Sunday, December 28, 2008

On authentic culinary experiences

When in an exotic location, people often want to sample "authentic" cuisine. I laud this impulse, and often have it myself. Oftentimes, though, eating in a restaurant will only give one a tourist's experience. To truly have an "authentic" experience, one must attempt to eat what the locals eat. "How," one might ask, "does one discern what the locals eat without a professional guide, e.g. a restauranteur?" The answer, we have discovered, is quite simple. Simply visit a grocery store for a few hours and do some intense price comparing. Cover all your necessary nutrients. The absolute cheapest meal will be the most authentic. Dismiss nothing! While in Seattle, potatoes are the cheapest source of carbohydrates (Idaho being our neighbor) and proteins are all pretty much comparable (because the price of fish is still higher than other proteins, but you get my drift). edit: see comments for Seattle culinary controversy. In New Orleans, rice and beans are by far the cheapest staples to be found.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fixed my iBook G4 optical drive (DVD/CD)

While this isn't in our mission, I thought I'd mention our experience with this computer and our trials and tribulations (and our troubles with tribbles).

We use a 12" iBook G4 that I received as a graduation gift in 2004. It has served me reasonably well, and I've been fortunate enough to know other iBook users who are less thrifty than I. As all iBook users know, the power cable is ill-designed, and I've had to replace that a few times (4) they don't make them particularly replacement-friendly, so I've had to purchase all-new power sources each time, even though it's only been the part that plugs into the computer that bent. Once, I was able to solder the end and got another few months out of the cable, but other times I just invested in the $30 generic brand power cord. My only tip for preserving your power cord (aside from "don't trip over it") is to save that little plastic cover for the end of the cord and store your power cord always in that when not in use. It seems to do a minor job of correctly bending a slightly misshapen tip back to its original working condition.

But all of that is digression from the important story of today. A bit more digression before we continue. About 2 years ago, I dropped this computer. It ceased to function properly. About 6 months later, the delightful Janeth Jones, a fellow Stage Manager at YTN, bequeathed upon me her non-functioning 12" iBook G4. Since I am handyman extraordinaire, I found, and put my hard drive in Janeth's computer. Everything worked beautifully until about 6 months ago when the optical drive (known to laymen as the DVD drive) ceased to function and ate Amelie's Lady in the Water DVD. We just used again... but I realized before we finished that the cord which connects the optical drive to the logic board (motherboard for PC users) was loose. I pushed it back in, and it works like a charm. The moral of this story is, if something is broken, especially your optical drive, check to see if it's plugged in before you take your computer apart. If we had known which cable was which (the orange cable is the one to the optical drive, it turns out) before we began, we could have just removed the RAM shield and pushed it in and saved ourselves about an hour of work.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A few Christmas pictures...

And since I'm still having troubles uploading pictures, even with my small success seen here, click here or copy and paste this link to see more Christmas pictures on Facebook:

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in Wisconsin

We are satiated and content after two days of eating our fill of extra delicious food and visiting with family and other loved ones. Have a peek at our photo album of Christmas Eve on Facebook, for now, because I'm having issues uploading pictures to our blog.

More pictures are soon forthcoming, and longer blogs!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Birthday Fun

Look at that pretty cake. Brendan made that for me for my birthday. It is one of my favorite kinds of cake, ever since I went to Vienna--Mohr im Hemd. Sooooo good.

It was so pretty I just had to keep posing next to it. 

And then I had to eat it!!

And then I felt sat-is-fied. Yummm.....

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fun in the Snow

Brendan and Guy

+ Mariah

Apparently Brendan smells good

Guy says Happy Holidays to all

This is Zephyr

And here is Stina

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Big ole update

Okay, it's possible we'll never finish filling out those bullet points. At some point it becomes more important to share what's been happening most recently. If we do fill out the rest, we'll post it in the original blog where they occurred, and we'll let you know in a new blog so you can go back and read some interesting stories.

