He Got Me and I Got Him… The Storymaker

Plotkin Smith

Alan Plotkin

2014’s recipient of the Golden Finkel

We are never alone. Sometimes it seems so. Some days on the road rolling from date to date- show to show, especially back in the day prior to cell phones, I could almost pretend to be in total isolation, an immaculate detached state of being in a pure nowhere.

What I have learned is that while I was out there so were my associates, the people that make up my community. We are performers, directors, videographers. We are puppet makers and circus arts coaches. Some were home waiting for us to return while others hopped in and took those blue highways, those two lane back roads from place to place with us, and they learned the fine art of the drift, how to be comfortable in their own bones while traveling about the known and unknown parts of this world.

Turning someone on to the way of the vagabonding performer’s life was to open minds and learn to slow the pace and when sunset and wide river beckoned to cease the roaming and soak in the presence of the force.

There is no getting this state of mind, this way of being, what might be called lifestyle without having cracked open a bottle and pouring some, giving it a good taste.

Sure you can approximate how you might feel, what your mind might think, how your appetite might yearn for being back on home ground.

Then, along the trail a kindred spirit appears. They get you because even if they don’t know you in particular, they know what you’ve been through, and how you got to where you are. In this instance it is Alan Plotkin. We have both been on the circuit for decades. We have both seen our fair share of the ten thousand joys and sorrows that the world we live and work in presents to us. So, when Alan points his camera toward my show he is shooting from a place of common ground, from shared experience, undisputed perspective.

And the truth is that I have had the great fortune of finding people that “get me.” They don’t always necessarily recognize me at first glimpse, but over the course of time they come to regard me as consisting of the same stories, the same quirky experiences, and ultimately we discover we are brothers and sisters from the same tribe.

And it is why I see so much of Alan Plotkin’s wit and insight in this gift he has edited for me. Here the simplicity and purity of street theater has been stitched together as a promotional reel. Here Alan has set out to share with unknown souls by way of short clips some imagined means of introducing my work to those who have not heard or seen of me ever before. It is only a version, but it is with Alan’s touch an ongoing edition of a kind of thing I have been about for some forty years now.

Ladies and gentleman, I not only would like to introduce you to what I did in July of 2014 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada but I’d also like to ask you to pay attention to the camera work, editing and conjuring of street theater spirits that Alan has added to this short promotional video.

I couldn’t ask for better work, more revealing, a more intimate telling of what I do and to go even further, by way of Alan’s eye and skill, to have my mask pulled back and the person behind the show exposed. In the best way… and if by chance you might consider that you are not just looking at some best version of me that you may well be looking at some best version of Alan Plotkin. 

 

The Novel Juggler as told by the Award Winning Alan Plotkin

Your One Night Stand on the Front Page

Fletch's cabin small

 

Imagining Hot Spring Honeymoon

Where Love Has Come to Play

“Emptiness does not differ from form. Emptiness is form and form is emptiness,” This ambiguous quote comes from Buddhism’s great teachings contained in The Heart Sutra.

Caught in this paradoxical world of here and now, the fiction writer slashes through all the chaos that we know as life on earth and proposes a pathway for human beings to arrive at a moment of clarity. It happens by chance in a parking lot, on a night like no other, in the arms of a perfect stranger, then a kiss and the answer to a question, and a plunging off into the night together… I see patterns in all this human behavior. Yes, I see taller women with shorter men, but not so often as the other way around.

Ultimately the world is more spiritual than physical, but what would we do if a writer of fiction was trapped in a literary form that had to remain nameless and shapeless? Where would the reader grab hold? We know the answer to that question. The reader would attach to the spirit leaving out the physical earthbound parts of the story. This is the literal neighborhood of life that characters press with their eager lips so they may enter into the ethereal realm. If relationship and love were formless and nameless the reader would be denied the pleasure of imagining characters groping through the delusion and into the beyond of where love’s located. Think of this as loves enlightenment experience, a non-judgmental elixir for the lustful, if such a kind of human pleasure might be allowed to be experienced, beyond the boundaries of conscience. This is where the sauce of love is to be simmered over passions stove.

Sexual farce unmasks the libidinous scaffolding where not such adorable human nature is delineated. This is not where we live, but for many of us it is a place we have once visited, some more than others, plenty having stayed long after they ought to have moved on. Human sexuality as comic farce pokes at uncomfortable truths as well as fallacies. We get into love and out of love by some odd gateway that is both physiologically ornamental and optically invisible.

A good farce is ridiculous, the whole human condition is absurd, but facts are facts and for reasons that can appear to be almost completely unfathomable our human nature urges many of us to find partners that we will want to enjoy intimate sexual behaviors with. There is the revelation, nudity, and all manner of peculiar yet popular physiological maneuvers associated with this part of the story. They must be wildly popular as people the world over repeatedly perform these very same stunts. More often than not this behavior provokes not just bodily desire, but love and the quest for relationship. What these provocateurs do about all this sex is the stuff of comedy and tragedy.

