to hold three rings are no longer necessary and, yes, perhaps may be off putting to modern sensibilities…even Ringling Brothers clowns were moving to a “softer,” “more human” look before the circus folded.

Part of what I taught in the conference was explaining how the younger generation is taking clowning as an artform to social media and ran a quick class on Zoom, TikTok, Instagram, Twitch and Facebook Live as potential venues for clowning. Many entertainers during the time of COVID restrictions realized that they could still practice and perform by pivoting online and looking at “virtual tip jars” like PayPal Me and Venmo as ways to support their performing activities…I won’t even dive into Patreon here…

One thing that was mentioned throughout the conference was that the online presentation and communications leveled the playing field. People were not able to hang out in their cliques and everyone who wanted to contribute to the open conversations and questions could. During one of the open chats, a member noted that at a past convention, they felt excluded from many groups and conversations because they were new and until someone who was well known and somewhat respected in the organization introduced them, was never made to feel welcome.

What was agreed in this discussion was that this cliquish behavior needs to stop, and people need to be more welcoming at the conventions, particularly to those who are new and – yes – look and act different.

Heck if a queer, middle-aged, tattooed and pierced pagan musician can be accepted at a clown conference…It just shouldn’t take “knowing the right people” and “fitting the mold” to be welcomed.

clowning to afflict the comfortable

So “a group for local and circus clowns and family-style entertainers who want to learn more about the art of clowning, improve their act and be willing to accept suggestions for improvement.” Had a series of conversations started about modern, non-traditional clowning – particularly a younger generation who use the art of clowning to express themselves in regular every day life – trying to start a serious discussion about gate-keeping and rigid definitions of who or what the art is or “should be.”

These conversations have been deleted. Expunged from the group. The person who wrote the first post was expelled from the group because <GASP> her profile has curse words in it.

The posts that followed were also expunged from the group too as several other people posted their support for the original poster, noting that any art form is evolutionary and while certain streams may not be to everyone’s liking, they are ALL VALID. By the way – clowning is NOT limited to children’s entertainment and NOT ALL clowns are “Angels with Red Noses.” I’ll post excerpts of Racine Celeste’s conversation starter here:

Clowncore is an aesthetic movement that is taking the online world by storm, and it takes the traditional look of clowns and ….. well …. clowning THAT too. It is an anti-fashion movement, like punk or goth, and these youngsters are using clowning as an avant-garde way of exploring their identity and self expression, often with little to no theater or clown education.
They represent clowns as gender-non conforming, as mystical magical creature, as trickster gods and gentle, fey-like beings. It feels reminiscent of vaudeville, as comedic slice of life content, balancing humor with grief, comedy and tragedy, where you don’t know what’s coming next, but with amusing and poignant messages tucked in here and there.It’s gorgeous and glorious, and very VERY different from the saccharine look that is represented by this and other clown communities.
They also openly and earnestly discuss the racial history of clowns, and pick apart the comedy used to punch down, BIPOC using these lessons and the image of clowning as a way to reclaim some of the dignity that was lost at their ancestors expense in the pursuit of comedy.
There are so so many young people participating in this culture shift and they LOVE clowns, wholesome or scary, aggressive and gentle.Is there room for young people coming at clowning with an experimental, exploratory, deconstructive eye? Or is clowning a tradition that will reject these new friends because they don’t follow the rules?

The original poster was respectful, challenging and thoughtful, genuinely wishing to generate a discussion. The only word that I could see as being “insulting” was saccharine…

By the way – the image that people were so horrified by, I posted as my Facebook Cover Photo here on February 12. I’ve posted it here because the words in question are actually kind of apropos. I could only imagine what some of the people who were troubled by the word “FUCKERY” would do if they read some of my 2SLGBTQIA+ or pagan/faith based posts…

FYI Racine, aka Sizzle the Clown has an active following of over 30,000 people on TikTok and has received funding to support her career as part of their creators’ fund. Her content is honest, thoughtful and thought-provoking – I highly recommend you follow her so you can have your notions of what clowning can be challenged.

