Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Where is Beyond Brookledge?

It would be easier to give Dorothy directions to "somewhere over the Rainbow" than to tell someone how to find Beyond Brookledge.  And WHERE is a much easier question to answer than WHAT is Beyond Brookledge?  Those of us, who have been Beyond and come back to tell about it, find the event and/or experience extremely difficult to describe. The task is impossible if explaining to anyone who has not been as far as Brookledge before.
There are no adjectives to describe uniqueness.  To call something unique means there's nothing similar to it. Unique is without comparison or likeness so how do you explain it in words.
Perhaps there is a way to convey the concept of Beyond Brookledge in a more tactical way.  Instead of depicting a  unique moment in time and space let's describe it as a thing.
BB is a living breathing organism of immersive theatrics and a variety of artists entertaining selected guests and themselves with their talents.  Once a year this creature materializes at an old historic Mission in California. For two thousand eight hundred, eighty minutes the beast appears and disappears all over the rambling mission grounds. Each manifestation is a different mystery and emotion portrayed once only for those who know where to be and where to look in that moment.
You meet a lot of people who are with you on the journey. Sometimes you meet the same people more than once.  Performers morph into other characters and assume other roles.  It makes you wonder if anyone is really who they say they are the first time you see them.

Beyond Brookledge is the love and art child  of  BabyTattoo and Magic Castle, and has the characteristics of each its parents. There is magic of course and art of course, but they exist as a seamless package in this monster Beyond. The magician, singer, juggler, comic, clown, sword swallower, ventriloquist, game creator, illustrator, astrologer, sculptor, and comedy dare devil display their skills separately but in concert with each other to create an art project bigger than the sum of its pieces. Think of the blend as colors on a canvas, the notes of a symphony or the dancers in a ballet. 
For the 2800 plus minutes of Beyond Brookledge existence, everything you can imagine is happening and nothing is completely real.

For example, take the Beyond tour of the old Spanish Mission Hotel conducted by two docent guides. Claims that the clock tower is made of Styrofoam, the waiters - Disney animatronics, the Spanish tile floor -  overstocked Costco goods and information that the Mission was actually built in the late 1970's, does not seem to jibe with historic fact about the structure. 
Bob and Erika -
Beyond Brookledge Beast Wranglers
An 11 foot sculpture seems possessed with life as it appears anywhere there is to be a gathering in the Historic Mission Inn.  Considering the old Hotel is a maze of rooms that have no access but steep spiral stair cases, how the huge gothically inspired Monolith gets from place to place is only speculation. Although you occasionally see other performers in costume or with props walking the halls, the Monolith was never seen out and about but always in the next spot where there is to be a performance.
There are planned events, for those in the know, springing up in various areas of the old Mission at almost any time during the 2880 hours. There was a 9:30 AM illusion show performed "flawlessly hung over"  by performers in their pajamas using toasters, bagels, coffee and orange juice as their magic props. If you know the off beat act of Amazing Johnathan or have ever been to a Puddles Pity Party you understand what some of the scheduled shows are like.  But, after hours, in suites surrounding a moonlit roof top courtyard and sometimes in the courtyard itself, impromptu performances continue well into the night.  The Beyond Brookledge Beast never really sleeps.
Singing while escaping the rotunda and
straitjacket.  

As I left on Sunday after the Beast disappeared into hibernation for another 365 days, I questioned my own reality for a moment.  Having never before been to the the Old Mission Inn and Spa in Riverside, I drove only blocks away when I began to wonder if the place actually existed.  Maybe it was made of styrofoam like the guides said. Perhaps the Beast takes this lair with him when he goes. I was afraid to look back thinking I would surely be turned into a pillar of salt.
Preview of Pity Party. 






