Hell, let’s call him Alias…

5/28/21- Overcast Friday, but balmy. Gratitude for good work done. Dylan thoughts.

Alias….anything you please. Reminded by the celebration of his 80th birthday to delve back into my Dylan collection, I am again amazed by the lyrical genius and pathos of this extraordinary storyteller, musician, human being. Though I likely intend to return for a closer look at other of his works, I was struck in particular this morning by the soundtrack he created for perhaps my favorite Western film of all time, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. Having just reviewed the film a month ago after years of interval between viewings, and even though Amazon sold me a later Director’s cut missing perhaps the best scene of the movie, I was again gutted by the narrative of friendship, betrayal and the choices we make when pressure comes to bear. I enjoy this punishing clarity.

I consider the music that Dylan created for Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid some of his gentlest, most subtle commentary upon human vulnerability and relationship. It is evocative of wide open land, expansive skies, flaming sunsets. When I hear it in the film, I want to LIVE IN THE SOUND that it creates. Images arise of partners in the best kind of crime: outlaws enjoying their incorrigibly wild freedom from the oppressively regimented, commodified future coming with the westward advance of the Santa FE Railroad. When I hear this music, it reminds me of the quiet confidence, gentle ferocity, the sensitive audacity of Billy as played by another idol of mine, Kris Kristofferson.

Dylan’s touch to this Peckinpah classic simply sends it over the top; it complements the storytelling so well that it is indeed part of the story. The surprising softness of it capably holds the space for the emotional conflict presented by two long time friends placed in opposition to one another by the shifting pathways of their responses to a quickly changing and unforgiving world. Despite the deep connection they’ve shared from many adventures survived, and likely enjoyed, they must make choices, like all of us everyday, to respond to, to survive the greater momentum of larger society. Songs like Cantina provide an even greater depth of feeling for the viewer, the tension of regret and resolve bonding the characters even as they dispense with one another. The title track, Billy, allows the audience to feel the nuanced affection these apparently very bad men feel for one another from their introduction in the town square. When Billy is taken the first time, the resigned abnegation of self he displays walking, arms splayed to his captors, is accentuated undeniably by Dylan’s background ditty.

I could go on, but you probably don’t care about westerns anyway. Not sure Dylan did so much even, considering the wealth of what might be considered more serious work through the career of one of the most talented lyricists I am likely to experience in my lifetime. Doesn’t matter. The magic that his sound lends to this film is akin to the beauty of the deep, soulful stare of Harry Dean Stanton, another longtime favorite of mine, like the long anticipated embrace of an old friend tinged with a haunting sense of foreboding for its ephemerality. This hits me in the belly, heart and head all at the same time. Even as I write about it, the feeling that the images his music conures, tightens my chest, wrings the water from my tear ducts, and a then moment later like a trickster, it calms with similar incontestability, the consoling warmth of the memory of better times. But I reside with a Cancer domiciled Moon, it’s easy for me…:) Thank you, Bob Dylan, for your brilliant sensibility and for the talent with which you express it. Happy 80th Birthday. Thank you for music that has enriched my life beyond measure.

Must Have Heard Me

Funny, after my complaint about poor content, one V.O. Website must have been listening! I found and recorded some humorous copy right in my wheelhouse just this morning…And again, the website pulled the audition hours earlier than listed. I find this a frequent and very frustrating occurrence. While I pay a premium for SEO and auditions, I am punished by a nameless, relentless algorithm! I’m inevitably the last to receive the invitation and often find myself shoring up great copy to find that the V.O. website has decided to close the audition far earlier than listed. Must be some hurry to get that copy out that can’t wait for a few more submissions! My experience with entertainment work timetables indicates otherwise. Hurry up and Wait, Eh?! Anyway, having witnessed a lamentably noticeable shift in attention/distraction/proliferation of misinformation clearly through my 20+ year restaurant and bar service, and especially in light of the recent political landscape, I had fun with this announcer style ad. Enjoy!

Social Media Spoof for Kids TV

Thank you, Self

5/25/21- Rain! Not enough, but better than none. Draught conditions before Summer.

I wanted to take the time to write myself a thank you note for a small victory. In efforts to practice gratitude more consciously during prolonged tough times, I must appreciate the little advances I make since I am naturally (or perhaps through my childhood nurture/:) inclined to be very critical of myself, deprecatingly dismissive of my successes. No, my critical eye is not reserved strictly for others. I am hardest on myself and those close to me, like most. And I have been struggling for over a year now to garner much support and maintain momentum in Voiceover without anyone really to cheer me on consistently but myself. I know I am not alone in this endeavor, but I have found few relationships that encompass or articulate similar life experience.

Being sent pretty poorly written copy for months now through various pay-to-play VO websites, I had been thinking about my dissatisfaction with the content, my growing disconnection from it. Knowing that I’d feel more invested in my process by writing my own copy, I began to do so and found myself with renewed interest in my practice and with greater connection to my material, allowing for better reads. I had taken copy from a few emails generated by the Endangered Species Coalition regarding declining Salmon and Orca populations caused by dammed rivers, overfishing, toxic industrial effluent, soil erosion from clearcutting, tanker engine noise pollution and so on. I edited it meticulously to generate some VO copy soliciting my involvement as a narrator for an upcoming audio/visual exhibit in Seattle. Emailing the Creative Director, I was invited to resubmit some of the material as an ad for the show.