In Hot Spring Honeymoon I tipped the scales of human experience in the direction of laughter and amusement. I dared to explain loves whereabouts as in the proximity of lust, perhaps it is not the prettiest place we might locate this noble human hearted phenomena but certainly one of the more ordinary and naughty places. Maybe that’s sexual farces greatest fun is that it seduces the virtuous reader. And just when we had thought so much of our better natures we find ourselves having to hear the remnants of this other less wholesome and skillful side we all have resting in repose within us.

There is fortune in impulse control, glorious wisdom to be earned by tamping down the error of our own ways. Many of us grow up and get a life, find love and a reliable partner. Because of our lack of fame and notoriety we have not had our most salacious miscalculations splattered across the front pages of the National Inquirer for the whole world to see. Instead if we’ve lived long enough, we’ve quelled this perfectly human aspect of how we have been designed, and now from the lofty heights of at long last knowing better we slip back into our other self and enjoy the guilty pleasure and a good romp through the jungle from where we once prowled. We pass through this life at times tangled in this whole affair to discover we are part prey and at other times we have been shocked to discover inside of us is part predator. Or perhaps, as my wise friend gently urges, “You who are nobly born, remember who you truly are?”

 

What not to do in Ketchum

 

 

???????????????????????????????

Sweetest Little Piece of Nowhere You Have Ever Seen is Right Here

Ketchum until tomorrow and then more south into the Great Basin. Yesterday drove through a mere hint of a couple of towns. Most of them hardly are still there. I noticed in one store I could get a rifle scope from the top shelf behind the cashier, or box of cartridges out of a cabinet in front of where she did business. I bought some jerky.

Woman in front of us in line explained she wasn’t going to be able to go to Portland, Oregon twice this summer. Friend had died since she’d visited and there just wasn’t enough money to go a second time.

Best I can tell the hay crop is coming in real good. All I saw for more than one hundred miles were hayfields. Most had been cut and baled. Some of the bigger operations had harvested enough to keep a long haul driver busy delivering the crop through the rest of the summer and right on through autumn.

It comes as something of a curiosity to find that a whole way of life is made around growing grass to feed livestock. I’ve bucked some hay onto the back of a truck more than my fair share. I’m not too worn down for the work, but don’t prefer it much now, at least not like I once did. Seemed to suit my youthful manhood to go out and toss those bales onto the back of a flatbed. I acted like I was making progress, that my life was better for the work.

People fly fish around here. Then there’s bow hunting for elk. Best I can do is pester birds for a good look; I’m a birdwatcher. Red tail caught me looking today. Almost time for afternoon drink. That’s about the long and short of it here.

Summer Alongside the Salmon River

 

???????????????????????????????

Welcome to a slice of heaven on earth

You might miss the time of your life. Sometimes I get that feeling. Not today. Life in Idaho along the Salmon River is fat. Bald eagles on wing remind me to notch another best day off my bucket list. My list includes learning how to recognize every day as being a best day.

We are in full soul recharge mode now. The idea was simple. After Grand Prairie’s International Street Performers Festival my wife and I would point south and aim for somewhere right around here. We would figure out where right around here was when we found it. The key was to know when we found it.

We got mighty close in Hot Spring, Montana. Sure was about as near close to right at Miette Hot Springs in Jasper National Park. Trouble was we’d just started heading south and we couldn’t give up on the next 2000 miles just like that. We figured there had to be more ‘best days of our lives’ waiting for us just beyond that next bend over that other hill.

Jig is up tomorrow, at least for here. Tomorrow we point south more and continue to slow walk our way through the American West. Enjoy some yellow jacket company during sunset. We’ll put our feet up and regard the sound of the river running alongside where we are staying. We’ll pull over and take photographs for the movie trailer I’m making to accompany my latest novel. We’ll be working our way slowly back along the blue highways to California.

We’ve been dodging the crowds. Hard to explain how few people have made North Fork, Idaho their final destination. It isn’t convenient to anything. You have to go plenty out of your way to end up twenty-three miles north of Salmon on Highway 93. Seems by our expert eyes to have just about the perfect amount of here and now all tangled up in its rivers and mountains. Seems like we have gone and found what we were looking for.