I plan to attend next year. (May 19 - 21, 2017)  It will be the fifth anniversary of the Beast's return to the Mission Inn.  I am already planning what I can feed the Beast for its birthday.  I'm not sure if I will be audience or performer next time but it doesn't really matter. I plan to become whatever the Beast needs me to be. At Beyond Brookledge fourth walls do not exist.   If you are lucky enough to attend,  you might or might not see me.  If you do you might or might not know me.
To answer the question "Where is Beyond Brookledge?"  with an enigma , you don't find Beyond Brookledge, it must find you.
As you were,
Jay

Sunday, May 15, 2016

High in Hawaii

It was many sunsets before this one but it happened on Maui nonetheless. As I look out on the ocean this time, I remember another Maui day a decade or so ago, a day we decided to go Parasailing.
By "we" I mean me and Sandi, my personal manager Gregg, his wife and brother.  I can't say Parasailing was a bucket list event but it was certainly something to do on a day off.  
Now, I'm not good with heights, in fact walking the rim of the Grand Canyon caused me major psychological issues. The beauty of the landscape could not over come a dizzy feeling in my stomach at the site of the sheer cliffs. It felt like I was falling and just waiting to hit the ground. So I wouldn't normally choose to put myself in that position but peer pressure can sometimes cause you to "do things", and that was certainly the case when I decided to join the group in a Parasailing excursion.   I was also younger then and more highly insured. 
Now before anyone gets all judgmental and reminds me that parasailing is not the same as walking a tight wire across the Grand Canyon, I knew this excursion wouldn't be much more dangerous than a Ferris Wheel ride. Still being a hundred feet up in the air above the shark infested waters of the Maui coast line supported by nothing more than a sling under my butt and a bed sheet over my head was not "nothing" to me. Besides, I don't like Ferris Wheel rides either. 
Now here is the thing about Hawaiian history. When Captain Cook looked like he was going to stay in Hawaii longer than the locals wanted, they killed him and ate him.  Since then the locals have learned that they can make more money out of "Aloha-ing the shit" out of tourist instead of just eating them.  So everything costs tourist dollars and going out on a boat towing a parachute is just one way of commercializing Aloha. 
The parasailing deal was this: the boat ride alone was $25. (That was 1990's dollars I have no idea what it is today).  If you wanted to go up on the parachute, attached to a 100 feet of rope to have a look around for 15 minutes, it cost an additional $25.  Once you got up there and found that you really did enjoy this gull's eye view, the captain of the boat would reel out another 50 feet of rope to take you higher for another 10 minutes... For another $25.  All the captain needed was a signal to know if you wanted to extend your ride and height. Because you would be too high up in the air and too far from the boat to communicate verbally hand signals were established for communication.   
It was a beautifully calm day at sea and it was great to be on the water instead of working in a hotel Ballroom.  The captain sailed fairly far from the coastline, turned off the engine and gave us instructions on how to prepare for becoming a human kite. For those going up on the chute there was a signal for "go higher" (I'll spend another $25) and a signal for "high enough" (I will live to spend the extra $25 another day).  
I was fairly certain that I would choose to go up but being a gentleman (and just a little bit pussy) I said I would go last. Gregg was first and said told the captain no signal would be necessary for him, send him to the 150 feet level for the full time.  This pattern was repeated by his wife and brother, no signals needed.  
Sandi (my darling Bride) is more practical and thrifty. She said she would give the signal to go higher after she evaluated from the 100 foot level if the extra expense was worth the thrill of another 50 feet. It was not long after she got to the first level that she extended both her arms above her head and pointed her fingers to the heavens.  This was the signal that she wanted to go the 150 feet as well. 
After what seemed to a great experience for her, the captain reeled her in and she floated to the deck like the last leaf of fall. 
It is now my turn.  There was a moment when I thought, WHY?  They had their turn, they had fun, they liked it, surely my involvement in the activity would not impact their enjoyment one way or another. That was not the case. They liked it so much, they all wanted me to have the great experience as well.  How could we have a conversation about the trip over cocktails later, if I had no frame of reference? Besides, they said, you only live once, capré diem, excite yourself... Bla Bla Bla... This is the peer pressure part I was referring to earlier. 
I said "why not," and strapped on the nylon contraption that was to be my only connection to the real world.  But using the logic that my wife had come up with, I said I would evaluate the experience once I was there. I would let the captain know if I wanted to extend my height.
At first the sensation is not like you are being lifted very high. It seems more like you are being abandoned at sea. You seem to be standing still as you watch the boat get smaller moving away from you reeling out the 100 foot rope.  This lack of excessive altitude gives me time to carefully consider my decision, so far this is not the terror I thought it might be. From where I sit the rope looks more like a string than a safe tow. I loose site of it before it connects to the boat below and start to rise at the end of this 100 foot thread. I can't recall in this moment who it was that compared this experience to flying a kite, but that is not a good image for me.  As a kid I remember perfectly how my kite would soar up into the air just like I was doing now and suddenly reverse directions and crash head first into the ground.  I held onto the lines that connected the canopy in the hopes they would stay aloft if I suddenly "kited" head first to the ground.  

