January 10, 2009
Hey, how ’bout a fast forward update
in order from the beginning
of The Junkyard Ghost Revival Tour till now:
Derrick Brown and Anis Mojgani
(who keep on bein’ heroes as much as they are friends)
and I flew out to Anchorage, Alaska back in September
to prepare for our national tour and iron out kinks in the show
before rotating fourth members started joinin’ in one by one.
On the plane ride out to Anchorage
Derrick had an assignment to walk the length of the aisle
staring at passengers through these:
He had to look back and forth at all the people in every row as he passed.
Watching Derrick Brown be creepy to people who don’t know him
makes flyin’ friendly skies feel more like home.
My return assignment was to laugh as loud as I could for at least one full minute
during the crummy movie they were showin’.
The surprise to myself was that at a certain point
I started actually laughing, loud, then I couldn’t stop. So I just got louder.
Anis, who was sittin’ at the front of the plane, didn’t know what was goin’ on,
but he said the insanity traveled well.
After we arrived…
…we had a nice big dinner with a poetry class,
then Anis and I pole danced at a local bar:
The locals must have seen better pole dancers before
because they weren’t really into the jams.
That girl dancin’ and a clappin’ in the background was our new friend Carly.
Her brother works in Antarctica. Anis and I thought that was awesome.
Carly went with us to the next bar too.
That’s where we had our first real dance party of the tour.
The locals weren’t feelin’ us there either.
They just liked beer and wondering…
Derrick got strep throat and went back to the hotel after our show the next night
but me and Anis had calamari steaks in good sauce, lobster ravioli
and some fancy fish with Heather Prunty, who had brought Sage and I out there
the last time I was in Anchorage.
It was a real bummer of a way for Derrick to have to start the tour, but
he’s no whiner, and anyhow Andrea Gibson showed up with her power
to help us kick off The Junkyard Ghost Revival Tour just right
in Portland, OR. Andrea was the first of four rotating fourth members
on what would become a necessary and unforgettable adventure.
Andrea Gibson sure is glory. Glory glory.
Mercy. And no mercy.
I swear she eats trumpets.
One time she let me write a blurb for her book
Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns.
I said somethin’ like, “Andrea Gibson
does not just show up to pluck your heart strings.
She sticks around to tune them.
If being floored is new to you, ya might wanna grab a cushion.
Whatever the opposite of fooling someone is, Andrea does that.
Beware of the highway in her grace
and the crowbar in her verse.”
With Andrea there was the opening show at Lewis & Clark
where Timmy Straw (the reason for the poem “Jean Heath”) played piano,
and there was running through the rows of trees to Spokane,
stocking up on food from her fans to Idaho, and the ghost towns
with the writing on the wall and stuffed beavers in the bar,
and the joy of heckling her vegan face in the Powell, Wyoming grocery store parking lot,
throwing rocks over railroad tracks, breathing life with her onto the stage in Boulder
and hearing her poem “Thank Goodness”, and meeting her girlfriend Heather
and gasping for breath with them from laughing at Derrick and Anis
after the Sigur Ros concert at Red Rocks, where Derrick bought Anis that sweet
cash money necklace light and made him wear it, and there was
the impromptu show in Denver at Andrea’s home venue, The Mercury.
There was the last-minute show in Nebraska where the owner asked the audience to not clap…
for fear of disturbing the yoga classes upstairs…
so we instigated the raising of his roof with joy and foot stomps,
and the crowd could not be contained boy, and there was
Delta Spirit across the street that night where we danced again,
and then there was hanging out in Chicago where Andrea got to eat like a queen,
soccer at the rest area, Heeli’s in the parking lots, watching the debates in that cozy hotel,
missing the hot air balloon ’cause of weather, but ending Andrea’s leg of the tour
on an incredible note anyway at the Opera House in Traverse City, MI
where we made her rap.
Hey, Whole World,
I love Andrea Gibson.
Can’t help it.
That pretty much goes for every Junkyard Ghost on the Revival tour.
Yeah, even Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz.
Cristin joined up with Derrick and Anis and I next…
…but not before we bought a 30lb sack of corn at a gas station in Michigan
then incorporated him into our show, starting with Syracuse. We miss you Corn.
We trust you’re enjoying your new home in New Hampshire…
But yeah, back to Cristin, who joined us in Providence, RI.
Cristin very well may be the funniest woman alive (except for Mike McGee).