The group’s description further describes. “If you are challenged by anything related to clowning, we hope to have the answers or guide you to an answer to your questions.”

I guess there are certain challenges they are unwilling to accept – challenges to their own perceptions, challenges to their comfort zones, challenges to the status quo. I have left the group because it is clear to me that they are truly not interested in actual discussion as to the future of clowning as an art form.

As I recall the group was originally formed as a reaction to the level of “gatekeeping” that the traditional clown organizations in North America represented. These groups are constantly commenting on their struggles to maintain registrations as their membership ages out and retires and they are struggling to attract younger members, particularly in a world where information about the art form is regularly available online. This group was formed as an effort to break the mold and shake the foundations of organizational clowning.

Lee Andrews, director of American Clown Academy wrote “Organizational clowning is dying from the inside out and it’s not going to be saved by the old generation. It’s going to be saved by the younger blood, new ideas, and fresh outlooks that so many are afraid of. Tradition is key, but it doesn’t mean tradition has to look the same or be done the same. Tradition isn’t a look or performance, tradition is the heart!” It seems that yet another group has fallen prey to dogmatic thinking and ignoring if not outright vilifying a different outlook and alienating the younger generation.

The clown organizations, old and new, all seem to cling to a dogmatic view of what clowning is and should be. They have appointed themselves as arbiters and gatekeepers of what clowning should represent and who is and can be a clown. This dogmatic approach is precisely why these groups are fading, much like another area of organized thought based in dogma, that’s struggling to attract new adherents and members. People who approach things from outside that group’s particular dogmatic approach are attacked, silenced, ignored and eventually cast out or ostracized.

Finley Peter Dunne famously stated: “The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

I believe the role of any artist – including the clown – is to do the same…

fear and loathing in the gay community

Recently the last dating site that I belonged to began noticing a problem of white supremacist behaviours amongst some of its members and decided to provide a “ribbon” for people who support Black Lives Matter to display on their profiles.

My profile has been static for a while, I kept getting paired with the same six local guys and I’m not going to post thirst trap photos to attract guys from other countries to hit me up for money or a Canadian Visa.

So any contact beyond friends who I regularly chat with has been… shall we say… limited…

Well I post the BLM logo on my profile and my messages blew up – most notably from guys who I figured I’d never have a chance with. Or the kind of guys I’d admire from afar – as I would admire a fine work of art – I’m kind of an old fashioned guy who would like a committed relationship based out of mutual connection, shared interests and friendship…

Turns out, they’d never have a chance with me. Telling me to “think about what I’m posting” or “to do your research, you’re clearly not educated enough to think for yourself” and “how I could support “people like that”?”

After posting that I supported Black Lives Matter, I was able to block over 35 guys whose only contact with me ranged from condescension because I was too stupid and naïve to think for myself to outright virulent racism.

Looks like the trash took itself out.

As someone who struggled when I first came out – because of my weight and poor self-image – I understood the gay community had issues with accepting people who didn’t fit the perceived “standards.” I didn’t fit in to much of the community in Toronto and only felt comfortable and welcomed in one bar.

I also know that the gay community has deep issues rooted in misogyny – particularly in the acceptance of trans and non-binary individuals who identify as male.

Despite knowing all of this, the level of racism and white supremacy the act of acknowledging and trying to uplift and support Black voices in the community raised was honestly horrifying to me.

kitchen comeuppance

I wish to applaud the women and men who came forward in the investigation of a toxically abusive chef and restaurateur here in Hamilton! It seems far too many of the chef bros in Hamilton took Kitchen Confidential as an instruction and lifestyle guide, instead of a warning.

What many of these tattooed, bandanna wearing frat boys have missed out on, was that the events described and embellished upon by a known fiction author occurred 40 years ago, and the author even later apologized for glamorizing what happened.

What these chefs have missed is the fact that many of the people described in Kitchen Confidential already had criminal records and were unable to get work elsewhere. And likely if they didn’t have criminal records when they started in the kitchens they definitely did when their bodies gave out.

