bah! humbug…

So folks, upon reading about my ire and distaste for one particularly noxious Christmas song in particular, as denoted here, have asked me about my choices for holiday songs that I enjoy listening to.

So who am I to argue?  Here’s a list!

  • Silent Night – a beautiful song, the simpler the rendering, the better.  Trans Siberian Orchestra’s solo acoustic guitar version from “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” is almost perfect.
  • California Guitar Trio – Their entire “10 Christmas Songs” album, particularly Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring
  • Bela Fleck and the Flecktones with the Alash Ensemble – Jingle Bells (get to about 1:15 in this video and be amazed at Tuvan Throat Singing at its finest).
  • Victor Wooten – The Christmas Song
  • The Pogues – Fairy Tale of New York 
  • The Pretenders – 2000 Miles
  • Vince Guaraldi Trio – The Entire “A Charlie Brown Christmas” soundtrack, but especially including Christmas Time is Here – this entire CD gets me in the mood for the season, but the song itself is just sheer perfection.  Steve Vai does a lovely version of it on Merry Axemas Volume 1.
  • Trans Siberian Orchestra – Christmas Eve/Sarajevo – When I heard the original Savatage version, I realized that Christmas music could rock beyond what Bruce Springsteen or John Mellencamp could do…
  • Jonatha Brookes with Kevin Gilbert – O Come, Emmanuel – chilling, dark, yet hopeful.  Yes that’s a helicopter blade you hear cycling in the background.  A commentary on the militarization of the holy lands.
  • Skydiggers – Good King Wenceslas – a simple version of a wonderful hymn, I just love the Skydiggers’ harmonies and voices working together!
  • Christmas with John Denver and the Muppets – The entire album, especially It’s in Every One of Us
  • Greg Lake/Emerson Lake and Palmer – I Believe in Father Christmas (I can’t believe I forgot this one! Thanks to Steve K!)
  • Jethro Tull – Ring Out Solstice Bells – A little something for the pagan in all of us!

So there’s a good start of ten songs that I will actually stop, sit and listen to when they come on the radio…yeah right – Tuvan throat singing, solo bass and dark versions of religious music on the radio – as if!  This list is by far not complete, but gives you a good start of holiday music that puts me in the spirit…

Not to mention, of course, a little holiday CD put out by Balderdash and Humbug in 2008!

</shameless plug>

And that’s probably the last I’ll write about Christmas music – for this year at least!  Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa, a Blessed Solstice, Happy New Year and…most of all…Soylent Green is People!

myke from a to z

This is the part of the show where you, the reader, gets to learn a little bit more about me. If you have followed along so far, you already know I’m a musician, photographer, clown, writer, foodie, coffee snob and neurotic.  I am lucky enough to have a loving and caring husband, two wonderful dogs and group of family and friends who are patient, loving, understanding and supportive of my neuroses and peccadilloes!

I find most artist statements to be rather tedious, so what I give you instead is the A-Z Guide to what really tickles Myke!

ABBA.  Guilty music pleasure, my first memory of the true power of music to move you.  When I heard their instrumental Arrival as a child, it made me well up with tears and gave me a lump in my throat.  Sheer beauty and sadness personified in a musical statement.  The second concert my parents took me to.

Bass.  The sound, the guitar and the viol.  As a left-handed piano student, I learned to love the sounds the low end makes.  In concerts, it’s what hits you in your chest and you can feel the music physically move you.  I like being the person to produce those tones so the bass is my main instrumental voice.

Cortado.  In my opinion, the pinnacle of the coffee world.  Strong cuban coffee (in most cases espresso) with perfectly steamed milk to take the edge off.  Sounds easy to make, but isn’t.  Thankfully, CG has mastered this one perfectly!

DB.  Comedian, mentor, friend, partner in crime, inspiration, Godsend.  Enough said. 

Espresso.  See cortado above.  The elixer of life and basis for many of my favourite beverages.

Fretless.  My favourite form of expression on the bass guitar.  Incredible sustain, singing vibrato, smooth transitions between notes.  Allows the instrument to behave more like a voice!  My voice!

Guitar.  My secondary musical voice.  Easier to work with than bass, a lot more portable, less physical to play, but a little more generic.  Songwriting tool that’s a little more handy in coffee houses and at campfires.

Humbug.  BAH!  My musical comedy alter ego.

