… and pecan pie

Pecan pie was always a part of the holidays when I grew up. It was on the dessert table in a place of honor. The taste, the smell … ingrained in my mind as a part of my childhood.
There was a restaurant across the street from Presbyterian Hospital: Anderson’s. They were famous for their pecan pie and, yes, they were indeed that good.

My daughters Carlaysle and Rose were born at Presby on rainy, cold, icy days. After they arrived … and cleaned … and weighed & measured … taken and glassed for the parade … fed for the first time and tucked in to bond with their mother …
I walked across the street alone and had pecan pie. I savored my Anderson’s pie and gave thanks to the universe for the beauty of everything.

My girls are grown, and Anderson’s has long since closed.

I’ll be alone for the holidays again this year, and I’m going to make a pie for myself. My world is a little colder than it used to be, but I hope to warm my own soul. I’m still thankful.

Thursday, May 11 2017

Bit of a whirlwind, the past couple of weeks. The Monthly Monday Magic show pulled about 15 people. Strong audience, powerful feels, but I question my ability to draw people anymore. This wasn’t helped by the small crowd at Citylight the following Sunday. The people who came were awesome … but I’d certainly like to attract more.

Short travel to Greensboro to see Lexie in Peter Pan: she’s powerful and rules the stage, but doesn’t have the confidence in herself offstage, yet. She cannot see how she affects people. (Doesn’t that sound a bit familiar?) Toodles almost stole the show, he’s a natural. The following night was a corporate show in Durham, followed by dessert and a deep conversation/ confessional with Katie A. (which was more needed than I knew). I see some things from a better perspective. Time to leave Faire? I think so … I never want to dread working, and I know that bitterness wouldn’t be helpful at all to that atmosphere. It was a great run, and lots of laughter happened … I want to part on good terms and on the proverbial high note.

USO Warrior Reset – three great days in Jacksonville. I’m getting the groove better, feeling the message and relating to the group. I’m proud of my role, helping them connect with the USO team, and with each other. I want to reach out further than these boundaries.

Long time in the car over the past couple of weeks, lots of time to look at myself and what needs improving, where I want to go next, what kind of legacy I’m leaving in my wake, what does success really look like? I wonder if the help I’m giving really lasts.

Hollywood is upcoming, so I’m in rehearsals for that. Performance therapy … Eddie and Lili therapy … straight, hard talk and love on the west coast.

In my prayers I’m dealing with regret. I hope I’ve decisively broken some cycles … so people can heal and move on. Time will tell.

After the final day of USO I went over to Topsail, where i spent my summers as a boy. I collected some shells for an idea I had for a routine20170510_141906, then sat on the beach as the evening turned to twilight. The ocean was calm, and I studied the horizon, getting the nostalgia I’d left there when I was 12. The sea was bright green in the shallows, and rolling over to deep blue about thirty yards out. I reflected on the journeys I’ve been on in the four decades since I last sat there. Have i lived up to that boy’s dreams?

You know … I have. I’ve even exceeded what he imagined. I can be proud of this road. For the most part, I’m walking it well.

The Guts of the Matter

“Deep inside, all folded up … where real magic happens? Is your signature and hers. Maybe.”

Me and my friends? We live to serve. We serve You, our audience. The artists, the performers, the show people. Dozens of different names and flavors.

We will perform sick and loaded up on medication. We will perform in pain, our backs hurting, our feet or knees screaming. I know personally that several of us have taken the stage with kidney stones in full press, barely able to stand upright just beyond the curtain, but full arrogance, pomp and swagger under the lights, smiles wide and voices booming for all we are worth. Even then, the little voice in the very back of our mind telling us: ‘You’re going to pay for this.’

We play with our hearts broken. We’ve taken the stage mere moments after a loved one has said something cruel, or even said goodbye. I got the call about one of my parents, fifteen minutes before curtain, and the house was full. I went on, and I delivered. I took it to the stage, and I left it there.

When asked to choose, I chose the art. Even though I lost almost everything else.

We go on and do our jobs. We strive to be better, to reach for excellence. (Not perfection. Perfection is a lie that is lethal to real art.) We were made such that we cannot do anything else and be true.

I do this for You.
I do this for Art.

Selfishly, the Truth is … I do it for me, more than anyone else.

Monday. May 1, 2017

I have nothing but the entire world to gain. I have cried and I have laughed … and laughing is much better.

Saturday I spent cleaning the house, doing laundry and prepping for Monday’ upcoming show with Brandon Barber. I’m really interested to hear the story he’s bringing. Took a wold around my neighborhood and daydreamed by a lake, under a tree for an hour or so. Fought with myself for a long time about going out busking again, and I won the battle – rent is due, bills are due, most especially the lawyer’s fee … I went out because of the money, and I should have known better. I would still go, but I would have found a better reason. As it was, Saturday night turned into a disaster.