They also missed out on the overdoses, the suicides, the arrests, the heart attacks caused by cocaine and hard living, not to mention the psychic scars left on themselves, the people around them and their co-workers. Sadly they tend to find out because they made the dumbass mistake of pulling this same kind of “outlaw rock star pirate chef” bullshit 40 years later.

They ignore the fact that serial predators like Mario Batali got caught and are now paying the ultimate price for their actions. They ignore the fact that people like Matty Matheson had a heart attack and nearly died during service – even his coke dealers would not supply him anymore because he was too out of control, toxic and was literally a ticking time bomb.

They ignore the fact that in his later book, Medium Raw, the author of Kitchen Confidential focused on how out of control and miserable his life had become, leaving a destroyed marriage, empty bank accounts and a shattered body and psyche in its wake.

Those are the parts of the story they all conveniently missed out on. Perhaps conveniently skipping over parts while they read Kitchen Confidential, masturbated, got tattoos, shot heroin and snorted coke.

That eventually there would be a reckoning. Maybe they’d get arrested, maybe they’d die from the excesses, maybe they’d get their wings clipped and no longer be the cause celebre/enfant terrible they once were.

Toronto has Greg Couillard and Marc Thuet, both of whom are mere shadows of their former selves. Vancouver had Anthony Sedlak, who died of an overdose soon after filming a segment for You Gotta Eat Here, which highlighted how scarily out of control his behaviour had gotten.

Either way they’ll be remembered as a sad relic of the past. Or as an example or object lesson. Whatever happens, they will eventually pay for the damage they caused and the people who they fucked over in their wake will hopefully still be there to collect.

A big thank you to Susan Clairmont for investigating and collaborating the victims’ stories with witness accounts. Equally damning that a number of the victims didn’t report outright physical and sexual assault to Hamilton Police because of the view that HPS can’t be trusted to treat victims fairly and undergo a fair and unbiased investigation.

The HPS issue is troubling and sadly the victims of sexual assault are not the only community members who feel uncomfortable reporting crimes to the police due to being treated unfairly, revictimized or worse.

Both of these issues, the toxic and abusive culture in the food industry and the toxic, abusive and adversarial relationship the police have with the public and victims of crime HAS TO CHANGE in Hamilton.

combat not collaboration

Dear you,

I’ve watched you over the years, especially in your recent posts on social media.
You act like you are playing both sides, however it is quite clear to all who see you whose side you’re actually on.

Especially those of us who did the heavy lifting through the years we fought for the right to exist as human beings and not a medical diagnosis or psychological disorder. Those of us who fought for equality and to have our right to exist recognized legally.

I suspect you’re the type who feels that now because you can exist as a “nice gay,” that the battle is over for you. Aided by your lack of melanation, your male gender and your traditional Christian family values. You got the right to marry your partner and you have a comfortable existence with your job, your house and 2 cars, you can even adopt a child if you wanted to. There is nothing for you to fight for, right?

I suspect you’re the kind of person who would vote Conservative or Republican because you’re more interested in protecting the status quo and your financial security over ensuring that other people have the same access to equality as you.
Those other folks just need to be quiet and polite and things will work out okay for them! Right? WRONG!

Your constant admonitions to community activists to be quiet and respectful indicate that you haven’t understood why you have the rights that were won for you. I suspect between your conservative political stances, your conservative religious values and your fiscal and financial conservatism, you actually were not present for much of the fight. I suspect you were comfortably ensconced deep in the depths of your Brooks Brothers suit filled closet, but popped out when all the dirty work and heavy lifting was done.

We didn’t get where we are by asking nicely. We didn’t get where we are by being polite. We lost a huge swath of at least two generations due to a disease which killed millions. We had to battle to even get this disease recognized as the public health crisis it was. We fought battles in courts, in legislatures, in laboratories and yes, in the streets. Just so you and I did not face being imprisoned, having electroconvulsive therapy or worse because of who we love.