 

Meadowhawk, Nevada is just south of here in Hot Spring Honeymoon, my latest Novel

E & D Salmon River

Might Be We Just Like An Excuse to Wear Our Hats

Edmonton 1985-2014 Thirty Fabulous Festivals

Edmonton 2014

 

This 40 Year Veteran Street Act Scuffing Up the First Audience of the Day

Saturday morning 11:30 show was mine to do. Alan Plotkin using a telephoto lens from “World Headquarters” took this shot. He didn’t bring me much luck the day before and discretion being the better part of valor stood off so as not to jinx the delicate art of gathering the first audience of the day. Forty minutes later the show ended with an audience surrounding this veteran busker.

I am here for the 30th anniversary. If you want you can read about the festival here: http://edmontonstreetfest.com/30-years-of-memories/turning-thirty-the-birth-of-a-busking-festival

I sold my first copy of Hot Spring Honeymoon after the show to a woman in the audience!

 

The Old West is Waiting

???????????????????????????????

 

stealhead, river running, and hay farming as far as an eye can see

The dirt road winds down the mountain into Troy, Oregon on the Grande Ronde River. Size of community is a mere handful of good souls. Groceries fetched by driving 50 miles north to Lewiston, Idaho.

The outpost captures my interiors yearning for serenity, solitude and majesty. Troy has all of this.

One of many way stations on my journey to the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival; we stopped along our drive north in Oregon to visit Lakeview, John Day, Baker and Troy. Onward to Moscow, Idaho and then Nelson, Slocan Park and Halcyon Hot Springs in British Columbia. Then, we drove through Banff National Park to Rocky Mountain House and finally here at the Edmonton.

We stopped along the road to understand the state of the rural American West. Towns, far and near, are all wearing their fateful choices as best they can. Moscow, Idaho is thriving on the spirit of the alternative cultures passion for good books, music, food and community. Moscow is an outpost for progressives in the north. Lakeview, Burns, and John Day ache in sorrow. Saw mills all shut down. There are no saw logs to cut. Homes are shuttered, downtowns empty, and the next boom yet to arrive.

I’m stunned. Why do we let these small towns wait? Can’t we mount a campaign to build the renewable energy here? Why not? Men and women are all waiting for good work and no work could be more useful than transforming the workers of extractive industries into workers making a livelihood in the future renewable industries.

Save the lives and the land in one fell swoop. Why doesn’t America dare to dream to go where we have never gone before?

Saving Up Solstice for Aches and Pains

Great Basin small pic

You Just Can’t Make A Place Like This Up…

Today is the summer solstice. On Wednesday we depart northbound. Our track will be to Lakeview, Oregon. From this frontier on the California border we will continue into vast Great Basin regions of Eastern Oregon.

Our ultimate destination is the 30th Edition of The Edmonton International Street Performers Festival. But, we have roads to travel and friends to see before we arrive. And then there’s the hot springs we’ll sample along the trail too. And then there is the matter of the world between Emeryville and Edmonton. There a place’s we’ll want to pull over and get out from behind the wheel and sit and let what we find there soak into our bones.

I’ll try and be faithful to my discipline. I’ll juggle each day some. I’ll write as much as I can.

“He gazed off into the distances and saw the grand scale of places seldom touched by travelers. His problems diminished in this frame, as measured by geologic time. He paused to consider that ancient oceans had once drowned out most of what he was in. When measured by that, his broken heart seemed insignificant and lost love infinitesimal. The world was a bigger mystery. Chance weaves through fate and things unfold in surprise, beyond what can be imagined.”

Those lines come by way of my first novel Highway Home.

“He pushed off from Burns and headed out toward the frontier, with Idaho in the vast, wild, open spaces beyond. Here swept out before Noel the boundless Great Basin Desert of the American West. Sagebrush saturated the land. Horizons stretched wide, and the contours of ridges, rims, and hills squatted low, shaved by ice, wind, and time. Here, east of Burns, at first appeared wasteland and despair. It reminded Noel of how he felt within his heart. At the same time there was a solitude to this place of a kind that was rare. Beyond this last gasp of farms the road began weaving through boulders and ridges and ran higher up off the immense and flat bottomlands. Noel took a dirt track off the highway and rolled amidst the boulders and red rocks into a small pull out where he’d camp for the night.”

My heartbroken hero searching to put the demons to rest for the night, there is an articulate kind of geological speech in the emptiness of this desert. There is a desolate beauty that can fortify a soul while stoking the torment and past sorrows. It is in this way a place that you can come to face the hard parts of inside yourself you don’t much care to think through. Still it is a melancholy that with time heals up the pain and hurt. You come here and you stop running from yourself. What gives way is the majesty of inner peace. The gloom gives way to the grandeur, one night you are nothing but misery and wake up the next and there’s nothing but wonder.

Solstice can be a place to begin and while Canada is where I aim to drive I’ll be pausing to bucket out the pond of things I’ve been throwing into the deep the last months. I suppose the thing is these are the big things that can give us perspective and put our own concerns in the right order.