IPhone.  My lifeline, musical tool and connection to the world.  Enough said.

Jeff Crump’s Hot Sauce.  From Earth to Table Pizza and Bread Bar.  I put this shit on everything!

mK.  Mentor, musical genius, first and only “rock star” I ever wrote a fan letter to.  My personal icon for going about the business of music on his own terms and succeeding. 

Latte.  Mmm…breakfast.  The gateway drug of the coffee world.

Music.  After DH, my family, dogs and friends.  The next main love of my life.  My avocation, my pillar and my lifeline, which I fund through my vocation.

Neil Diamond.  Another musical guilty pleasure.  Incredible songwriting, incredible showman.  Try to top the rhyming in Solitary Man.  The first concert my parents took me to.

Old Bay Seasoning.  Universal seasoning that makes bland food taste like something.  I carry a tin of this everywhere!

Phish.  The band that showed me it’s okay to just go with the flow and groove to your heart’s content.  Try to go to a concert and NOT dance.  I dare ya!

Queer.  Yup!  I’m a member of that 10%.  It is a part of who I am but does not define who I am.

Rainbow, Mr.  The first clown to make me laugh to the point that I couldn’t form a coherent thought!  He never fails to surprise, amaze and make me laugh uproariously!

Santa Claus.  DH portrays, personifies and becomes him.  Daily.  The spirit of kindness to all, the spirit of giving, the spirit of love for humanity.

Tricycle.  I ride one built for adults.  It’s good exercise.  It allows me to carry cargo such as guitar amps and groceries.  Deal with it.

Unsweetened.  A common word in my vocabulary these days to ensure I continue to live a healthy lifestyle!  Also how a lot of my opinions are voiced.

Vasovagal Reflex.  How I know I’m full since my weight loss surgery.  As the nerves to parts of my stomach are cut, other nerves take over to let you know things.  In my case, my right nostril starts to run and, when I’m REALLY full, I sneeze!  Yup, I’m a freak!

my Weight or Waistline.  Constant factors in my life, now at a happy level, with which I am content.  See this post for more details.

brand X.  Incredible band from the 1970s featuring Phil Collins (the incredible drummer before he became a sensitive singer-songwriter of Disney soundtracks) and Percy Jones, an amazing fretless bass master.

Yerba mate.  South American tea-like beverage.  High in caffiene, often shared around the table in the spirit of community, meeting for mate is the impetus to gather with friends in many countries throughout South America.  This represents everything that coffee culture should represent!

frank Zappa.  Iconoclast, one-of-a-kind, composer, comedian, inspiration.  Enough said.

on manipulative holiday songs (well…one in particular)

So this morning I endured the first hearing of my most hated song, which thankfully is only played on the radio at this time of year.

You know the song!  It’s the one I bitch about annually on facebook and twitter and the chorus goes a little something like this:

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there’s not much time
You see she’s been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight.

AUUUUUUUUUUUUUGHH!  You guessed it!  Newsong’s “The Christmas Shoes”.

To recap:  this manipulative piece of holiday crap was written in 2000 by Christian recording artist Newsong.  And actually reached number one on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in that year.  It has since been recorded by any number of country/Christian bands and gets trotted out every year to bring tears to the eyes of radio listeners and remind folks of the true meaning of Christmas.

In 2002, this manufactured piece of treacle was adapted into a fully-fledged novel and published.  The novelisation was adapted for a made-for-tv movie startting Rob Lowe.

To recap the story line of this horrendous holiday shanty, the singer/narrator is standing in line at a checkout after doing some last minute Christmas shopping late on Christmas Eve.  In front of him in line, is a small boy dressed in worn old dirty clothes, carrying a pair of women’s shoes.

The boy tells the cashier that he wants to buy shoes for his mother, who is ill and may “meet Jesus” later that night.  The boy, of course, pays with pennies and doesn’t have enough, so the singer/narrator pays for the shoes.  The boy thanks him and walks away, leaving the narrator miraculously filled with understanding of the true meaning of Christmas.

<heaves into garbage can>

Okay, I have no problem about being reminded about the true meaning and nature of Christmas.  In fact “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, “A Christmas Carol” and many other classics of music and literature teach this lesson well. 

Of course, my main question to ask is why do we need a holiday in order to justify treating people with dignity and respect and being charitable, giving and peaceful.  It’s a sad commentary on human nature that we choose to make an effort to openly demonstrate these qualities once per year.  But I digress!