By the way – “those other folks” – the lesbians, the trans communities, the drag queens, the BIPOC queers and the leathermen and womyn were the people who led the fucking fight. You know the ones that you just wish would be a little less outrageous, a lot more polite and acted respectfully…

We didn’t get where we are by collaborating. We got where we are by engaging in a decades long combat with a system stacked against us. Being loud was what made our fight public. Being loud was what made our fight political. Being loud was how we got the comfort you are currently enjoying.

I will continue to raise my voice. I will continue to fight so that others can have it too.

managing expectations

As decorating the Christmas tree is often a trip down memory lane for me, I’ve learned to take it easy on myself and allow myself time to process the emotions that arise as I revisit my past through the things with which I adorn my tree.

This year struck me as slightly different, as I pulled out the one ornament that usually triggers a strong emotional reaction.  The Christmas ornament depicting a large polar bear holding a smaller, seemingly younger, polar bear as if protecting them. This is the ornament that Larry gave me for the last Christmas we had together. He was working as Santa at the Toronto Eaton center, and one of the stores had this tournament, which he had personalized. Ironically it’s the only personalized ornament we had – I sometimes wonder if he knew it would be our last.

Over the past eight years I struggled with the decision to put this tournament on my tree.  This year there really was no struggle and it graces a spot of honor on the front of my tree, where I can see it if I look carefully enough for it.

At the same time, I’m struggling with the fact that this will be holiday season number seven, observed as a widower. Even more so I will be alone, for the most part, due to COVID-19. Especially telling as I would normally be very busy singing at various churches, performing holiday gigs. I won’t even have an Advent Carol and Lessons or Christmas Eve services to sing at this year.

Heck this past weekend would’ve been my annual “No Coal in Your Stocking” concert – Another decision I struggled with this year as to whether I could make it work online, as bringing in 20 to 30 musicians, hoping an audience would stay and donate to the musicians would be a near impossible task.

Meanwhile, many of my friends are celebrating newfound love, newfound family, new homes and new beginnings.  I rejoice for this!

But at the same point, here I am, living alone with a senior dog, worried about my mother who is recovering from cancer.  Working in a job that when it goes well, I feel like I’ve helped someone and achieved something, however most of the time due to COVID-19 I feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels.  It’s hard not to feel stuck in a rut.  It’s hard not to feel lonely.

It’s hard not to get depressed.

I could note that certain things are affecting me harder this year, particularly my Seasonal Affective Disorder. Those gray rainy days we had a few weeks ago were very tough on me and I had to kick and scream in order to get my good full spectrum lamp out of my office at work. I could note that certain things that I didn’t expect to hit me as hard, such as purging my house and decorating my Christmas tree, hit me far harder than anticipated.  I could note that I am so touch starved for the last time I was hugged, it actually hurt and confused me more than it gave me comfort and peace.

This is where managing expectations has become a key factor in my life. This is where managing expectations has become a survival technique for me. I count myself lucky to have survived December 2013 and December 2014, as in both years, I was quite depressed and barely functioning as a human being. I’m quite sure I can stare down the barrel of Christmas 2020 as I’m definitely nowhere near the rock bottom I hit after my husband and father died. But at the same time I’m being cautious and carefully watching where my heart and brain are taking me.

I’ve accepted that I will be working from home for the foreseeable future and I’m okay with that. I am enjoying not having to commute into Toronto every day and also am enjoying the ability to spend time with Chloe and the improved work life balance I have seen. I’ve accepted that I won’t be able to see my American friends and family in person for the foreseeable future. Until BOTH our countries get COVID-19 under control, I don’t expect the border to reopen and honestly, I won’t feel comfortable travelling until things start “turning the corner.”

I’ve accepted that while I live in a house that is, ostensibly, too big for one person, the nature of my existence is not currently compatible with that of apartment or condominium living. As I am working from home and actively isolating myself to be able to be in contact with loved ones, I need a variety of spaces to live and work from and the house is providing me with this. As I continue to “right size” my existence and rid myself of objects that are cluttering up my home, I am more comfortable in keeping the house and am beginning to see its potential. Perhaps when I retire from the day job, I can revisit plans to move and downsize – but right now…it’s just not in the cards.