But now I'll start with now and work my way backwards until I start to lose track of days. Today is Wednesday. Brendan and I arrived in Wisconsin this afternoon around 12pm. We had planned to spend the day in Chicago with Brendan's parents, but his mom is just getting better from a nasty flu-bug she got over the weekend, so we got on another train to Milwaukee where his dad picked us up. This is the view outside their house:

Snow! Glorious snow! It's really beautiful here, and we're told it might snow another 10 inches or so the day after tomorrow. Today we're taking it easy after a night on the train.

The train trip was quite fine. Leaving New Orleans by train is heaven for bird lovers. It goes through marshes, wetlands, swamps...I'm not really sure what the difference is between all those, but it goes through one or all. What I'm trying to get at is there are cranes, herons, various types of ducks, and it's such a treat to see all those birds. The cranes, especially, were everywhere, sometimes congregating in groups of twenty or more. I wish I'd gotten a picture of that.

Brendan did try to take a picture of the mist at one point. You couldn't tell where the Mississippi met the sky. But by the time we got the camera out and ready, we were no longer right on the water. But you can still see how misty it was:

Well, you can sorta tell how misty it was. On Monday we didn't do very much. On Sunday we had brunch with Jocelyn and Nate and their upstairs neighbors whose names I've embarrassingly forgotten. A little later on Sunday we went to a Couchsurfing potluck and met a bunch of really cool people, and got to know a bit better some we'd already met. We talked a lot to a fellow hitchhiker and he showed us pictures of various signs he's used to try and attract rides. This inspired us to take a picture of our most recently used hitchhiking sign:

On Saturday spent some time internetting, and on our way home we talked to Jocelyn to see what she was up to for the evening, and she invited us to join her and Nate for a tacky Christmas sweater party later. We said maybe. And then we remembered how we want to start saying yes! to things, or at least yes. About a week earlier, we had turned down an invitation to go into a halfway-house and see what it was like and as soon as we walked away from that opportunity, we realized we should have said yes. We miss out on unknown opportunities when we say no. This trip is our chance to say yes more than ever before, because we don't have any obligations or work schedules. To sum it up perfectly and serendipitously, as we just read this for an upcoming book club meeting, "Unexpected travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God," from Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.

So we decided to say yes! to the tacky Christmas sweater party. But Jocelyn and Nate weren't going until about 10pm and it was only about 8pm or so. And then Michael called. Michael is a couchsurfer we met playing tag football last weekend. He decided to stay in New Orleans an extra day and wanted to know if we wanted to meet him in the French Quarter. We, of course, wanted to say yes. So we did, and we decided that we might still make it to the party later.

We met Michael by Jackson Square and began walking towards Bourbon Street. On the way we visited a beautiful art gallery, with pieces that sold for over $150k. We spent some time discussing what we liked best and finding out the prices from the friendly and helpful curator, and then we went to Bourbon St. Our first stop:

Lafitte's claims to be the oldest building used a bar in the United States. The tall man next to Brendan is Michael, and the two outer gentlemen just happened to be nearby and when invited to be in the picture they enthusiastically joined. Suffice to say the rest of the night was somewhat debaucherous, yet fascinating. Mingling with all the drunk people on Bourbon St. is more enjoyable when one is also drunk, at least for me.

As the night was winding to a close and we were keeping Michael company waiting for the streetcar, we were chit-chatting and the word "couchsurfing" came up. A young lady standing near us asked if we were from New Orleans and we found out she is a couchsurfer as well, here visiting her sister. So our couchsurfing circle widened, and we were able to see her and Michael again at the potluck the next day.

On Friday evening we had the second installment of a World of Darkness roleplaying game Brendan is leading. We've made some new friends through this and they are delightful people as well as delightful role-players. My character turned into a werewolf!

And this is where my memory starts to fade and days run together. We probably rehearsed last week, and we probably spent some time at CC's checking our email, and we probably walked a lot. The delightful usual.

Friday, December 12, 2008

It snowed in New Orleans!

This is the cute house across the street:

This is our neighbor's car:

And this is a cactus. And that is snow on the ground behind it.