The was a woman who paused ‘just for a minute’ to watch the show. She was in her late fifties-ish and fairly conservative in her dress and demeanor. She enjoyed the show, but got frustrated with me not explaining to her how everything worked. She stuck around to watch a second time, and, after I was done and I was collecting money, she picked up the cards from the table to look at them more closely. Rude, but … it happens. Finding nothing, she insisted on looking at my sharpie, examining the table, everything she could think of. Finding nothing, she stood and watched for a third show, visibly frustrated, angry, and upset. She demanded that I confess to her the inner workings of the show. I tried to assuage her frustration by comparing my show to plays and movies: you don’t get to always see behind the scenes, but she wouldn’t have any of it. She wrote down my name and said she was going to have me ‘checked out’ so that she could read how I do what i do. I gave her the title of my DVD …

Saturday night was filled with hooligans. People were throwing cups from the upper ledges, and security was having a bit of a time. Lots of ‘leashed dates’: “I want to watch this guy!” “NO! We are late and you need to come ON. RIGHT NOW.” Gender played no part in this; I heard that same dialogue play from both directions.

I called it a night early when I felt it had just become futile. No one’s fault, really. Bad nights happen, but I left feeling terrible. Arrived home and showered, had a mug of tea and some green time, then felt a bit better. The bills will get paid, somehow.

Took a sleep in on Sunday. Made a bit of breakfast and read from Hogarth’s diary. Got a bit of writing and practice in and spent the evening watching the Glen Campbell biography “I’ll Be Me”. Glen (as I’ve noted before) is a hero of mine, and a favorite of my father’s. The film touched deeply on his illness (Alzheimer’s) and his ongoing relationship with his children, his wife, and his music. Touched me deeply. I miss my children, and this brought a lot of those feelings home in a painful way. Worth watching, for sure, but I wasn’t prepared. I sat up until the wee hours, writing in depth about the people I miss. Parents, family, best friends.

Now it’s Monday. In a few hours I’m going onstage. I have lots to talk about, and I hope for a decent turn out, especially for the venue and Brandon’s sake. There will be magic, no matter what. Watching the bio reinforced in me the crucial aspect of being vulnerable in my art, like a songwriter putting his heart in the air, so will I in these personal, public shows. i wonder how it will be received. It’s okay to do this.

A friend told me this morning that it’s okay to forgive myself. Even when people I’ve hurt try to amplify their pain and paint me as worse than i actually was, I can embrace the truth and love myself.  I am a good, decent man, and I think I’m proud of me.

What a concept.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Woke up early to help Dani (Gold Angel) get her furniture moved from my front room. She’s excited about having her very own place, and it’s contagious. I sat on the front room sofa and took stock of what’s still stored there. It’s okay.

Short meeting about a new restaurant venue. Aix en Provence. A cozy French restaurant that will serve nicely for the dinner show. The string trio also seem pleased. Looks like it’ll happen at the end of May, and hopefully become an ongoing event.

Returning home, my recent turmoil and loss tried to distract me, so I rehearsed. Exercised a deck until my hands and mind were sore … then started on the initial draft of what will hopefully become a short film I want to make. I like the concepts that are coming to mind, and it helps to funnel the pain onto paper. More on the film later.

Speaking of film – the ‘Cups’ video (Link here) is averaging between 10, 000 – 15,000 views per day. I’m stunned. What is the definition of ‘viral’? What will the end result be, other than inspiring me to make something even better, more from the heart?18156422_10155342954735955_6703213230379332939_o

Spent the evening at my favorite busking pitch at the Epicentre … Neil Diamond was in town and that crowd was out for fun. Great shows, great hats …. a night really good for my soul.

I’m hurting for some friends that are hurting. I can’t disclose details in this forum, because it’s not my business to do so – but I’m striving to be the kind of friend that I sometimes need.

So. Home safe and sweaty and grubby. Tired and sore, but in a ‘did really good work’ kind of way. I made people laugh, I gave them some astonishment, and I made new friends. Shower … then deep sleep.

Let tomorrow bring its own adventures and challenges. Today was good.

Strengths

My friend Kozmo shared this story with me:

“I’m working the street one day, and I see a father and son approaching along the path. They looked like good candidates to start building a crowd so I smiled and made eye contact, or attempted to. The father refused to meet my eye, and hustled the young man on by. As they passed I overheard the father tell the boy, ‘There is a man who has made some bad decisions.’ Here’s a guy judging me by where I chose to work, and his assumption of my station. How stupid is that?”

