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

Mr. State Trooper, Thank You

Shout out to the Po-po! One man’s recent experience in a time of very poor relations….

I knew right when I gassed the pedal to get around a hulking, diesel spewing pickup truck outside of Ranier that I was in trouble. Just as the opportunity presented itself to get around some very slow moving traffic I had been following for a few miles along Highway 30 out of Astoria, I accelerated very quickly hoping to pass multiple vehicles in what I assumed would be a short window of time. Even before I had cleared the truck, I noticed the Oregon State Highway Patrol car, and it noticed me. Cursing the timing of its presence and my luck, I quickly slowed to reinsert my vehicle into the flow of traffic after my pass, too little too late. I saw the shiny silver Dodge blink its lights, pull to the side of the road and cut a U turn quickly. My heart sank as I thought of the encounter to come.

I had struggled to justify to myself the extended stay out at Seaview in the Sou’Wester after continuing financial struggles with career transition via COVID pandemic and the closure of my restaurant. But I really needed the break from the noise generated by my heavy footed upstairs neighbor and her fussy schnauzer. With battles over noise levels daily hindering my ability to record Voiceover spots from home, a release valve for my frustration was essential. Now I would likely be adding to that sum, and the frustration, significantly. I thought of how reasonably I had driven for the last week despite being baited endlessly with rubber neckers and distracted drivers as I proceeded up and around the Olympic Peninsula. I thought of how ridiculous it was to be getting a ticket on the way home from a vacation intended to calm and revivify me. I felt myself a fool and acknowledged as much into the rearview mirror as the State Trooper pulled in behind to follow me for a few miles before finally dropping the hammer. I hoped that he might sense my acknowledgment of error and contrition.

The lights came on, and though I considered Hunter Thompson’s advice to give a little chase to earn my pursuer’s respect, I decided against the move, preferring to implement my diplomatic skills. I hurriedly tidied an interior disheveled by nearly a week of travel glamping. I worried that the state of my interior might provoke a search. The clothes, gear and grocery sacks littering my backseat after a week on the road could work for or against me. I might be seen as either a happy camper or a homeless vagabond. I’m ashamed that the threat of the blue and red lights cow me still into a need to justify my actions. Such is the game of authority. 

Officer Kean, a younger athletic male in his 30’s with a close cropped hair and a tattooed arm sleeve, stepped to my passenger side window and informed me that our conversation was being recorded. I assented as he asked if I knew why I had been stopped. Calmer than expected, but still quaking a bit internally, I went on the offensive and apologized profusely for my error– I explained that I had been trying to pass the large diesel for a few miles and unfortunately chose an inopportune time to do so. As he requested my license and registration, I laughed nervously at my poor timing, him spotting me just as I began to execute the pass. No way I could deny my speed.

Although my insurance e-card in my iPhone Wallet was missing the vehicle make, and my registration form lacked the authorization signature because it had been completed online during COVID quarantine, I presented them as calmly as I could, remembering to inform the officer that I was reaching into my glove box. Officer Kean nodded, watching me closely through the opened window. I could hear the silence as I reached across to the glove box. He informed me that he would return shortly.

Officer Kean returned to his automobile to confirm my license, registration and driving record. Meanwhile, I attempted to find calmer breath, and I practiced accepting this surprise pitfall at the end of an otherwise glorious, spontaneous outing. My reward to myself for surviving privation in heavy isolation for the last year and more would not be lost despite this setback. I thought that perhaps I had deserved a cross check for too quickly forgetting the calm I had sought to achieve with the unexpected expenditure of my very limited resources at the moment. I munched on some dried cherries to distract myself, to regain my composure for whatever came next.

Officer Kean returned calmly and began with an admonition to practice greater care in passing on this road where there had been many gruesome accidents of late and to allow greater patience in passing when allowed a longer passing lane, as with this portion of the highway. I monitored his face to determine what his tone indicated, where he was headed with this. He acknowledged my frustration with slower traffic and the need to accelerate significantly when attempting to pass in a short distance, but he cautioned me to practice better judgment. I readily agreed, thinking it better to do so even if I still received the ticket. He warned of the high cost of speeding violations in addition the dangers it presented, some $265 for a ticket at my speed of 80 in a 55 MPH zone, honestly not too much short of the price tag for my 4 day stay at the Sou’Wester. My heart sank further as I began to rationalize the coming ticket as punishment for my irresponsibility for taking time off that I could not afford. 

And then, having warned me of the potential dangers of both the roadway and my passing technique, while also apparently weighing the circumstances of my transgression (possibly mitigated by the bad luck timing of the maneuver), Officer Kean thanked me for my honesty and let me go with the warning he had just offered. He said that he rarely encountered such accountability, and he very much appreciated it. Tears nearly came to my eyes with gratitude for this Officer of the Law for allowing that my pass was justified though ill-timed, for responding to my honesty when I admitted my wrong, for interacting with me simply and straightforwardly like a human being. Given the ongoing hostility between the general public and the police stemming still from the continued murder of innocent black folks around the country, my heart is full with the experience of something different from this unfortunate narrative. 

Although I well realize my privileged position as a white male in this encounter, I am nonetheless pleased to report a positive encounter with another human being, an Officer of the Law, who really did protect and serve me. I might have reached 5 miles above the speed limit for the remainder of my drive, realizing with renewed regard the pleasure of my freedom and the beauty still all around me as I regained perspective:) I was fortunate enough to enjoy this and still am. I might have lost it with the pass, with a misstep in communication with authority, or by any other means really. I’ll take my medicine with a smile this time, and thank you for a clean getaway, Officer.