She entered the van resplendent with games, and presidential flash cards,
and [not so] subtle reminders that we were to love her leg of the Junkyard Ghost tour
way more than stinky Robbie Q’s, and she repeatedly pointed out that Robbie Q
certainly wouldn’t show up with presidential flash cards (which he didn’t),
but that he would instead probably just end up giving us all
butt cancer (which he did).
With Cristin there were crack squirrels, and waking up to her nonstop adorable
sweet-hearted-NESS with that precious gorgeous face of warmth.
There was Catch Phrase, and our daily brain tests, and that feeling of joy
Anis and Derrick and I got as we watched Cristin do her thing that first night at Brown University
when we realized we’d made another solid choice regarding who to bring on our tour.
She had the audience rollin’ out of their seats.
There was the Big Chicken Barn, lady bits represent,
hands that blow up making me laugh, the psychotic knocking over of microphones,
photographing her fighting a tide, the night at the lighthouse,
Whole Foods puppetry, her love poem at Dartmouth,
the wisdom she poured out over my holding patterns,
and there was the visually stunning trip to Vermont
where we stayed with indiefeed.com‘s Mongo and Ivan.
We got fed and sheltered like royalty at their farmhouse in the peak of fall.
There were biscuits and gravy the next mornin’.
Cristin left us with gifts (which Robbie Q also failed to do)
and warm letters signing off from her leg of the tour.
Some folks are patient enough to make this world a better place
without dissecting it first, or askin’ for anything in return,
and who do it with pure comedy and a gracious spirit.
Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz rocks this planet like that
and I get to call her friend. That’s pretty cool.
Not as cool as Loverboy songs, but pretty cool anyhow…
Things got blurry during the Nashville show.
It was back to just the three of us again.
We hadn’t yet picked up Momma. Miss Sonya Renee. Miss Classy Nuts.
Miss Shakes Thang. I caught me a cold comin’ outta the University of Maryland show
just after we left Crisitn (that’s the show where the lights went out
and I finally got to use my ball cap headlamp!).
So, sick as I was, I took some DayQuil before the show in Nashville,
and drank whiskey, ya know, to kill the bad germs.
Turns out, there was a young church right under that club for some reason,
having a service before we started. It was Sunday night. So I went to church.
I brushed my teeth first.
The preacher told a story about breaking the law
in order to baptize a guy at a closed swimming pool.
I liked that the name of the rock club above us was called
The Mercy Lounge.
Our first show with Sonya Sweet Buns was in Conway, Arkansas.
It was clear that all parties were pretty wiped out from travelin’ that day.
During the piece “Jean Heath” I lost my marbles and for the second time in my career,
that I can recall, I spent the entire poem noticeably fighting back more and
more streams of tears piling out of me one after another
just like all that snot down the back of my throat,
sick and worn from the road, moody and feelin’ sorry for myself
like people do when they forget to not be so pitiful about any given day.
A reporter drove 2 hours out from Texarkana that night.
She accidentally brought a drunk redneck with her
who essentially ended up calling me a hippie faggot at a restaurant.
There was no more martyr left in me;
I’d chucked it across the highway that day.
There was no patience left, or good wishes to correct him kindly,
or any stock of meek passivity in me when I stood up and asked him
if he’d ever had his ass kicked by a faggot.
He said no. I told him the difference is
“When I’m done, I’m gonna fuck you.”
The redneck’s friend spared him any more humiliation and dragged him out.
The reporter was crying and felt embarrassed for bringing him along.
I told her not to do that. She was a nice woman.
She wrote me an email a couple weeks later sayin’ that after several warnings
they finally left that boy at a gas station two hours from home
because he wouldn’t stop crapping out of his mouth.
She gave him 75 cents to make it back on.
The boys and I sure liked her email as it arrived on the tail end
of finding out about Prop 8 in California.
Since she never got the photo to go with her interview,
we had taken one just for her that night, and sent it off:
Despite the initial turbulence, BADASS pretty much sums up
Sonya’s leg of the tour. It was a badass time. And the woman
can play the hell outta some games, y’all.
She won just about everything we played in the van.
I hope Cristin doesn’t read this and shoot me with jealous bolts.
Cristin’s proud of her games skills. Whereas, Sonya’s proud of her wig collection.
Roomin’ with Sonya was fun (sans evil morning phone calls)
except for the time her wig was on the back of the bathroom door
and it jumped out at me when I glanced up from the mirror.
It crawled up my skin enough to make me yelp like a wussy.
With Sonya there was that beautiful windy night in Austin
(where the crowd had an opportunity to interview Sonya’s wig).