It seems an eternity up there but it's still not enough time for me to relax and enjoy the view. The one thing I will not do is look down. Suddenly the boat slows and speeds again causing me to change altitude quickly.  It is the captain's way of getting my attention.  It works, I look at the boat hoping to catch one last glimpse of my beautiful wife down below.  It is time... Time for me to declare my intention. Do I stay at that altitude for the rest of the ride or go higher? It wasn't about the money, it wasn't about the peer pressure, it just wasn't going to happen.  I placed my right thumb under my right arm pit, and my left thumb under my left arm pit and flap my elbows, the sign of the chicken.  It was the signal that I did not want to go higher.  
Now I was told that hand signals were needed because verbal communication was not possible at this distance.  However, I distinctly remember hearing, quite clearly, four people, not including my wife, on the deck of a little motor boat making clucking chicken sounds like a barnyard coop.  
I'm no longer with that personal manager.  He and his wife divorced soon after and his brother is now a corporate producer in San Diego who has rarely hired me for work. 
I am, however, still married to Sandi and we just celebrated our 44th anniversary here in Maui last Saturday.  At no time did she even suggest that we go Parasailing this time.
As you were, 
Jay

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon is the stuff that dreams (and movies) are made of.  According to the Dashiell Hammett story, in 1539 the Knights Templar of Malta paid tribute to Charles V of Spain, by sending him a solid gold Falcon statue encrusted with priceless jewels.  The statue was stolen in route to the King by pirates then painted with black paint to conceal its incredible value.  Since that time the path to gain possession of the treasure has been marked by murder and double cross.
Evolution of the Maltese Falcon..
The 1941 Warner Brothers movie "The Maltese Falcon" is a classic example of Film Noir and part of the equally iconic body of Humphrey Bogart's  work. Bogart holding the "bird" is a familiar image for film buffs.  
In the film the  Falcon statue ends up in the office of Sam Spade, of Spade and Archer private investigators, where it is discovered to be a fake.  At the end of the movie the thieves are off on another trail to find the real Falcon.  Although this is where the movie ends, this is where my Falcon story begins.
Harry Anderson is a major Dashiell Hammett fan.  He named his company Spade and Archer, Limited, and his son Dashiell.  The first time I was invited to Harry's Hollywood apartment decades ago, on his shelf was a replica of the "Maltese Falcon". Like all of the treasured collections of Harry Anderson it had a great story. He told me it was a replica cast from the original Warner Brothers movie prop and sold only at the Mystery Book Store of the Valley, now long gone. Over the years Harry and I have shared various office space together and the Falcon has always been displayed prominently. It is, and always will be integral to the con man image of his Harry the Hat character. 
Then came a television show called "Night Court" where Harry played an eccentric Judge named Harry Stone. The character in "Night Court" was drawn very closely from Harry's stage magician character.  To that degree the set designer wanted to make the Harry Stone office on stage look as close to the real Harry Anderson office as possible. 
I remember when the set designer came over to take pictures of the real Anderson office. There was no way to miss the Maltese Falcon on display. The designer asked if he could use some of Harry's memorabilia as eye wash for the set, the Falcon statue being one item of several requested. Of course Harry said yes.  Although the real office became a little more drab the set was very familiar.  
"Night Court" was a huge hit for NBC and stayed on for 11 years. The size and location of the Anderson office got bigger and better. The Falcon would be in the Anderson office for the summer hiatus and then it would go back to the set of Night Court for the season.  One year Harry decided that he missed having an "office Falcon" during the season so he told props to buy their own Falcon at the Mystery Book store.  That could have been the end of the story but like I said, most everything Harry owns has a great story attached to it.  
When Harry arrived for the beginning of the season that particular year, there was another Falcon statue where it had always been on the set.  But this Falcon was different. Not so much that you could notice on television but it was thinner, much more detailed and beautiful than the replica at the Anderson office. It became obvious to Harry that the one he owned was a casting of a casting of a casting of the original.  With each new casting the sculpting became less detailed and thicker in size.  It was similar but side by side the differences were startling.  
Harry asked if the prop man bought the new Falcon from the book store. The prop guy said, "No I got it from the Prop department here at Warner Brothers." It was a nexus that might have gotten lost.  Night Court was an NBC show shot at, and associated with Warner Brothers Studio, Burbank, CA. The 1941 Film Noir of "The Maltese Falcon" was a Warner Brothers production. You are probably way ahead of me but play along like you don't know what comes next.  
The story goes that Bogart dropped the Falcon statue and broke it in the early days of shooting so they made several back-up Falcons just in case.  Nobody knows how many Falcon statues they used or needed for the film, nor how many the studio kept, but it became obvious to Harry that Warner Brothers still had at least one. The Falcon sitting on the set of the "Night Court" offices was THE prop of the real Maltese Falcon. 
In less than a few days Harry switched the bird on the set with the one at the office to see if anyone would notice.  They didn't. The one currently on the set was the same one that had been there since the start so only the prop man knew for sure. Harry admitted the switch and the prop man who said it would be their secret.  Harry was now in possession of the Real Maltese Falcon.  
It was really beautiful sitting on a shelf of prominence in the Spade and Archer, Limited offices. I used to marvel at it like I was Golum with the ring. I remember the day that Harry returned from the studio to find that I had wiped the dust and smudges off the Falcon to make it shine. Instead of seeing the beauty of my actions, he reminded me that the smudges might have been the finger prints of Bogart and the dust was from Warner Brothers prop storage.  Indeed in my attempt to make it shine I had wiped it clean of any forensic trace evidence of legendary actors. Although my friendship with Harry survived that event, I agreed never to straighten up the office again. However, soon after that the Maltese Falcon got its own pedestal stand with a glass dome keeping the likes of me at a distance.

