Bumpy Road to Alasqua

The Al-Can highway has much myth and lore associated with it, at least in my mind, Being that far away from services with wilderness that close at hand could lead to all sorts of fiascos. For the 2011 Chautauqua tour, all of the fiascos occured before leaving the inhabited land near the border.

Fiasco #1: I've now run away with the circus 4 times. A solid 3 of those have come complete with bus fiascos*. The bus fiasco this time went like this: our bus was supposed to leave Eugene Oregon Thursday morning to meet many of us in Bellingham on Thursday evening. About 5 hours after they were supposed to leave, I got a call saying "once they install the driver's seat and find some side mirrors to install, they'll be on the road". This means the bus hasn't been actually driven in a while which can't be a good sign at all. It turns out it wasn't. On attempting to pull out of the garage, the brakes locked up and wouldn't let go. It took 2 days and lots of hand wringing before things were fixed and on the road north. So while the tour was only 24 hours behind schedule (before even starting), we also lost a valuable day of work on the bus (installing bunks, properly packing, etc.)

Fiasco #2: I cross in and out of Canada frequently enough to forget that it can be an issue for some people. In our case, the "some people" happened to be one of our drivers who had a minor infraction 30 years previous regarding an anti-war protest. In Canada, however, it wasn't so minor, I guess. So at 3 in the morning, we were told that while the bus, truck, and 38 of our 39 members could pass, one of the only totally integral people for the drive to Alasqua couldn't. A switch of border crossings and a little sweet talking later, we averted that potential deal breaker.

Fiasco #3:The majority of the Al-Can highway doesn't really have cellphone reception. That doesn't sound like a big thing but when it has becoming so completely ingrained in our culture's planning, it can be an issue. In this particular case, our caravan got slightly separated due to an unscheduled pee break. The drivers of the uHaul didn't know of the upcoming only turn of the whole trip, so they missed it. We were on the edge of cell phone range and thought that, if they didn't get the messages we left, while we might end up in Alaska, our stuff might end up in Quebec. Again, after much roadside conference, hand wringing, plan B-ing, and more, the issue was resolved when someone came running out of the bathroom (with pants still mostly down) announcing excitedly that contact had been made. Two hours later, the caravan was reunited and back on the road.

While perhaps "fiasco" is a strong word for these events, it sure felt pretty extreme, although it was probably compounded by the lack of sleep*. And, aside from a few close calls with hitting moose or bears in the road and almost running out of gas 14,239 miles from the nearest gas station, the rest of the trip was fiasco-free! With the trip behind us, now we have the rest of tour to look forward to! Stay tuned!
Wednesday July 27 2011File under: circus, travel

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Chautauqua Goes to Alasqua

It's that time of year again, time to hit the road with a group of amazing people to camp, cook, and live completely outdoors doing shows, parades, and workshops in small towns along the way. The New Old Time Chautauqua 2011 tour is headed to...ALASQUA*!

While I'm excited for all the vaudeville/circus fun to come, I haven't quite gotten my mind past the epic trip that is entailed to get 50 people and all their camping and performing gear to our country's northern most state. While a few members are already there or are going to fly up, 39 are slated to go by bus via the Al-Can highway. Over 2000 miles in 3 days*. How many pee breaks, hot springs, border crossing issues, and peanut butter and jelly sandwichs are we goign to tally up? Probably a lot. No matter what the count, watch out Alasqua, here we come!

(For previous tour posts, browse backwards for 2009 and 2010. Or check out Chautauqua's official website to learn more.)
Wednesday July 20 2011File under: circus

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Most Mira Recap

How do I sum up a week spent volunteering at the Most Mira festival, an arts festival for kids in NW Bosnia to promote peace by teaching children to play and create together? Well, I can tell you now, inadequately. But I'll try here with a 3 pronged approach.

Prong #1 - the Kids: Kids are kids the world over. They like to laugh, to play, and the circus*. The fact that we didn't share a common language* didn't stop them from learning just about every trick I could remember in my diabolo workshop. Gestures, high-fives, smiles, and a universal "bravo" go a long way. And at the end of the week, what a better way to celebrate new skillz learned, friendships formed, and smiles had than by putting on a show under the big top. (Oh, and it wasn't just kids that like to learn and play...)