One day later, I am sitting outside as I type this. My fingers are a little cold, but I just have a fleece on and otherwise I'm perfectly comfortable. What is up with New Orleans weather?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

2 more bullet points

  • Delightful Thanksgiving visit with Danielle and Michael and one of the cutest two-year-olds ever.
Brendan had Thanksgiving with his fiancee’s cousin’s wife’s mother’s husband’s parents and their extended family. We played obstacle football with a regular ol’ half-brother and an aunt’s boyfriend’s children. If we pretend that fiancee-hood and boyfriend-hood can be the same as in-lawness, that would make those kids Brendan’s step cousins in-law^3. Or, as Wes would say, his shirttail cousins.
We had deliciousness and played dominoes at the Thanksgiving feast. We watched the Seahawks get creamed by the Dallas Cowboys (we were in Dallas, so groans would have been ill-advised).
The next two days were spent enjoying the pleasant company of Dani and Michael and Andrew and Kalab, and the last night produced these delights:

Stina is thinking about writing a story titled The Boy in the Clock.

  • Recovered dedication! Ride from Dallas to Houston with construction worker who was very hesitant at first, asked us if we had any weapons, specified that I (Stina) sit in front, but by the time we got to Houston was showing us pictures of his family.
After being dropped off Sunday morning by Danielle and Michael at a nice south-of-Dallas freeway exit, the blustery wind suddenly began to cut right to the bone. We decided to trudge to the next exit which we could see was in a bit of a valley and near a gas station so we could get out of the wind. We had sudden worries of Chicago hhiking. We trudged the mile or so and discovered two dogs very eager to become our friends at the gas station. Just as we were kneeling down to play with them, a Dodge Ram pulled up and rolled down his window. We hadn't even stuck our thumbs out yet, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect, but Vincent asked if we had any weapons, asked where we were going, and told us that Stina had to be the one to sit up front (I imagine he was worried Brendan would grab the steering wheel from him and run off with it). Once we were settled in and didn’t try to kill him, he told us that he had seen us walking as he had gone to get gas and had prayed over whether to pick us up or not. He told us God must be with us ‘cause he doesn’t usually pick people up.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Rehearsing steadily

Just a quick note to say hello, and that we are rehearsing every day. We are focusing on 6-ball juggling, and we're spending a portion of each day writing. We are getting much better at 6-ball juggling! And one day this week we will go out with what we got and see what kind of response we get. And we will learn and it will be good.

More bullet points to be filled out soon.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bullet Points Three and Four Filled Out

  • Stay in cheap hotel, discuss lack of dedication to hitchhiking/tent-camping.

The guys in the pickup truck took us as far as Vicksburg, and according to our estimations it was about another 350 miles to Dallas. It wasn’t quite dark yet, so we tried thumbing it some more. Nearby was a place called the Deluxe Inn, and a grocery store. That Deluxe Inn looked so tempting, and so much more comfortable than a tent would be. We called and found out it was $45 a night, and we made up our minds that if we didn’t get a ride we would stay there and stop off at the grocery store for dinner and travel food for the next day.

And then we got a ride. A very nice retired man said he wasn’t going far, but he could at least get us across the Mississippi. We mentioned to him that we’d considered the Greyhound (because at this point we were already a little concerned that we wouldn’t make it to Plano in time), and he was kind enough to drive us by the station to find out how much it would cost. It would be over $80, and that was too much, so he went on and took us across the river.

The place he left us was rather deserted. Down the road a little ways was a gas station and an “Adult Superstore.” By now it was pretty much dark and there were no streetlights at the highway entrance, and hardly any cars entering there anyway. We felt a little discouraged, because we probably wouldn’t get any farther that night, and now we were without the Deluxe Inn we’d already made up our minds about. We walked down to the gas station, though, to see if we could find anyone headed west.

We were hungry so we bought and ate some sandwiches, and then we walked around where truckers were parked to see if any were leaving. No one was, or if they were they weren’t headed west, and we felt shy about asking regular car drivers. We overcame that at one point and asked some people who were pumping gas and the woman we asked got a deer-in-the-headlights look on her face and suddenly seemed to lose the ability to speak, so we decided to try thumbing it at the gas station exit. We decided we would take the next ride either direction and if it happened to be east, we’d try and get back to the motel.