There came a time when Harry's friend Mel Tormé invited the two of us to Movie night at the Playboy Mansion. Mel wanted Harry to bring the Falcon to show Heff.  During dinner, Mel took the lead on telling Hugh the story of how Harry got the Falcon which was dramatically placed on the table in front of Heffner. He listened intently, dismissed himself from the table and left without a word.  In a few minutes he returned with a Maltese Falcon of his own. He set his on the table next to Harry's and the group of 10 dinner guests carefully examined the two black birds.  There were differences, not many but enough to see they were not exact duplicates. Without the DNA evidence that I had wiped clean the actual authenticity of neither bird could be satisfied that night. 

Cut to the present day...
For Christmas Harry got a 3-D printer.  He has become obsessed with it as much as any toy he has ever owned.  It was only a matter of time before he would scan the original Falcon and print a scale model of it.  There is a picture of one here on the left.  Better than a casting, it is an exact digital copy of the original. But isn't the Falcon all about fraudulent copies.  How would some one really know?

Pedigree and provenance is always difficult to prove with an object of art, especially one originally created as a prop for a movie. What it needs is independent verification from a person whom themselves can be verified as knowledgable and truthful.  In this case the Anderson Falcon tops all others.  During an appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Harry told the story of how he was in possession of the real Maltese Falcon.  It was a great story to tell at the Carson couch.  However, Johnny was not persuaded since he had seen the Hugh Heffner statue as well.  It was far from an endorsement of Harry's statue as the actual Falcon.  But it does not end there.
The next night on the Tonight Show as Johnny is signing off for the evening he says, "We have a correction to make. Last night I doubted that Harry Anderson had in his possession the real Maltese Falcon.  Today we got a phone call from the prop man at Warner Brothers Studio who said he had indeed given Harry the original Maltese Falcon. So there you have it. Harry we stand corrected."  
Johnny Carson becomes part of the mystery and the best independent source that Harry has the original Maltese Falcon. These 3-D prints are as close to the original as one can get. 
I have in my possession what we call the "fat Falcon" that was the actual Falcon on the Night Court set. It became famous with its own television history.
As you were,
Jay


 




Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Piper

It is here I find myself waiting for more hours than I want to count, to catch an airplane to my next destination.  It is a Bar/Restuaurant/Motel minutes away from the Anchorage Airport. It is called "The Piper". Based upon the proximity to the airport I assume the name refers to the ubiquitous Piper Cub Air Craft seen all over the area. They have a free shuttle to and from the Airport, so rather than sit at the terminal I can pretend I am here for other reasons than just to catch a plane. The men at the bar are joined by the female bartender watching a televised poker game like it was the Super Bowl.
"Go ahead... Do it... Do it" they yell to a woman on screen who is hesitant about going all in on a Texas Hold em' game. In my mind I have made the comparison of this scene to the television show Northern Exposure so many times it is no longer relevant. 
In a gender bending version of "Cheers" a lady walks in and everyone at the bar yells "Dawn". I am assuming that's her name but I am so bored, tired and fuzzy from travel it could be the time of day. Alaska is beautiful but still under the overcast blanket of winter, at least that is the weather today.  The conversation buzzes with the notion that things are changing. They talk about tourist season coming soon. That must be what they call clear weather up here. A man who seems to be in charge talks about opening the patio to "The Piper" in a couple of weeks.  I can see through fog coated windows there is an outside area to this establishment. I have a heavy sweater on and I am comfortable inside, but I am trying to imagine what it would be like dining here "al fresco". There are 15 video screens surrounding The Piper, and all are tuned to a different sports activity. 
At this point a native enters the bar. Indian, Eskimo, Inuit, Yupick I am not sure which is politically correct but she carries a display box  of jewelry for sale.  I ask her if this is her artwork and she says yes. 
"The Earings" she says, "I make when my kids are asleep at night." I ask her how many kids she has and she tells me, two boys.  I have two sons myself, I say. This turns into a story of her life.  It is a great story of wanting girls and having boys, but assured that it is ordained by the powers that control the universe and all in it.  She is blessed with two boys, but her sister had a boy and a girl. Some how that is a source of wonder for her as her sister only wanted boys.   I buy a pair of Earings from her as a royalty payment for someday using this beautiful story she has told.  She is gone and the bar begins to fill with locals.
I do not hear talk of politics.  The patrons of The Piper seem unaware that a primary has even taken place today.  No one is talking of the death of Prince or the settlement of his estate.  I hear conversations about the arrival of "Sherry", the "late shift" bartender who is very popular with the men at the bar.  There is talk of how a prize halibut was ruined when someone tried to prepare it Cajun style.  There are 35 people in the bar and I realize there must be an exponential number of stories involving these people to a multiple power.  I am a strange fish in a strange sea but simple passing through. The bar is beginning to get crowded with locals who fall into a pattern that I am not a part of. The longer I stay the more I realize that like Dorothy said, "I am not in Kansas anymore."
I ask for my check. I pay my bill and I swim back into the more familiar stream of the airport. 
My flight seems to be moving backward and time is creeping by. 
As you were,
Jay



Sunday, April 24, 2016

For the Betterment of the Order...