Once again, I don’t mind parables reminding me of the true meaning of Christmas and the holiday season.  However I find this one version of that tried and true formula to be manipulative, calculating and, above all mean-spirited.  Let’s go through the checklist here:

  • Grumpy guy who has lost the true meaning of Christmas?  Check!
  • In line, late on Christmas Eve?  Check!
  • Small, obviously poor young waif coincidentally right in front of him in line?  Check!
  • Said urchin is buying something obviously not for him/her?  Check!
  • Said pathetic creature pays in pennies?  Definitely!
  • Said urchin does not have enough money?  Checkarino!
  • The little child imparts a tragic tale in order to move someone to the point that they pay for the item?  100%
  • Sick and dying mother?  Yup, she’s in there!
  • “Jesus?”  Him as well!
  • and it’s all gonna happen anytime soon, more specifically tonight as it’s Christmas Eve?  BINGO!  We have a winner!

If this song even rang as being honest, it would not rate such a knee-jerk reaction from me.  However it was clearly written to manipulate people’s emotions during the holiday season and prey on Christian sentiments.  It was clearly written to be Newsong’s “big Christmas single” and was included as a “Bonus Track” on a special holiday edition of their recent album.

Once the song became a hit, was optioned for the book and the Hallmark movie, the band shut down their independent record label and signed to Zomba Music and re-released the song on a Christmas album with a mix of originals, Christian carols and such inspirational classics as “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (imaginatively titled “The Christmas Shoes”) three years later. 

In 2006, they even attempted a sequel of sorts with the “Christmas Hope” song, which had a similar theme:

Her wish this Christmas
Was that Christmas would just pass her by
Nothing could reach her
Or answer her questions why
She feels so alone
And she wonders if all hope is gone.

This song didn’t reach the heights of its predecessor.  It seems as though people saw through this one, perhaps.  Honestly, I hold no grudge to Newsong, I’m sure they are a talented group and have been on the Christian music circuit for close to three decades and they seem to have made a career for themselves.

However “The Christmas Shoes” is one of the most calulatingly mean-spirited and manipulative Christmas songs out there.  I am reminded each year, how much I loathe it and cringe when radio plays it again and again.

Patton Oswalt comments extensively on this song and it’s fucking hilarious and right on the spot…

myke on coffee

Without my morning coffee I’m just like a dried up piece of roast goat.”  – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) The Coffee Cantata

I often get called on the fact that I am a coffee snob.  Let’s get one thing straight:


Throughout my life and weight loss journey, I have had to give up a number of things that have given me pleasure throughout.  These things include:

  • Quality microbrewed beer
  • Quality whisk(e)ys
  • Carbonated beverages (ooh gas pains in a reduced stomach – NOT a good feeling!)
  • Fried foods and sweets
  • French fries (see above)

So as far as “vices” go, I have one thing left in my life:  coffee.

The plus side is that coffee is calorie free, for the most part – it’s the additions to the coffee that add to the caloric and fat count.  The bottom side is that coffee is high in caffiene, which is an irritant to the stomach and can lead to/exacerbate ulcers if consumed in large quantities (again with a reduced stomach size, NOT good, I’ve been hospitalized once due to a bleeding ulcer and don’t want to again).

So for me, coffee is a “once a day” item.  I try to have a decaf if more than one is necessary or desired, or else space multiple coffees out with a meal or two in between.  However due to my stomach’s peccadillos and reduced appetite, I am only able to put a small amount of ANY substance in at once, so I want it to be good and worthy of taking up the space for whatever period of time it takes to work through my system.

HENCE my coffee snobbery.

Little known fact:  I grew up in Ajax, Ontario, which is where Nabob Coffee has its main roasting plant.  My childhood is filled with memories of the smell of roasting coffee in the winter air.  This is compounded by years commuting past the plant every morning en route to Toronto from 1992 to 2003 and smelling beautiful roasting coffee every morning!  The smell of roasting or freshly roasted coffee has a particularly special place in my heart.

Another little known fact:  Despite my love of coffee as an adult, I hated or merely tolerated it as The Parental Units couldn’t (and honestly still can’t) brew a good cup of coffee – it’s either too week, stale or burnt tasting.  This lasted until I had my first taste of a really good coffee in, of all places, Las Vegas, NV.  At the time, a $9.00 cup of coffee seemed to be obscene and I wanted to see what it would taste like.   I splurged and it tasted good.

