Saturday, July 28, 2012

Weeks 18 + 19th (Highlights)

There is too much to say about my recent visit to the Bay Area. Here are my top five highlights:

On my first night, in Oakland, I played for the second time at a lovely cafe called the Actual Cafe. It was touted as a Ukulele Love-in, and it lived up to its name. It was hosted by a lady that I'm so glad I got to meet and share the stage with, Ms. Tippy Canoe. She started off the show with a ukulele lesson, then led everyone in a jam after my set. It was so much fun! After the show she shared a brownie with me and gave me a ride back to my hotel.

In Sacramento a couple days ago I tried Afghani food for the firs time. It was amazing!

This was the first tour that I brought the auto-harp out for, so I was really happy to not have to miss playing it. All six of the shows I played in the area went really well (what are the odds?).

I stayed in and got to explore five neighborhoods: Temescal (in Oakland and bordering Berkeley), downtown Sacramento, Sunnyvale, and Golden Gate Park and North Beach in SF. I especially liked getting to experienced more of North Beach, a neighborhood where I have stayed before. It's an Italian neighborhood, home to Golden Boy Pizza, the best pizza ever, and many other places that were popular haunts of the Beat poets. I took a whole Beat tour there, starting at Golden Boy, then going to the Beat Museum, followed by City Lights Books, a Beat-centric bookstore, and ending at Vesuvio, a bar that the Beats reportedly drank at often.

Finally, the best of all for me was having my "weekend" (two days off in a row) with one of my close friends, Kim, and her awesome boyfriend Jake. They came to see my show in SF, which made it even more special. Then on the weekend, Kim took me all over SF: we went bar-hopping in the Mission, hung out in Dolores Park, and ate fresh fish down at the Fisherman's Wharf and toured the penny arcade museum there. Jake took us all to see the new Batman movie, which was very entertaining. Thanks Kim & Jake! See you guys next time!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Week 16: Redefining Success

Written on 7/5/2012 in Kennewick, WA
This morning I woke up in a spacious, empty house in Kennewick. Every room was pristine. The owners, who were veritable strangers to me, were trying to sell it and didn't live in it anymore so the house was essentially a model. I had a pretty good sleep in one of the bedrooms, enjoyed the cable T.V. in the living room and coffee and breakfast in the kitchen the next day. I also enjoyed the view of Pasco from their backyard patio. I had also planned to enjoy a bath but I hadn't thought it all through before I filled the bathtub up with cold water. Oh well, no problem, I decided: a cold bath was better than no bath. Sure, I could have filled up pots in the kitchen with water and boiled them, but I was feeling kind of slow after drinking the night before in the winery I'd been playing at. The cold water sort of felt good for the hangover.

I had been sleeping in Richland, one of the other Tri-Cities, in an RV parked in front of another stranger's house, just the night before. I found it quite nice even though it did not have working lights or plumbing. I had access to the stranger's house for the bathroom, kitchen, and for finding company. My host's mother was visiting, and she had a two-year-old daughter, so there was no shortage of company. I loved hanging out with all of them, and, when I stayed in the immaculate squat last night, I missed all their voices and found it almost too quiet. But both places were lovely to stay at, really. One of the hosts I met on Facebook and the other on 
Now I am at a farmers market in Kennewick where I have just finished my second and last set of music, and am waiting for my next host to drive me to her farm in Benton City. She, her husband, and their three kids live out there and have dogs, chickens and cows! I can't wait to meet them all. They have a spare room in their basement so I won't have to sleep in a barn or anything. Success!

I often think about the small ways that my definition of success has changed recently. I make a little money playing music, not much more than the cost of my expenses, but enough to get me from town to town, with food in my belly. It helps to eat at the venue whenever possible, and to do all your drinking there, too. If I am at a hotel I always eat the continental breakfast now, whereas I used to be more discriminating*. Sometimes I eat my free breakfast a hotel, dinner that is part of my payment at a venue, and all I'm left paying for is lunch or a snack. Sometimes, on a night off, I'll order a big lunch and save half of it for dinner, and I take a perverse sort of pleasure in doing so, feeling successful. I'll order a $5 foot-long sandwich at Subway and think: It only cost me $5 to be alive today! Success!

I think about staying in motels more often, like I used to, but I know that staying in the homes of generous, willing strangers is another way to stretch my cash. If I earn $150 playing in a winery and then I don't have spend $50 to $100 on a hotel because I can sleep in an empty house or RV, or on someone's couch or in their spare room, that is another success. But it also sounds odd when I kick around these achievements in my head. I remember in my not-so-distant other life, when I was a social worker, if a client had told me they'd only spent $5 on food to nourish themselves for the whole day, or that their temporary housing plan was to couch-surf or squat somewhere, I might have questioned how truly happy she was. How strange. I can say that I am truly happy living this way. But I don't forget that I have other options, safe havens to run back to, and some people don't. I know that more than anything else, more than being successful, I am lucky.

*Not that there is anything wrong with a continental breakfast, especially when one is a lapsed vegan.