There was Sonya not flinching one bit as she drove our van into that burrito place parking lot
with Derrick on the hood, shirtless, in freezing weather, singing Journey’s “Separate Waves.”
There was that glorious night in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
standing under the most massive star shot sky,
and dance party Amarillo, and Sonya’s beautiful back-up singin’,
and getting flashed, and no dogs on tour, and the haunted house where
Sonya scared some of the haunted employees, and there was Anis having a partner
in volume crime, and historical trivia, and vocabulary, and Sonya’s van interview,
and dropping her off in L.A. where her friend met us at a cafe
only to find the boys in “The Devil” mode…
Sonya Renee was voted Most Cuddlable Woman Alive (except for Mike McGee)
in a poll I just took with myself. Her story is inspiring to say the very least.
Her power is extraordinary and I imagine it rises out of her gift for bravery,
her knack for quick wit, her retained education, her champion spirit
and the honest way she walks into a room, very clearly
able to give off all that light without apologizing.
That’s how MY team rolls.
After we got her home to Los Angeles, Sonya came back out to do
one last show with us… the Double Decker Bus Party in Long Beach!
where Robbie Q finally joined up to finish out the tour
(without bringing games or gifts; just butt cancer):
Still searching for a pic of all 5 of us together.
Our first full show with Robbie Q was in Reno.
Derrick and I watched him from backstage
and spit up chunks of our food from laughin’ too hard.
Robbie’s physical humor is spot on, and it don’t hurt that
he and comedian Mike Birbiglia have near identical intonation.
At one point at a later performance in Forest Grove, Oregon,
while we were all onstage at the same time, Robbie
began maniacally yelling at some fictional neighbor
about the neighbor needing to get control over his bear
or Robbie was gonna come over there and kick that bear in its pus…
I lost it. Robbie looked so sincerely pissed at this invisible neighbor
and its out-of-control bear that I couldn’t help but laugh till I cried in front of the audience.
I was still laughing like gettin’ in trouble at church
when Derrick and Anis tried returning to the mic.
Robbie Q’s heart is golden marbles and sincere, like playgrounds.
At any given moment just the right word out of his mouth buckles me laughing,
and I really appreciate how much he understands me when I’m grumpy.
With Robbie there was punching go-karts on the slip track.
There was the freezing lake we all jumped into
when we stood on the pier and faced the sun.
That memory lives large in my thoughts of greatest moments,
the four of us diving into that ice clear water by Tahoe…
Donner Lake. There was such joy … and shriveled balls.
The only way it could have been a better moment
is if Cristin had been there instead of Robbie…
There was the tri-fold mirror of San Rafael
where we pulled the audience on stage for the whole show,
and at Berkeley when Robbie leaned over without knowing that
Derrick was quickly positioning an offstage mic over Robbie’s head
so that when Robbie sat back up, his noggin bumped against the mic and
one could hear a ginormous thud throughout the 400-seat auditorium.
There was that unexpected awesome show in Forest Grove, OR
where Robbie climbed the pole high up the side of the theater
to welcome everyone, and brought out the stage light to keep bad ghosts away,
and there was our last show on sweet sweet Election Night
where Robbie helped us celebrate history, when we all found out
in the middle of the show that Barack actually won!!!
There was the celebration between our audience and the people outside,
then the surprise march through the streets of Bellingham with all
the college students, and the good food with good friends afterward.
And the dancing. All that damned dancin’ y’all.
Robbie Q is a giant knitted scarf.
Here’s fun face:
And here’s serious face:
Derrick, Anis and I had one final full show by ourselves the next day in Bellingham.
Derrick surprised Anis and I with two new pieces he had been writing
throughout the tour. I had no idea. Both pieces turned out pretty dang spectacular
(as if Derrick would write any other way). He titled the one for me
Church of the Broken Ax Handle.
Watching one of my performance poetry heroes read a poem written for me
is not unlike having your very own never-ending neon water slide.
Jus’ sayin’. It felt like flowers in my throat. But the power of the poem, that
felt like pile drivers toe-to-toe with a monster truck rally.
Came like hurricane wisdom. Man, he’s good. Derrick Brown helps teach me how to
let go of the controls, how to make most anything entertaining, how to do
what I aspire to do and just live for a living. He is constantly alive for the right reasons.
Anis had booked one last gig for the three of us to do together.
It was a Slam in Portland with some good friends of ours
(Tara Hardy, Karen Finneyfrock, Jodie Knowles). 500 people showed.
The organizers really hooked us up well with a fantastic hotel and theater,
a fun welcome party and extra nights in Portland.