Hamilton, Ontario is the home of that venerable Canadian institution, Tim Hortons, home of the “double double” ™ and the now pre-made, frozen and reanimated on site doughnuts and other baked goods (ugh).  In fact, my home is less than 8 blocks from the  original Tim Hortons store, which actually has a section that is original and bears a historical plaque on the side.

That last link, by the way, is from a blog written by my favourite barista and coffee guru, CG, whom I will discuss in greater detail later on.

Despite there being no fewer than 5 Tim Hortons location within a five minute walk of my home, I only go to one of them when the dogs have run out of old-fashioned plain Timbits (their snack food of choice) or when I’m en route home and DH wants a coffee.  Why?  I CAN’T STAND TIM HORTONS’ COFFEE!

There, it’s all caps, bolded, italicized and underlined.  Emphasis enough?  Anything that needs a double shot of cream and two sugars (the aforementioned “double double” – as in double cream and double sugar) to be even remotely consumable, is really not good.  I’m not putting anything that has to be made into a milkshake or frappe in order to drink it into my stomach, folks.

McDonalds’ coffee isn’t much better and while it is predictable and represents a bastion of coffee that rises above mediocrity, I try to avoid Starbucks as much as possible as I’d prefer to support local and Canadian companies first.

Thank goodness for Hamilton’s burgeoning coffee culture.  It started out quietly with a small roastery in Dundas, Ontario.  Detour Coffee began sourcing and roasting quality beans in a local roastery, filling the Dundas Valley with the smell of roasted goodness.  Eventually, it opened a cafe in Dundas and distributed coffee to various restaurants/cafes in the area.

One of Detour’s first adopters was Hero Mobile Cafe, specializing in providing quality coffees on site for various events.  These folks have a propane-powered espresso machine and make a darn fine cup…

Up next are My Dog Joe and their sister cafe, The Mulberry St. Coffeehouse.  MDJ was my first bastion of comfort and my first regular “haunt” when I moved to Hamilton.  It was a fun, funky, casual and homey place where I could sit, write and enjoy a good cup of fair trade, properly roasted coffee along with REALLY GOOD home baked and produced goodies.  Yes, there is a dog named Joe and they have free wifi – however they are also jam-packed with students from McMaster University.  Mulberry St. Coffeehouse is now my regular haunt as it is closer to home and often not a crowded, they sell the same coffee as MDJ and since my weight loss, have my favourite menu item (vegan chili) regularly on the menu.

Red Hill Coffee Trade is next, adding to the blend of local companies that source beans, roast them and now brew them, both onsite for events AND in a cafe.  Their coffees are all fair trade and organic and they supply local restaurants, cafes and retail locations with their goods.  It was at their cafe location in the Hamilton Farmer’s Market that I met CG.

CG takes his coffee seriously.  He focuses on grinds, tamping, water temperature and pressure to ensure each cup is a great drink.  He’s also progressing in his mad barista skillz, learning how to make a cortado (my favourite espresso-based beverage) and is working on an ristretto (my second-favourite espresso-based beverage – a small powerful cup of caffiene akin to the groin kick of coffees, flavour and power-wise).  I thank CG for opening my eyes to what a good coffee should taste like and for beginning to teach me as to how to make a good cup.

CG is not perfect, however he does take constructive criticism well and is keen to ensure that all experiences at Red Hill’s location are quality.  It also helps that he is a real character and that he handles the shit and abuse that I and ME hand out quite well.

Given my recent love of cycling and love of Dundas, Ontario, another cafe was brought to my attention by MECafe Domestique is a place where cyclists are welcome and they brew up a mean cup of coffee, without intrusion from the crowds of Detour Coffee.  They treat their customers well and respect the substance that fuels their bodies.

CG has introduced me to a new person on the Hamilton coffee scene, a young lady who is opening a cafe eight blocks from my home.  She just worked Red Hill Coffee a week or so ago and impressed me with her barista skills, so I can’t wait until the Cannon Coffee Company opens.

Other places I go for caffiene fixes include The Brain (a bar that serves Detour Coffee in a 4 cup Bodum), Earth to Table Bread and Pizza Bar (home of the best burger in Hamilton and predictably decent coffee) and Cake and Loaf bakery.