Prong #2 - the People: One of the things that made Most Mira so wonderful was the other volunteers I got know. How often is it that in a single day, one can have a meaningful conversation about European politics, get a lecture on the gypsy language Romani*, give an impromptu clown/juggling performance with a perfect stranger, watch more hands than necessary go up for any task that needed to be done (no matter how unpleasant), and fall asleep to amazing drum music? Well, at Most Mira, that was pretty much every day.

Prong #3 - Bonuses: Outside of the magic of the festival, there were all sorts of hidden bonuses. Just one example: we got to attend a performance of traditional folk dance/music as the guests of honor (where, among others, I ended up on stage doing a club passing routine with some of my clowny friends).

See? A totally inadequate summary. But fitting an experience that big into just a few words is just downright impossible. I guess to get the full story, you'll just have to ask me about it sometime. I'm happy to share!
Sunday May 22 2011File under: Balkans, circus

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Peace Through Circus

What happens when you get a mix of people who speak Romanian, English, French, and Serbo-Croatian* all trying to put up a circus tent together? Well, the tent gets put up all the same and we all get to know each other a bit better. Oh, and we all have a dry place to juggle!*

Did I mention that I'm in NW Bosnia volunteering with a circus at an arts festival to promote peace between the strongly divided communities of children here. (Clever segue, eh?) The festival is called Most Mira* and it is pretty awesome concept. In a country where people seem to dislike people only because of their religion or which alphabet they seem to prefer (which, if you recall, led to some rather extreme nastiness back in the 90s), focusing on teaching the children that we all like to play, create art, make music, and dance and building friendships between them before the hatred is too ingrained seems like a pretty good idea to me.

I feel infinitely lucky that I've found my way here, to help out and experience the magic in person. Plus, any place where I can juggle 4 hours a day (shoeless and shirtless no less) and not be out of place is a place for me!
Sunday May 15 2011File under: Balkans, circus

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Shoenicycle (Part 1)

I've been putting off this post until the project is complete, but I can't wait any longer. Completion is within sight, but I gotta share what I've got so far.

I introduce you to the Shoenicycle. Totally custom made from salvaged parts (and shoes), it's been a project almost a year in the making. With bucketloads of help from Per, the frame was welded, grinded*, and brazed at his bike fabrication shop in Montreal. The wheel* was put together in Anacortes with my old shoes that I knew I had been keeping around for some reason. Tweaks to the axle/pedal mechanism were made on the spot of the first test ride at the Cirque Lab in Bellingham.

The first (and second) test ride attempts both identified problems, so officially, it has yet to be ridden. But with new steel crank arms, I trust that the last problem will be overcome soon. Hopefully, within a month, I'll have a video of this frankenstein of a machine being ridden around with glee. Then comes working up an act for Vaudevillingham. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for March.
Wednesday February 2 2011File under: circus, misc

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2011 Bellingham Circus Guild Calendar


It's that time of year again, time to start thinking about finding a new calendar to hang on your wall, to look at day after day, to entrust your appointments to*. I suggest, if I may, the 2011 Bellingham Circus Guild Calendar. It's got lots of pictures of pretty people doing amazing things, fun facts about the Guild, reminder about Vaudevililngham on the 15th of every month, and, best of all, the proceeds go to support the Guild, to keep the Cirque Lab open for teaching classes, giving awesome performance, and hosting a weekly juggling club* among other things.

Why am I shilling this masterpiece of monthly merriness? Well, just like last year's calendar, I am co-creator. This year, however, I was giving more creative license, and from my side of things, the process was much smoother, so no gripes at all. Just a fun calendar to support a fun group!

To obtain a calendar, come by the Cirque Lab during juggle club or December's Vaudevillingham, talk to a cirque guild member, or contact me. I'd be glad to work out the details (payment, shipping*, etc.). We are asking for a donation of $10-$20 per calendar, and again, the money goes to support the Guild.