We got to see Anis’s roommates and cat, Ivan, again. I remembered
the bowling and softball and costumes before we started the tour,
and them taking care of my car. They’re such good folks.
The last night in Portland some musicians from Seattle were in the lobby
who I’d played with before. They’d just finished doing a show
with fellas from Aerosmith, and Buddy Guy. Jodie, Karen, Derrick and I
drank drinks and shared warmly and laughed a lot. Derrick had had quite a few
but there was such a composed look of contentment on his face.
We missed Anis. Anis had flown to Vegas for a quick show and
missed some last minute hangin’ out.
Anis is a gift. He’s a man who models for me forgiveness and shares with me
an eye for fairness. He’s always down to do what’s best for the good of a team.
He’s the sincerity people look for in laughter, the laughter people seek in children,
and he’s all the wisdom a child needs in overcoming. Anis also happens
to possess the loudest inside voice this side of a sonic boom.
Foghorns ain’t got shit on’im. Really.
If it weren’t for our food pack rat, Anis (stores bicuits in napkins
like squirrels do nuts), we wouldn’t have much memory of the tour.
He took most of the video and photos. He’s good at it.
Thank goodness. I wanna give’im a hug right now.
There had been over seven weeks of long drives with good new music in the van,
good old music too, and out-loud dreaming, and traffic safety bingo and van buddy gifting
and sandwich karate and creepy touch and crunk raps and the bubble-guts and daily council
and saying what we were thankful for and while I could go on for weeks about the ultimate tour
with a soft spot for caramel Bugles and van parts named after Golden Girls,
I’ll just tell ya a story about how much love I share for, and with,
Anis Mojgani and Derrick Brown…
The night of our last show in Bellingham
all three of us walked into a convenience store to get a snack.
The young woman behind the counter was named Ashley.
Ashley was lookin’ in the newspaper for places to live, but was havin’ a rough go of it
because everywhere she looked required her to pay first and last months rent plus a deposit.
She didn’t have it. She also works at a pet store when she’s not at the convenience store.
She’s also going to school. I told her that I think Trader Joe’s pays
well over minimum wage plus benefits, or suggested she go with someone who might pay
a little somethin’ toward her education. Sometimes folks get raised
on minimum wage for so long that they forget how capable, worthy and eligible they are
to kick it up a notch. A tiny light bulb went off over Ashley and we left.
On the way into the hotel parking lot Anis said how cool it would be
if the three of us were one day in a position to just help a girl like that out.
Like what if we could just come to the rescue when we saw someone sincere
doing the best they could with what they had…
Another little light bulb went off; this time it was over the three of us
as we recognized how we already do live in “one day.”
So we turned the car around.
Ashley looked a little scared when the three of us
walked back into the convenience store, each with our own
book in a hand, some money slipped between the pages like bookmarks.
I told her we were three traveling poets who do what we love for a living.
I let her know we had all been in similar financial boats like the one she was in
and that we know how nice it can be when relief happens.
We gave her the three books, each with a “bookmark”
on the condition that she let us each also give her
a line of poetry.
Ashley was ecstatic.
The line I offered was, “Pretend – inside your skin – you’ve got a friend
who’s willing to give you everything you ever wanted in exchange for all you’ve ever been.”
Derrick said,”The world is your underwear. It’s time you changed it.”
and Anis fumbled for a moment before saying to
Ashley, “Our love is an arrow.
I am unbuttoning my shirt
painting a circle over my heart.
Please, you shoot straight.”
After the end of The Junkyard Ghost Revival Tour
I had to fulfill some prior commitments and return to the road solo for a couple weeks.
It felt good. Crossed paths with Ani DiFranco in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
She had me up onstage and I got to dedicate a piece to Utah Phillips.
Lookin’ forward to finishing up the new CD, Live at the Typer Cannon Grand
which will hopefully be released on her label, Righteous Babe Records sometime later this year.
Can hardly wait to do a reunion show with Derrick and Anis come February in Fairbanks, AK.
Derrick’s publishing company, Write Bloody, will release a new book I’m workin’ on later this year.
Rumor has it that if the three of us head out again in the fall for another tour,
we’re gonna call it The Write Bloody Revival.
After a couple weeks on the road solo I ended in Vancouver B.C. where I was pretty vocal
about finally getting off the road as much as possible from here on out.
It was nice that there was a guitar at the last venue and I could
end the journey with “A Little Ditty Called Happiness.”
I stayed in Canada to do a 10-day Vipassana course.
It was good work. Long work. Focused and productive work.