I think it was Buddy Hackett who said the only book he read was the dictionary, because it contained the words of all the other books. I don't know why that would come to me this morning, but like all comedy that statement is complex in its simplicity. Since I am in the middle of the ocean on a Sunday with no sense of time, day or location I have the luxury to ponder such riddles. So if you will indulge me for a paragraph or two I am going to explore that thought. Or in the words of Edward Albee, "I write to know what I am thinking about." 
Right now I am gawking at a keyboard full of square buttons in an electronic framework. These buttons have various symbols and letters to identify them.  Individually they don't represent much by themselves.  Together in this keyboard arrangement they don't spell any words or communicate anything other than an order that is not even alphabetical.  However, if I press these buttons in a specific pattern they spell words that communicate ideas.  This process is happening at this exact moment in my life. You are decoding this pattern of letters at this exact moment in your life. We have come together in the abstract moment of now.  Simple enough so far but... 
In college I had an English professor named Mr. Roundtree. He pointed out that writing was all about the order of things.  It started with the order of letters.  Take the letters T-A-S-R, the order you chose to place those letters creates a word. The word is determined by how you use these letters.  If the order is Rats it means a group of rodents.  If the order is Tars it communicates a gooey substance of black.  If the order is Star it is a celestial body in the universe.  His point was: the order of these simple letters is ultimately the difference between communication or confusion.  
That was only the beginning of his thesis. The next step is a sentence, which is nothing more than the arrangement of words in a specific order to communicate an idea.  The order in which these words appear in a sentence is just as important as the correct order of the letters in a word.  The incorrect order of words in a sentence can be the difference between a Rat and a Star
Next comes the order of the sentences in a paragraph. Again, the correct placement of sentences in the structure of the paragraph is imperative, as is the order of paragraphs in a chapter, and ultimately the order of the chapters to communicate the story you wish to tell. So writing, he said, was the creative arrangement of letters, these individual symbols that by themselves mean very little but in a specific group order, communicate infinite ideas.
The skillful way a writer arranges his or her letters becomes a style that is as recognizable as the brush strokes of a painter or the notes in a song and the difference between artist and craftsman. As interesting as I thought Mr. Roundtree's analogy was, since I had no intention of becoming a writer It was necessary to me only long enough to pass his class. But, of all the things I DON'T remember from my college experience, this is one idea that has stayed with me.  
Here on this cruise we have added an hour to the clock each night for the last week, and we crossed the international date line and repeated a Thursday. So time for us is a very fluid and ethereal series in the moments of NOW.  In fact I would say that's what life is, only a series of present moment unfettered by time. We eventually gather enough of these life moments to assemble a story that becomes His Story or Her story much like a novel we are writing about ourselves.  Perhaps like the individual letters in a book the order of these moments determine our history.  Order becomes as important in a successful life as it is in successful writing.  
There are times we can affect the order of our lives by the decisions we make, and there are times we can not.  But there is no doubt that each moment in that specific order, in relation to all the other moments, makes us who we are. To look back with regret and wish this moment would have happened before that moment, or wish a certain moment had never happened in our life, is fantasy.  The order in which things happen in your life makes you the person you are. To change even a letter in one sentence of one paragraph of your life would make your life story different. You would not be the same person looking back on this past but a different person looking back on a different past. Our star can be come rats with very slight changes.
Our life, like a novel, is all about the order of small things building to larger ideas. Unlike a novel, however, our life has no determined ending. The future is only a series of now moments yet to be experienced.  We do our best to arrange the things we can change, knowing there will be plot twists we don't see coming.  But as long as we have the highest concept of the kind of character we want to be in this life, all things build correctly to that outcome.  
Edward Albee is absolutely correct, but I obviously have more writing to do.
As you were,
Jay 


Saturday, April 23, 2016

They're All a Bunch of.....

As I waited in line for a flight from Tokyo to Sapporo, Japan it dawned on me there is a very different sense of personal space between my culture and the Asian culture.  I was standing in the midst of a group of Chinese tourist who were on holiday.  There was plenty of room to wait in the boarding area but they chose to bunch together like they were being packed for shipment. I was being pressed on all sides of my body, but was not claustrophobic.  The reason? At the average American height of 5'8" I was head and shoulders above the mass.  Like a human periscope I could see the entire mass of humans I was drowning in. I felt like a giant for the moment.
Wow, I thought, Asians are small people then wondered if that was a racist thought. If so, why? And if not why?  The fact that I am not considered a tall man in America yet towered above this group was fact not stereotype, yet it felt wrong to even think that way.
This is the blurry line of Political Correctness, I am just never sure how to react anymore to what I observe. I was raised by parents who demanded respect and politeness from their kids especially toward others. In fact I was taught that everyone else's rights should be considered before my own. This passive interpretation of the Jesus ethic is a swing too far in the opposite direction of egotism.  I have learned to my own understanding that we are all equal and to think that my equality waits on the wants of others is no more correct than thinking mine are superior. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is a statement of equality not deference to another.  
Political correctness is on my mind because of a conversation I had a few days back.  A lady began to talk to me and eventually it lead to the fact that I was one of the ship entertainers. We were having a lively exchange and I invited her to come and see my show in the theatre in a couple of nights. 
"Are you a comic?" She said with enthusiasm.
"Sort of," I replied, "I am a ventriloquist."
Her demeanor changed. "Oh, I have a problem with ventriloquists," she said.
I was prepared to open the discussion of ventrilo-phobia which I encounter a lot and am well rehearsed in answering, but I was not prepared for this "problem."
"Why?" I said.
"Because ventriloquists are racist." 
She went on to explain that she had seen a video of a ventriloquist who performed with a character that was offensive to Muslims, some sort of dead terrorist. Then once on a ship she saw a ventriloquist perform with a character that was offensive to Chinese named "Wing Tip Shoe". 
She would not be coming to see my show. 
I know both of these ventriloquists and told her so, but my opinion of their acts was not important to her.  I could not sway her belief. 
She seemed to have no more interest in continuing our conversation. My final statement was, "Well, we ventriloquist are like singers. We all sing different songs. Different people like different music. I hope you will come and listen to mine."  
"I doubt that I will." She said. 
I was upset by this exchange.  To be judged by any actions other than my own is frustrating and to be labeled a racist by occupation was in my opinion short sighted.  As I had time to think about the exchange it dawned on me... SHE was being racist. By assuming that all ventriloquist are the same  is stereotyping, which is the root of racism.  
I thought back to the Tokyo airport and had my answer. It's racism to say, "All Asians are short" and "Chinese have no sense of personal space".  That is certainly not true and is stereotyping.  The fact is: at the Tokyo Airport I was surrounded by a group of people pressing to get onto the plane and most everyone was shorter than me.  And the ship is not full of rich snobs who can't get the stick out of their asses to enjoy a comedy act, there is just one lady who assumed the self-righteous role of moral compass to group of lovely individuals. 
As you were,
Jay