My neighbors are bankers, investment brokers and officers for various companies. It used to be when they found out I was an entertainer, I would eventually get ‘the lecture’. I can’t tell you how many people have gone out of their way to let me know how irresponsible it is of me to not have a ‘steady job’. Like I was neglecting my family and endangering their future by not having stability in my work. Then the recession of 2008 hit us. My neighbors with their stable jobs suddenly found themselves downsized or laid off with nowhere to really turn. My business took a hit, also .. but I had the option, training and experience to take my business outside. I went back to the street and busked for my rent and groceries. We simplified our lifestyle and made it through. Let me ask you: who had more stability and control of their future?

My point is: what you consider a weakness might just be a strength to someone else. (And Vice Versa)  Your gift is within you.

Regarding people like Kozmo and myself: we take care of our families, we get to spend a great amount of time with our loved ones. We don’t have to choose between ‘quantity vs quality’ … we get to have both. When we work, we work hard, and we are dedicated to our craft. Because we have a passion for our gift, we tend to be happier (on the average). Yes, we struggle at times. But we have been through it before, and we know that the tough times are temporary.

We made our decisions, and they were good ones.

Street Lessons (Part Two)

“I can imagine the moment, breaking out through the silence. All the things that we both might say: come talk to me.” ~ Peter Gabriel

Here you are. You’ve mustered the courage and practiced your craft, you have committed yourself to your road … now what? Let’s look to the street.

2) Develop Relationships Out on my little stretch of sidewalk, I got to know the beat cops. They were suspicious of me at first, of course, because what I was doing was outside the norm, and no one likes to have their ‘norm’ changed. But after a short time watching me perform, they grew to trust me, and enjoy seeing me there. I learned their names, and used them. I always took a moment to say hello and ask how their day was. (AND I listened to their response!) They watched my back, their presence and our relationship assured the people passing by that I was ‘legitimate’.

I got to know the local shops, restaurants and bars. I could recommend specific places to anyone that had an inquiry. (“What’s good around here to eat?”) More specifically, I got to know the servers and managers of the surrounding restaurants. I knew what promotions were being run, when ‘half-price wing night’ was, which restaurants were less likely to have children present. I knew when the best bartenders were working, and I could point an audience member in their direction. This resulted in the bartenders, servers and managers recommending me to their patrons. During the hot summer months, some restaurants would send me out water. Often, a manager would come out as I was packing up and offer me a free dinner for helping drive traffic his way.

I listened to my audience. If they said something funny or got a laugh on their own, I laughed along, sometimes tipping them and writing down their joke. (I learned this by watching comedian George Wallace work. is site down . One night at the Comedy Zone he got ‘heckled’ by a fairly funny line. Before countering, George took a notebook out of his pocket and wrote down the line, right there on stage. The audience laughed at that for a solid three minutes.) My audiences have built some of my patter for me.

Busking

This cultivation of relationships led to a harvest of good paying corporate jobs and trade shows, where I continued to build relationships. This is a secret that is known in the business world as ‘networking’. Okay, so not such a huge secret, but it’s a word that’s tossed around often without the understanding of how powerful a tool it really is. The old saying “It’s who you know” is true: success is as much about relationships as it is about skill.

Potential clients, partners and bosses want to work with people who are easy to deal with: people who know how to listen and cultivate working relationships. From such cultivation does leadership take root. People will follow those that they trust – communication and ease in building relationships will put you out in front with them.

Be genuine. This is not a time to put on a character. You are a fascinating, interesting person – share who you are, really. Have you met your neighbors? Do you say hello to the people you see in the halls, or in your building? Get out there and get to know people!

We live in an age where we may have hundreds, even thousands of ‘virtual’ friends online via Twitter and Facebook, but when is the last time you had a face to face with a casual friend? Build, build! We are surrounded by human beings with loads of the same kinds of experiences, fears and dreams. At the very least, you’ll make some new friends. norway You could do a lot worse than being surrounded by people who want to be around you.

You’ve taken your first steps on your road. Don’t Stop There.

Failure is Not an Option

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” ~ C.S. Lewis

My Friend, I have some news to share: You are going to fail.

That sounds kind of harsh, but I know you want the truth from me.
It’s a part of the journey we are on. Gird yourself and prepare: it will come along.

Failure will happen to you.

In following  your road, you will make some mistakes along the way, in fact you need too. Some really big ones.

This is how you grow. There can be no creation or growth without some pain. It will shape you, mold you. Like refining gold, you have to purge the impurities. It’s going to be hard, but it’s the only way.