I mostly recognized my old addiction to tragedy
and how successful I’ve been at romanticizing it.
I’ve divorced tragedy now.
You aren’t likely to find it in my house no more.
It’s curbside with my martyr and my self-sabotage
and the dirty past I’ve too often used to validate my bad choices.
Don’t look for me in those lazy caves again.
Better you rediscover me in the continuity of practice.
After Vipassana I flew out to the Individual World Poetry Slam Finals in Charlotte, NC.
The competition resurrected unwholesome feelin’s of desperation as I watched
poets in each round either fake cry or feed tragedy or blast petty rants or… or or or…
That I somehow managed to squeak by each of the seven rounds over three days
and take fourth place overall was a little surprising.
I sure do appreciate the world of Poetry Slam and am thankful
for the career path it helped pave in my life,
and it is with much love and best wishes I hope to see it
continue to evolve and “pull the next one up.”
Not so sure I find a comfortable seat there anymore though.
I feel so differently about cultivating certain kinds of vulnerability now.
From the finals in Charlotte I went to Texas to stay with my family
for a couple weeks over the Christx holidays.
Was good to see them, and old friends, and to workout with my mom.
She wore her Guitar Repair Woman shirt to the big family dinner Christx day.
A great gal named Jennie in upstate New York made the shirt for me to give to Mom.
I met a new friend in Houston named Loris who taught me a little about fractals
and chaos theory and dancing. I ate dinner with my first girlfriend
who I hadn’t seen in about 18 years. We didn’t miss a beat, got caught right up, then
we met again a couple nights later in Baytown with some
old high school friends to watch the UFC fights.
Had a fun time playing Rock Band with my sister and her husband,
goin’ out on the town with my brother, havin’ a last-minute college reunion
with the fellas in Arlington, spendin’ a little quality time with my cousins, and my friend Dave,
and exploring my familial surroundings in a new way, listening more,
observing where I came from a little more clearly, without the dust clouds.
Am finally back in Seattle now after the best year of my life (again).
The original plan was to move down to Venice Beach or Redondo Beach or Santa Monica
because it turns out I sure do like the sun every day
but instead I’m gonna stay focused, play smart cards, do what I’ve been dreamin’ of…
stability and routine again for this guy. My situation and friends in Seattle
plus all the time I get to take off from the road
are too good right now to go movin’ around again. There will be a time for moving
back to Los Angeles again in my future, no doubt, but for now it’s Seattle and
Sunday night East Coast Swing Dancin’ with Karen Finneyfrock,
Krav Maga two days a week with my buddy Buck from Talladega, Alabama,
Volleyball every Tuesday thanks to my pal Scott.
On Mondays and Fridays Lane Stroud and I do wind sprints all the way around Greenlake
then we meet up later to work on our screenplay (it’s the good stuff, and we’re feelin’ it).
I get to be active with weights or stairs or sprints or boot camp every day whenever I want.
I get to go support the Seattle Slam again. Eat good food every day.
Am working on two inventions with Remond and learning all about
international patent laws, which has been pretty fun so far.
I get to meditate in my own room again whenever I choose.
Last night I had a dream there was an ex-con sitting at a cafeteria table facing forward
in a large room full of maybe 100 other folks who were also facing
forward on their cafeteria table bench seats.
He was dressed in plain clothes but I knew, because my dream told me,
that he had just gotten out of prison. He was toward the back of the room.
He stood up without any prompting and began to talk wisdom loudly.
The other folks were embarrassed for him, or not paying attention, or looking at him with fear.
The only thing I can remember from his outburst was at the end
when he dug his chin into his chest, curled his body inward a little bit
then began saying louder and louder and louder and louder
while eventually opening his whole body up more and more
until he heaved it finally. In exaltation. In joy.
Like he was birthing it finally.
Not just saying it. Knowing
What I have…
What I have.
What I Have.
What I Have.
What I Have!
What I Have!!
What I Have!!!
WHAT I HAVE!!
WHAT I HAVE!!
WHAT I HAVE!!
WHAT I HAVE!!
WHAT I HAVE!!!
WHAT I HAVE!!!
WHAT – I – HAVE!!!
WHAT – I HAVE!!!
WHAT I – HAVE!!!!
WHAT I – HAVE!!!!!!!
WHAT I HAVE!!!!!!!
WHAT I HAVE!!!!!!!
WWHHAAT III HHAAVVE!!!!!
WWHHAATT III HHAAVVEE!!!!!!
WWHHHAAATT IIII HHAAAAAAVVEE!!!!!!!!!!