Friday, April 22, 2016

Bistro Still Life....

I am currently sitting in the Bistro located on the Tiffinay deck, which is the closest thing to a Starbucks they have on board this ship.  It is here that coffee and snacks are consumed by the cargo net full until it is time to eat lunch or dinner again.  It is our 6th sea day in a row and no matter how many activities the ship programs to pass the time, everyone eventually ends up here.  I have chosen this place as my office with the intent of writing. It has not been as inspirational as I hoped it would be.  Every day at 11:30 a string quartet begins to play in the grand lobby below. Although beautiful and inspirational, it causes the "hard of hearing" passengers around me to talk even louder to be heard. I get lost in the conversations taking place around me and can't hear that internal voice from which I transcribe this blog. 
Most of the time I just give up writing and draw. Here is a drawing of the orchid in a square vase filled with coffee beans sitting on my "office" desk/table. Yeah, I could have just taken a picture of it to post, but there is never a rush to do anything quickly on a sea day.  Besides the more time it takes me to draw something, the more conversations around me I can eavesdrop on. Here are just a few of the things I've heard already. 

Earlier in the week there was a near mutiny when the espresso machine went down. An elderly lady says,  "Excuse me can I get an espresso"
"I'm so sorry the machine is down. We are trying to fix it." 
Her more mature husband says, "What?" 
"He said the espresso is not working?"
"NO espresso?"
"No espresso, honey."
The old man looks at the menu.
"Then I'll just have a Lait." 
Waiter, "So sorry, we can't make a Lait. As I said the machine is down."
Old man, "What"
Old lady, "No Lait, there's no espresso."
"No, Lait and no espresso either."
Waiter, "We are working on the machine."
The man looks at the menu for a second time.
"Then I'll have a Café Americano"
Waiter, "Unfortunately a Café Americano is made with espresso"
"What?"
Old lady, "There is no espresso, they can't make it."
"Good God, then what do you have?"
Waiter, "I can get you some coffee."
Totally frustrated the old man says, "That's all I wanted in the first place."

I talked to the Cruise Director who is a friend and loves his job. He said, however, that one of his duties is listening to complaints. He said, "I see the same people every two years who complain about the same things every time.  I think they pay $4000 a day out hear just because no one else will listen to them." You can see that idea at work here in the Bistro. Older people will engage young waiters in conversation about most anything out of sheer loneliness.  I heard a conversation between an octogenarian lady passenger and a twenty something Ukrainian waiter. It was obviously a conversation that was continuing from a former encounter.  

"So, what will you do when we get to San Francisco?"
Young waiter with a beautiful lilting accent, "I will go home, my contract is over."
"Will you come back on the sea?"
"I'm not sure."
"But it is so beautiful, peaceful and calm out here."
"Yes, but... I have to work," he said as he was took her used dishes to the galley.  

I learn a lot by listening as I draw here in the Bistro. By the time I do my show in a day or so I will know my audience very well. I won't know all their names, but... I will know them as: Espresso man, Lonely grandmother, Cougar lady, Weird hairdo woman, the old Grump and the Arguing couple. They will come to see me perform not knowing they have been doing a show for me all week.  
As you were, 
Jay