To paraphrase the movie ‘Apollo 13’, ”Failure is not an option.” That’s very true, failure is not optional … in fact, it’s a necessity. Don’t fear failure. Since I’m quoting art, how about this one: “Fear is the little death.” (Dune) To fear failure is to lose the battle before beginning it. Fear tells us to keep ourselves bottled up and protected. It tells us to play it safe. It warns of impending failure. Fear lies to us, deceives us into thinking that if we fail, our dreams are over.

Sorry. It’s just not true.

Failure Brings You Closer to Your Goal

Here’s the truth: Failure helps you succeed. It shows you what not to do or when something doesn’t work. It is the fertilizer for experience. In my career I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded, if you want to keep a record. I’ve been fired, mocked and even booed off stage more than once. I’ve had my phone, my lights and my water cut off. I’ve had my car repossessed and evicted from my home. If i hadn’t been to the bottom, I sincerely couldn’t be as grateful as I am. I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this to you.

I’ve been robbed, protested, preached against, assaulted. I’ve been cheated, swindled and lied to. I could fill a book with promises that have not been kept. Show biz. Because of my faith, I can say that I’ve forgiven all of these. I believe in the greatness of the human spirit. I’ve failed, and I’ve kept on down the road.

Failure is the potential of success, not yet fully realized.

So Now What?

You need to keep dreaming. Keep moving down your road. What we have is this moment; so treasure what it holds. Keep breathing.

When you stop dreaming, you become afraid. You get paralyzed, and that is where you really fail.

You will mess up. You will fall down. On your face. Hard. It will hurt.

Proverbs 24:16 says,

“The righteous man falls seven times but rises again.”

Not once, not twice — but seven times. Getting back up produces character and character produces hope.

With failure comes perseverance. With perseverance comes success.

Keep failing, keep learning. Failing means you’re doing. And if you are doing …

Why stop there?

Street Lessons (Part One)

“Just breathin’ and dreamin’ and passin’ by the time.” ~ Neil Cribbs

For years I’ve worked as a busker, an artist that performs on the streets for tips and donations. In the beginning it was the only venue I had.388083_10151413077746547_1767678808_n Street performing and dedication, as well as the ability to tell a good story under pressure on the street landed me my first restaurant gig, and those venues are what laid the foundation for my career. These days I don’t need the money in the hat, and the street act has become a bit more pure in its execution. I still take to the streets when I want to test new material. There’s no better venue to test an act under fire: those audiences have nothing invested in the show. They can and will walk away or give you immediate feedback if you fail to entertain them. Sometimes I just go back to the street because it’s there. It’s also somewhat comforting to know that if I ever have need, I have a stage that’s waiting and a hat to collect the wages.
My street antics attracted the attention of a young talented filmmaker a couple of years ago who was telling the story of street art in Charlotte. The project can be seen at buskmovie.com . The movie is quite fun, informative and worth a couple of viewings.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how the street helped me on my continuing road, and my ‘Why Stop There?’ philosophy. I’m going to share some of these lessons in the next couple of chapters. Let me know what you think: your feedback is not only welcome, it’s desired.

1. To get started, you have to get started. I spent years reading books, practicing alone and performing a few tricks for friends. My ability to spin a story came from my Grandpa Jack, a true fisherman and weaver of yarns. This was all fine and good, but the substance of my growth didn’t begin until I took a chance and stepped onto the stage in front of strangers. My stage was the sidewalk, my audience the people walking by. This venue was born out of necessity: I found myself out of work with a few nice prospects, but they all involved mind-numbing drudgery or underpaid labor. Out of frustration, I took a small table and a deck of cards and went to the corner of Trade & Tryon in my hometown of Charlotte, NC. I told a few jokes and did a few tricks and after a couple of hours there was grocery money in the hat. I earned about $12 an hour. This was 1993 and it was better money than I could make sitting in an office. I was inspired …

I strove to improve my craft. When I wasn’t on the street, I was reading, practicing, writing my stories and jokes down and reciting them. I took care of my family and my responsibilities.

If I hadn’t worked up the nerve to take that initial step, to just put my flag in the ground and say “Let’s give THIS a try!’, I would not be doing it today. I had to start down the road. I found that it had been waiting for me.

Who are you? Where does your talent lie? What excuses are keeping you from reaching your fullest potential? Perhaps it’s time to look at yourself, your talents and your responsibilities and ask yourself: “Why am I here?” You were made for something, you have a talent and a purpose. There’s work to be done, there are people just looking for someone like you to follow. Take your step, get on the road to your success and move forward.

And don’t stop there.
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