So yes, my name is Myke H. and I’m a coffee addict and snob.  I’m while people think I could be a bit excessive about it, however given what I’ve given up in return for good health and a (hopefully) long life, I hope folks will understand.

“As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move…similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle.” – Honore de Balzac (1799-1859)

clowning in another culture

This is an old piece I wrote from around 10 years ago.  Kind of naive, but honest in the same way.  I still maintain the views that a good clown is more akin to wisemen and shamans than a buffoon.  Clowns are the mirror we should hold up to society to reflect the day to day idiocy of life!

It was not until recent times that pure, open laughter was considered acceptable in western, particularly Anglo-Saxon, society. It was considered inappropriate and extremely rude for people, especially women, to enjoy a moment of humor. During the Victorian Age, laughter was frowned upon. Only young women were “allowed” to laugh – mainly due to embarrassment or in deference to a man. Thankfully, things have changed.

However, many other cultures were not so oppressive. Indian, Polynesian and Native American cultures allowed laughter and even promoted it through their religions. One Native American tribe, the Hopi, figured God-like figures in their religion whose role was quite simple: the Clown. As the Hopi live in the desert land of the American Southwest (in Northern Arizona, east of the Grand Canyon), their religion is based upon the need for rain. To bring rain to their land to feed their crops, mainly corn, the Hopi called upon the grace of their gods, called Kachinas. Over three hundred Kachinas are known to exist in some form and they represent just about everything in Hopi life; corn, cactus, rain, sun, animals, even neighboring tribes. Out of the hundreds of Kachinas, the Sacred Clown is central to all of the tribes.

Every December at the beginning of the rainy period, the Kachinas come down to the Hopi villages to live among their followers. To view a Kachina’s true form impossible for a human being, so depictions are carved as dolls and given to children. Kachina dolls are not thought of as toys, but as prized possessions to guard for life. The Kachinas are said to possess certain men of the tribe for specific dances so they could better understand the plight of the Hopi. A select group of wise men were once chosen by the Clowns. In the past men who were to become clowns once belonged to a group where they were trained and lived with other Clowns, this tradition has sadly passed.

The five different types of Clown have different looks but all have set roles: to keep the people entertained between ceremonies, to keep humor alive in the tribes, to keep the children entertained during the ceremonies (through stories, games and songs) and to act as the voices of the Kachinas. These Clowns are viewed as being a jester, a priest, a wise man and the father of all Kachinas (as the Clowns always appear first during the ceremonies). The Clowns are always playful and poke fun at just about everything. Hopi humor is quite earthy and can seem to be quite offensive to non-Hopi; every aspect of life, even sex, is ammunition for the Clowns. Through their antics, there is never a lull in their ceremonies.

These ceremonies date back over one thousand years, five hundred years before European contact. It is interesting to note how these generally quiet and humble people rely on humor to deal with the hardships of their lives. Hopi life, even today, is simple; agriculture, particularly the growth of corn, is the basis of life and they continue to avoid the trappings of modern existence. The Hopi are very spiritual people who have forced the modern word to adapt to their ways.

Through my university education, I had the pleasure of meeting and working with the Hopi. It was rewarding to experience this different culture and also learn about a part of society and entertainment which is common in both cultures. It is interesting how the Hopi view Clowns as being wise and the voices of their gods, whereas our culture views Clowns as buffoons. Perhaps they know something we do not.

on clowning and humour

Now it’s becoming increasingly less known that I used to work regularly as a clown and family entertainer.

I slowed down/stopped performing as Rocky when the economy turned south and DH‘s health problems increased prior to his transplant.  I forwarded the bulk of my work to folks who relied on clowning for their living and just kept my “regulars” because it was the right thing to do.  Plus as DH‘s cancer progressed, it became harder for me to find reasons to smile, let alone laugh.

Thankfully folks like DB and MV helped ease me through that time and I began to find my smile again.  Working with DB on Balderdash and Humbug helped me laugh through a difficult time and DB‘s insistence on keeping me laughing was one of the things that kept me alive. 

This past year, with “assistance” from a local agent, I decided the time was right to explore comedic family entertainment again, however Rocky no longer represented who I was and the hiatus has continued.  A new character, named Phineas, has since been created and is currently undergoing the standard growing pains of any personality – which is weird, because I am he as he is me and we are all together…

Goo goo ga joob.