Only took 3 years. Granted, there is an ongoing worldwide pandemic, the interruption of 2019’s foray into Acting for skills building, and possibly a renewed general aversion to my manner of speaking since it has become even more strongly associated with platitudes of ignorance through the Trump era. Yet, throughout the many months of the COVID 19 quarantine, I have been steadily plying away at my trade in the shadows, sending spots to friends and family that hardly respond, reaching out to production companies and talent agencies across the country, fine tuning my tiny hallway closet studio to counter the noise consistently and unapologetically provided by an upstairs neighbor. A 22+ year veteran of hospitality situated by spinal injury and financial necessity, I have been unable to return to a permanently closed restaurant and have been nursing a dislocated shoulder for months to allow me to return to hospitality work as Vaccinations allow for the health safety to do so. Time is getting tight.

So, even though I was paid a nominal honorarium for hours of work copy writing, recording, multi-tracking with a new DAW, editing and submitting 2 radio ready Spotify commercials, I found myself thrilled to do so, happy for the new skills I gained through responding to the needs of the situation, and heartily invested in subject matter about which I care. The work was effortless, fluid, invigorating; I completely forgot about my chronic pain on multiple occasions! I also made a connection within the Environmental community, hopefully a future collaborator. So, even though these affirmations might not help when rent comes due and the groceries are low, the boost that Jeanne Dodds allowed me to allow myself with this work has me feeling far more (cautiously) optimistic about the future, or at least the rest of the day, week.

Thank you Self, for persevering in the shadows. You did well.

Submergence: Going Below The Surface with Orca and Salmon, Spotify Ad #1
Submergence: Going Below the Surface, Spotify Ad #2

Back in the Saddle

1st Self Tape audition in months for short film HOME.

Well, this may not be my best work, but I am happy to be practicing in front of a camera again. Lily Lion has a script about Homelessness, ever-present in Portland today, and I wanted to be a part of any message calling attention to the crisis and need for genuine dialogue…even if I play a smarmy, well-intentioned neighbor who just doesn’t get it.

One of my best pretender looks: fine, upstanding citizen;)

Nomadland Thoughts

5/24/2021- Cloudy, Misty Monday & I welcome the Rain.

As I finished reading Nomadland by Jessica Bruder last night, encouraged to hasten my reading pace by notice of an ending Libby loan, a few things came to mind from my past and also with regard to my future. Concerned as she is with the modern reversal of retirement security and with the working poor shouldering the onus of most of the economic risk taken by a corporate oligarchy today, I felt my heart lift and sink alternately as she detailed many experiences and reflections with which I was personally familiar from my 2 month Van dwelling adventure in Maui back in 2015. As I read about the hordes of dispossessed 50-70 somethings roaming the desert wilderness in search of warmth and community, low wage slaves to unscrupulous Land Management concessionaires and Amazon shipping facilities, I empathized with their plight in search for a safe place to park their lives. 

Changing my once-in-a-lifetime travel plans in the fall of 2015 to begin from Maui rather than Thailand for what I hoped would be a period of world travel for which I had saved years, I found myself unhoused in days by the misrepresentations of my oldest friend in Portland, who had not plausibly confirmed my stay with her landlord. My only other acquaintance on the island offered a filthy 2002 Chevy Astro Van in which he had camped irregularly around the island. I had to gut and sterilize the interior before moving in with the help of my girlfriend who had arrived a couple of days before to celebrate her birthday with me on the island. There is nothing quite like the feeling of having everyone at the laundromat watching you withdraw the contents of your vehicle in the parking lot; sweep roaches, rats, their feces and so much trash out of your living space as others stare on in amazement and judgment…with your honey in tow.

There were few legal and safe places to camp on the island. I found myself moving constantly for ice, water, food; trying to blend in, cultivating stories to explain my lack of local address, maintaining the camouflage of a well maintained vehicle, mindful of the predatory innuendo attached to my white van. As Bruder reaffirms, In America, if you don’t have an address, you’re not a real person. Multiple encounters with the police, ominous road wanderers, and tacit dismissal by wealthy tourists occupying the same beaches all reminded me that, “When people think you’re homeless, you start to feel homeless.” Although my gal rose above the situation with a kindness that allowed us to bond even more closely in the moment, I could not deny the disquiet I felt when she left, now left to my own to enjoy what I could of my unintended Van Dwelling experience. A bittersweet time indeed, I found peace briefly in Haleakala and the rare surf session, but little elsewhere during my stay on an island turned amusement park for the rich only.

As I consider my future as a disabled, now middle-aged man still suffering from spinal disfunction & chronic pain that has limited my earning capacity for all of my adult life & most particularly in light of the stark picture of the continued rapid decline of any income parity in the American economy, I see a great likelihood of my return to mobile life, and perhaps not so far off in the future with COVID economic dislocation and Trump’s strategized polarization of American society into Haves and Have Nots. Stephen Jay Gould’s quote form the novel stays with me, “I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.” Without even delving into the acceleration of hardship wrought by human induced Climate change, I consider all of the economic misfortunes blamed repeatedly upon the victims as the world burns. I’ll continue in my poverty to embrace minimalism, rejection of consumer culture and, most importantly, the Hope of the Road, fostered simply by the exciting intimations of forward momentum. 

Thank you Jessica and All those interviewed.

From Silvianne’s rendition of Roger Miller’s classic in the novel…

Old beat-up high-top van,

Like livin’ in a large tin can,

No rent, no rules, no man,

I ain’t tied to no plot of land.

I’ve got cool forests for summer fun,

Winterin’ in the Desert sun,

I’m an old gypsy soul with new goals,

Queen of the Road!

My friends still think I’m insane,

But for me their life is way too tame,

If I sometimes sing the blues,

Small price for the life I choose.

I’ve found all space is hollowed ground,

If we will but look around,

In our sacred search for the New Earth,

Queens of the Road!

….And you can pick up Nomadland to read the rest!

Sunset from the back of the Van at Baldwin Beach: One of the Better Days