I’ve accepted that my outlet for artistic expression has necessarily had to pivot and that shifting the focus off my music and back to my clowning needed to happen in order to maintain my ability to express myself. To be honest, sometimes I feel best when I have painted on that smile <insert hackneyed crying on the inside stereotype here> but it does help to bring joy and laughter to the world. I’d like to think extending some positivity and love out to a world that is struggling with division and serious anger management issues can help.

I’ve accepted that Chloe is a 15 year old dog who is showing the signs of her age. I’ve accepted that her time in my life is drawing down but I will enjoy her company and loving companionship as long as I can.

I’ve accepted that I will likely be going it alone for the foreseeable future, I often joke that since COVID-19 hit, I’ve accepted my role as a hermetic monk living in East Hamilton. Dating as a widower in my 40’s has been enlightening and horrifying at the same time. Under COVID-19, it just ain’t going to happen and that has honestly removed a lot of anxiety from my life. I’ve accepted that the feelings of loneliness will occur but they will pass. I’ve accepted that if I’m destined to share my life once more with someone, it will happen in due course.

I’ve accepted that 2020 has turned out to be a year unlike any other and that no one anticipated the shit show it has become. I’ve accepted that the only thing I have full control over in any situation is how I react and respond to it and the choices I make in responding to any circumstance will have an impact as to how the year continues to progress for me.

I’ve accepted that despite all I have accepted, that I will still continue to be tested and that, yes, I am struggling with things and that yes, I just might have to ask for help along the way – as I have – a lot – recently. This is all part and parcel of managing expectations to survive a brutal year.

Blessed Be. Dona nobis pacem.

accountability not vindictiveness

So far I’ve been called vindictive, mean spirited, and cruel.

Keeping in mind that the same people who are calling me these are often the very same people who spent the past four years calling me a sinner, a sheep, a snowflake, a sodomite, a faggot and even far worse.

These are the same people who have warned me that “people like me” Shouldn’t get used to having equal rights, such as being able to marry the people we love, own homes, and not face possible termination from our jobs.

These are the same people who have tried to justify separating young children from their parents, just because they tried to flee to freedom and increased opportunity.

These are the same people who excuse and turn a blind eye to excessive violence perpetrated by the police against people of color, just because they feel that it “might have been necessary” despite evidence proving otherwise.

These are the same people who have accepted caging people in interment camps along the border, Forcing women to be sterilized against their will, and are willing to sacrifice entire swaths of their countries population because they don’t want to wear a mask to protect others.

They’re upset that they don’t get to hug and make up and pretend the last five years didn’t happen. They’re upset that I plan on holding them accountable and perhaps even stopping it from happening again.

They can come willingly into the future or we can drag them, but I will do everything I can to make sure we get there. And that means we don’t just forgive and forget or kiss and make up.

My behavior and words do not reflect my being vindictive. I’m merely playing by the rules established by these same individuals for the past four years.

But here’s what I will NOT do…I will not tell them they don’t have any rights because I disagree with them. I won’t make it legal to fire them because I disagree with who they love. I won’t suggest they leave their country.

Demanding better, demanding changed behavior, and asking for an apology is not having or showing an unreasoning desire for revenge.

It’s asking for accountability. It’s how adults act and own their beliefs, actions and behaviors. And I’m holding these very same people to their beliefs, actions and behaviors.

dear santa

When Larry decided to portray you, I was introduced to a world of incredible people who set aside their lives to portray you, eventually leading to their being shaped by you and what you represent. I thank you for Larry’s friends and mentors who continue to don the suit of red. Many have become good friends, mentors, working partners and spiritual advisors to me.