Anyways, my recent travels and experiences at the Western Region Clown Association’s annual convention made me review what good clowning was and should be.  Now, like most professional organizations, clowning conventions can be a mixed bag of people in a profession at different levels of the game, ranging from rank amateur, to skilled professionals.  However in a performance art, there are also levels of skill from “Oh gawd, stop doing what you’re doing right now, you’re awful and you’re frightening the children!” to “Oh gawd, stop doing what you’re doing right now because I’m laughing so hard I’m going to disgrace myself/have a hemmorhage!”

Unfortunately at most conventions that I have been to, there are more of the former than the latter.  Clowning is, for most, a hobby and very few people take this ancient art as seriously as it needs to be taken to be effective.  And clowning is an ancient artform, and in some cultures, such as the Hopi Indians, is considered to be sacred and a part of their religious practices.  Leave it to western cultures to turn something to the lowest common denominator.

<but I digress, I wrote a piece on Hopi clowning back in university, I’ll try to resurrect it, in all its naivety for a later blog posting> 

So what makes a good clown in my opinion?  Can you make me laugh!  And for me a laugh could be a snort, a rolling of my eyes or a guffaw.

So what makes a great clown in my opinion?  Did you make me laugh to the point of incoherence?  Was I able to talk/breathe/make a simple statement while you were entertaining?  If not, then JOB WELL DONE!

To date, I can count on two hands the number of people who have reached that lofty status in my experience:

  1. Mr. Rainbow – several times, the first time he made me laugh to the point of incoherence, he sang me the alphabet and made me totally lose my shit in the midst of a room full of strangers in Boston.  The funny thing was that he knew I’d be the only person who’d find it funny and directed it at me.
  2. Buttons – Watching him deal with a magic prop that essentially flopped before the audience and then dealing with the consequences…
  3. CLaroL – Dealing with a possibly upstaging 7 year old, handled deftly and in a funny and honest way.
  4. Bubba Sikes – perhaps one of the few Christian clowns that is actually funny and is able to deliver the Word in an entertaining way.  He completely slew me with a single well-timed look during, of all things, a worship service.  Normal IS boring!
  5. Mama Clown – for doing something she naturally does with truly unintended consequences.  She was initially embarrased then laughed it off, RAN with it and made her schtick even funnier.
  6. BB – A Big Apple Clown Care Unit hospital clown.  Quiet, unassuming and off the wall! His comedy banjo act is truly inspiring!
  7. Dooley – Another rare, actually funny, Christian clown.  He brings chaotic joy to his message and is always fun to watch.
  8. Ron Campbell – Currently portraying The King of Clowns in Cirque du Soliel’s “Kooza”, slapping me across the face with a rubber steak.
  9. Lovely Buttons – for her turkey camoflage puppet gag…incredible buildup with an unexpected ending!

So yup, in about 20 years of clowning nine clowns that I have personally witnessed perform have made me laugh to the point that I was unable to do anything but laugh…not a good average, considering all the clowns I have seen perform.  However there are folks attempting to remedy this, including many of the people mentioned above.  Many of these folks have been lecturing, mentoring and training up and coming entertainers of all stripes.  Younger entertainers, like Lovely Buttons, represent the future of family comedic entertainment and people like her are raising the bar for folks like me and other folks on this path.

And to quote Martha Stewart:  “That’s a good thing.”

i need home for a rest

“You’ll have to excuse me, I’m not at my best
I’ve been gone for a week, I’ve been drunk since I left
These so-called vacations will soon be my death
I’m so sick from the drink I need home for a rest.”
– Spirit of the West “Home for a Rest”

Actually it wasn’t that bad.  I guess it helps being 6 (soon to be 7) years sober…

I’ve had two days to decompress from the most recent road trip, pondering what transpired in Nevada and Arizona and considering (and reconsidering) what will happen in the future.

Let’s just first say that DB remains to be the most inspirational, patient and giving person I know.  He truly is a Zen Master of what he does and is generous with his talent.  I am honoured to know him and call him my friend, mentor and, according to several people at several conferences – my father?  We do have a similar rapport, and he is like a second father to me – you know the cool dad who aids and abets you in your nefarious deeds <grin>…Whenever I am asked to travel with him, it is nigh impossible to say no because creativity, music and laughter soon follow.