To entice you further, here are a couple sample pages: July and May*.
Tuesday November 16 2010File under: circus, misc

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Vote Vaudeville to the Gulf

Online voting in lieu of actual judging of contests, etc. is a hard concept for me. On the one hand, I recognize that when open to an almost infinite audience, the best ideas (/photos/etc.) will be selected. Afterall, what defines best, esp. in terms of art, etc. than what pleases most people. On the other, all such contests have ulterior motives (get e-mail addresses, promote a product or idea). And because of the prize aspect, the participants will lobby, campaign, urge, etc. which makes the voting hardly unbiased. All in all, I wish such promotions didn't exist in that form. But since they do....

The circus I run with, the New Old Time Chautauqua, has put in an application for an online contest Pepsi is running to bring some good to the Gulf Coast (after this whole BP debacle). The idea is that taking circus, music, workshops, and parades to the area is a great way to spread positivity, joy, hope, and fun. If you believe in this idea (or if you just want to support my love for travel, circus, and service) please go check out the voting page and consider giving us your vote. You gotta sign up (unfortunately), but I used my this-account-is-only-for-sign-ups account.

http://gulf.refresheverything.com/currenthopecircusandmusictour

You can vote every day between now and Aug 31. And if Chautauqua wins one of the grants, I will send each and every voter (from this blog) a postcard from some small town in Louisiana (as if the bringing joy to that area isn't reason enough to vote.) Thanks so much!!
Wednesday August 11 2010File under: circus

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Stage Time

For being a non-performer, I've found myself on stage quite a bit recently. In fact, I'm thinking of jettisoning the "non-performer" label in favor of "not really a performer" since occasionally, it seems, I have occasion to take the stage.

Recently, Chautauqua did Future Fest down at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds. This was the fair's third year and we've been there every year. This year, however, was different because it didn't coincide with tour, therefore we didn't have a show at the ready. Somehow, during the putting together of the show, I got in with my one trick pony "act"*. Besides having to lug a giant horse head on a public transportation trek that encompassed 6 buses and a ferry (and sleep with it in my tent), it was great. All those in the know, that have a basis for criticism of such circus-y acts were uniform in their assessment. "It's short!" they said, which, in the land of vaudeville shows, is almost always a great compliment.

This past weekend I found myself on "stage" yet again. I say "stage" because it was really just a flatbed trailer, but still. Some friends were throwing a big old barn party and asked me to put together a circus show for it (as our lawn juggling at the previous year's shindig garnered much comment). Due to a few last minute cancellations and time conflicts, I ended up filling in a few holes in the line-up myself. Oh, and I also ended up MCing. The show was a huge hit (barn audiences are the best audiences) and even us performers* had a great time. *

Yep, I'm starting to get my stage legs, kind of. And for this, I'm glad. To be able to entertain is a noble pursuit, and I'm glad fate is pushing me in that direction.
Sunday August 8 2010File under: circus

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Apron Coffee

Have you ever made coffee for 60 people? What about coffee for 60 people at an outdoor, makeshift kitchen with not much in the way of coffee pots and no electricity? Well, let me tell you, it takes a little creativity and doesn't always satisfy everyone involved, but it can be done.

I'm down here at the Great Peninsula Future Festival in Kitsap County with Chautauqua for a fundraising event. It's like a mini-tour, with us all camping and cooking our meals over our propane burners. And the way we do coffee is, well...unique.

1) Get a giant colander.
2) Find a semi-clean linen(?) apron.
3) Situate giant colander over giant pot.
4) Pour a lot* of ground coffee in apron.
5) Pour a lot of hot water in apron.
6) Repeat.

Yep, brewing coffee in an apron lined giant colander isn't an experience I had before Chautauqua, but I guess I could say that for a lot of experiences. Good times. And now "apron coffee" is a new entry in my personal lexicon. You should add it to yours too.
Saturday July 31 2010File under: circus, food

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2010 Chautauqua Picture Round-Up

After a trip, there's a whole list of things to do. Go through the mail, do a load (or 8*) of laundry, deal with e-mails and calls you've been putting off, etc. And then there's the pictures. It's both a burden and a pleasure, at least for me. Luckily I've got the blog as an outlet for sharing them, giving me more incentive to get them dealt with. Anyway, I hope they put a smile on your face.

Wednesday July 14 2010File under: circus, pics

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