Having you in my life figuratively and in many cases, literally, has helped me survive the past seven years as there is a constant reminder of the magick, spirit and love that you represent.  The men in the red suit who have remained in my life or joined me on my journey are blessings to me – I am reminded to love and give freely of myself through their actions.  My faith in humanity is refreshed when you reveal your presence through them.

Your biggest and best gift to me was Larry being given a focus and drive – even through the worst cancer threw at him.  Your next greatest gift to me has been that the men who portray you that stood behind and beside me and supported me when my world crumbled, many of them held me up to ensure that I didn’t fall apart.  At least two of these folks have been a large part of my life before you entered it and they remain a large part of my life.  They continue to support me in their actions, words, prayers and deeds and they remind me that faith can be a powerful thing when given the right intent and reason.  Because of them I still believe.

You have given me a good friend who both portrays you but also has taken me under his wing and works with me to create an experience where believers can share in your spirit and we can spread a message of peace and giving.   David continues to know exactly when I’m not in a good head and heart space and he reaches out to remind me of what is important and keeps me grounded.  In him I’m reminded that the spirit of St. Nicholas can still exist in an over noisy and complicated world.

You have given me a good friend who both portrays you but also has taken me under his wing and works with me musically.  David has been my most ardent supporter, believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.  He still does.  David continues to know exactly when I’m not in a good head and heart space and he reaches out to remind me of what is important and keeps me grounded.  In him I’m reminded that the spirit of St. Nicholas and St. Francis of Assisi can still exist in an over noisy and complicated world.

Make me an instrument of your peace indeed.  Both Davids are such and they bring peace within themselves wherever they goes.  Thank you.

This year, I was to have been blessed to spend time with many others who bear your mantle and joyously bring your blessings to us over two events.  Sadly due to the pandemic all travel and public gatherings have been stopped or reduced to “virtual” meetings, however I’ve been able to remain connected to the community and continue to communicate, educate and learn with the people who spread your message.

In them, you have given me spiritual supports and guides who show me that faith is a personal thing and can be balanced with my scientific mind’s desire for rationality and evidence.  Just as I believe in your existence in the hearts of the people who portray you, I believe in a higher power that exists in the hearts and minds of people who are searching for more than what appears on the surface.

David, Michael, Glenn, Hal, Bruce, Robert, Lee, Glen, and Stephen have shown me this higher power through their actions, words and hearts.  Again, they all have shown faith in me, when my own faith and belief in myself is often sorely lacking.  I thank you for their presence as it’s nice to have someone in my corner when I don’t feel like it’s warranted or deserved.

You have given me the drive to keep going when everything within me fought forward motion.  I continue to make and release music that represents who I am and provides a glimpse into whom I am striving to become.  I continue to create and build an entertainment experience that provides a sense of beauty, wonder and magic in a world that is sorely lacking these qualities.

You have continued to keep my family in my life and I am blessed with a supportive and caring Mother and an amazing brother, sister-in-law and nieces. 

So.  For once, it’s time that someone thank you for all you have given me.  Gifts that aren’t material, however gifts that have supported me, provided me strength and continue to keep me alive.

Thank you once again, Santa, for all you have given.

I love you dearly, I believe.

myke.

P.S. I hate to sound like a broken record, but I’d still like to ask you for one thing. Over the past couple of years, I have missed being cuddled, I’ve missed coming home to someone special to share my thoughts, emotions and love with. Dating has been pretty near impossible and I’ve pretty much given up at this point. While Chloe does her utmost best, I’d still like two arms to hold, comfort and reassure me at some point.

the unbearable clarity of sadness

I find it intriguing how the political and societal upheaval that has occurred over the past few years continues to divide people.  I’ve found that there is precious little room for middle ground as propaganda, misinformation and the response to certain events begins to shed the light on society and humanity and how people view issues of equality and human rights.

Many people react with horror as they watch people react to news with mass protests, anger and, yes violence.

Many of the same people have reacted with nonchalant indifference as children are separated from their parents for trying to access the same freedoms that we have, or being killed due to a warrant being executed on the wrong address or as officials who willingly admit they believe certain human beings are not equal and don’t deserve the same rights and freedoms of others are appointed into power.