The entire trip was predicated on a gig at the Western Region Clown Association’s annual conference where DB was the headliner and was also lecturing.  We performed for their opening evening festivities and…ummm…made our mark on the audience.  So much so, that their president, Matt Akers lauded us with the following praise:

“We’ve had worse!” – Matt Akers, President of the WRCA, November 7, 2011.

Actually we had a good time, know where we need to work on some stuff live and must always remember that despite being equal opportunity and skewering the Democrats in the prior song, skewering a Republican in a song WILL put off some of the more vociferous people in the crowd, who WILL complain.

Ohh well, as a wise man once wrote “How do you know if you’re going to risk offending someone?  Ask yourself this question:  Are you breathing?”

Fuck it if them clowns can’t take a joke.  Aren’t they supposed to have a sense of humour?  Hmmmm…maybe not.  However the folks that actually walked up to us afterwards seemed to have a good time and commented on how much they loved our performance.  Long and short of it is that we sold CDs and I’ve noticed a spike in Balderdash and Humbug downloads on iTunes and AmazonMP3…mission accomplished!

PS. if you want your B&H CDs in time for Christmas, message me soon and I’ll ship them to you!  Otherwise you can always download them from iTunes or!

<end shameless self promotion>

One last thing about Laughlin, NV.  I’m sure it’s quite a wonderful place for those who still drink, smoke and gamble.  But for those of us who do none of those things (anymore), there isn’t a whole heck of a lot to do there.  Think of it as kind of a cross between Las Vegas and Branson and you get a rough idea of what it’s like there…gorgeous sunsets though!

Throughout the road trip, my guitar behaved itself and my voice held up despite the constant talking, laughing and singing (and the dry desert air, combined with the smoke and dingy surroundings of Laughlin).  A lot of writing was accomplished and a LOT of laughing was done…I am content and pleased with how the week went.

Aside from gigs and DB’s lecturing to clowns, we spent the time exploring the southwest and spent time in the Grand Canyon, which despite the six inches of snow, never ceased to amaze me with it’s breathtaking beauty and awe-inspiring sights.  I enjoyed hiking the canyon, despite the cold temperatures, blistering wind and icy trails.  Thankfully I had a decent pair of hiking boots and my trekking poles to keep things safer.

As you can see, nature can be quite humbling in its beauty, majesty and power!  This side trip to the Grand Canyon served as a reminder about how much I loved the US southwest and its people.

Another side trip that we took was to Oatman, Arizona.  Oatman was a gold rush town that died off when the mines dried up.  It’s most known for it’s burros, which were used to cart the ore up to the surface from the mines.  When the mines dried up, the people simply released the burros into the wild, where they thrived and now have become a tourist attraction.  Oatman further died when the interstate highways went through, effectively killing Route 66 as the major thoroughfare east to west.  It now exists as a tourist attraction filled with crumbling buildings and shops…well worth a look for a glimpse into the Old West!

When we arrived at 8:37 in the morning (both DB and I are early risers and we were still functioning on EST and not Pacific Time), the burros were still up in the mountains, all that we saw was what they had left in the streets.  It was still a fun road trip nonetheless and we stopped several times on the road back to civilization to take in the scenery while listening to the most suitable soundtrack for the road trip – Tom Waits’ “Beautiful Maladies.”  Trust me, it is a most suitable soundtrack for the road back from Oatman!

Highlights aside, the road trip went really well.  I’m going to add another blog about my opinions regarding clowning and family entertainers soonish…once I’ve clearly put my thoughts together in hopes to avoid further offending more clowns.

I did, however, meet someone who is taking the art of clowning to the next level and she has totally impressed me with her ability to think outside the box (although I think her box has long been used as kindling) and combine her skills as an entertainer incredibly well.  More on her at a later date as well!

I’ve also had the opportunity to learn some further skills and gain some technical expertise and supplies (thanks to a lovely makeup artist whom shall be addressed in the later blog post as well) to assist in a future project of mine, that I am working on with The Cossart Exchange.  Be afraid, be very afraid!

I am now home, recovering, and preparing to start back at the day job.  DH is busily preparing for Christmas baking and has begun to decorate the house.  I have a few more hours before the crushing hammer of reality hits me and I become an office drone once again, I hope that nothing blew  up too badly while I was away actually enjoying myself!