I wish I could say I was angry or shocked with these people, but I’m not.  I’m sad.

I’m sad that they feel that the very things their families came to the United States for should be no longer available to others.

I’m sad that they feel that people are denied their rights to a fair trial and that “oops we made a mistake” is a pardonable reason when human error results in a death and wonder if they would be so forgiving if the victim was less melanated.

I’m sad that they feel that people like me are undeserving of the right to love who we love because we love differently than they do means and that we should even be treated as criminals or undergo dangerous and cruel medical and psychological treatment to make them feel more comfortable about themselves.  Or worse, just lie and hide who we are, trapped in a prison of their expectations.

I’m sad that they feel that the right to life ends after the baby exits the womb and that once born, it’s every person for themselves.  And that because of that they feel that doing simple tasks to protect others that may cause a slight amount of personal discomfort is an infringement of their rights and freedoms.  

I’m sad that they feel the proper response to disagreements over any of these issues is anger, hatred and increasingly these days – violence.

I’m sad that they think that “when this is all over” they think that we will go on business as usual, when they’ve shown me that they feel people like me are undeserving of the same treatment, rights and freedoms that they feel entitled to.

I’m grateful that in these uncertain times of great discord, they have shown me EXACTLY WHO they are and what they stand for.

I’m grateful that I now know EXACTLY WHO in my life feel that people like me ARE deserving of the same treatment, rights and freedoms that everyone else is entitled to.

I’m sad that I’ll never be able to go back to “business as usual” with the rest of you. THIS is the unbearable clarity of sadness.

Namaste. Peace. I love you.

clowning as a verb

It’s funny, because after nearly 30 years of performing as a clown and family entertainer, the nastiest criticism I usually get is from fellow clowns. Particularly those with minimal experience (in this case, approximately 2 years working in a local Alley) in the field.

In over two decades of performing I have lectured at the international level. I have performed and educated at conventions across the continent. I have been on staff at one of the foremost clown educational programs in the world for the past three years. I partner with one of the most acclaimed educators, performers and writers in the field.

But based on the few pictures I have posted over the past couple of days, my portrayal of Phineus is “lazy and boring.”

Why? Because I don’t “look” like the stereotypical elf character. I don’t wear a pointy hat, I don’t wear pointy shoes. There’s no green in my costume, I’m not wearing tights… I’m not “whimsical, glitzy or shiny” enough.

My reply to this individual was blunt: I won’t win any costume contests – I have won make up competitions – but I really don’t care about beauty pageants.

However I get rehired every year, because of the entertainment value I bring. To me, the word clown is a verb more than it is a noun. I may not be the shiniest and flashiest thing there, but people have fun.

And people remember playing and singing with Phineus. And to me that’s what really matters.

If people worry that I’m not getting full makeup coverage because they can see some of my skin or my costume is “drab,” I’m not doing my job as an entertainer.

And by saying I “look boring in photos,” they discount the memories of the day. It’s not about me standing out. It’s about providing a fun experience and happy memories.

I also reminded them that elf or is not the main focus at an event with Santa Claus. Santa is the primary focus and it’s up to the elf or clown to keep the kids distracted while they wait to visit with the big man in the chair. Working with Santa is the one time that a clown should set their ego aside, because it ain’t about them.

And the Santas I work with use me particularly with the kids who are frightened of Santa, because I am such a gentle, “human looking” character. The children can relate to me better because I’m not so scary and inhuman looking. And I can usually ease them into visiting the big man in the chair – by making the experience a gentle and fun time and provide the happy memories for all.

The individual ended the conversation with the fact that they are working this weekend with another clown, who “isn’t particularly funny or spontaneous, but they look good so we can make it work out after rehearsing for an hour or so.”

I sighed and wished them a good time, and went back to rehearsing Christmas songs to refresh my memory. But I guess I can rest easy because I’m the lazy one who doesn’t care…