And that’s where we ended up. A couple around our age picked us up and took us directly to the motel parking lot. The couple was nice, though at one point we were afraid they were going to ask us to get out of the car on the side of the highway, but that’s a story to tell in person, so ask us when you see us next.

We got the cheapest room they had, which was tiny but all we needed. We got to watch some House and relax and take showers with good water pressure for the first time in two weeks. It was nice, but with our travel budget, extravagant and unnecessary. We could have just pitched our tent somewhere nearish to that gas station and started out hitching early the next morning. I don’t know that I believe in karma, but the fact that the next day we couldn’t get another ride out of Vicksburg and tried for 4 hours to do so before giving up and taking the bus makes me wonder how different things would have been if we’d been truly dedicated to the hitchhiking and tent camping from the beginning. We would have left on Monday instead of Tuesday and based on the time we made getting back to New Orleans, I’m sure we would have made it to Plano by midday Wednesday or earlier.
  • Greyhound journey to Mesquite, TX, where my cousin Michael picked us up.
I’ll just tack this bullet point onto the end here because there isn’t much to say about it. My dad and his internet skills helped us figure out when the next bus was leaving Vicksburg, and we called Michael and Danielle to make sure arriving by bus would work for them. They generously offered to pick us up in Mesquite, so we took 8 hour bus ride and made it there by a little after 10pm Wednesday. Just in time for Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bullet Point Two Filled Out

  • First ride in the back of a pickup truck (pictures will be included!).

Holy cow, the wind was crazy. And it was cold with that wind blowing! But a couple of friendly-seeming guys took us from Jackson to Vicksburg in the back of their pickup truck, and little did we know that this would be the first of several rides in the back of a truck.

It's kind of like a faux-hawk.

I think it took me about a half-hour to comb all the tangles out of my hair. On the way back, I made sure to braid my hair before hitchhiking.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bullet Point 1 Filled Out

* Ride from New Orleans to Jackson, MS from roofer who'd just gotten out of jail for a traffic violation and was on his way home for Thanksgiving.

We waited until Tuesday to leave because we thought we might have a ride all the way to Carrollton, TX, which is very close to Plano. We’d posted an ad on Craigslist rideshare, and this is part of what I mean by lack of dedication to hitchhiking. We were trying to find an easier way, and we could always try and find easier ways, but that isn’t the point. The point is to get out there and hitchhike, trusting people so that they will trust us back.

The ride fell through, so we set out Tuesday morning. We took the streetcar to the edge of the city and a highway entrance, and then we held out our “Dallas” sign and put out our thumbs. Within five minutes, we had a ride with the roofer. He was going all the way to Jackson, MS, and he thought we might have an easier time getting from there to Dallas. Since it ultimately shaved 150 miles off our journey, we went with him to Jackson.

The roofer had gotten out of jail at 1:45am that same day. He’d been in since Friday night and said it was for a traffic violation, but he also mentioned cussing out the cop. He said the New Orleans jail was one of the worst he’s ever been in, and he’s been in and out of jail and prison since he was 26 years old. I think he said he is 39 now.

He was born and raised in Louisiana, but his parents had moved to Mississippi several years ago, so he goes back and forth between the two states for work and visiting. He’d been hitchhiking just before Thanksgiving one year ago when his current boss picked him up and asked him if he needed a job. He is in between roofing jobs right now. His boss has a cocaine addiction, and sometimes his addiction comes before paying his workers their full wages, so he (the roofer) is thinking about looking for work in Jackson until his roofing boss calls him for another job.

He’s got a girlfriend in MS. He said he met her on a job. She is friends with one of his co-workers and she came by to see her friend, and the roofer was introduced to her. The way he recounted their meeting was matter of fact. She told him she needed a man around. She left but came back another day and he asked her if she really needed a man around and she said heck yeah, she needed a man around. So he went over and they ended up watching a movie together and now she’s got a man around.

He drank two beers over the course of the drive to Jackson. At first this made us wary, never having been in a car with someone who is driving and drinking, but he sipped them very slowly over three hours. He loves his beer. He said he doesn’t mind working hard all day as long as he can have his six-pack afterwards.

It was a very interesting ride. There is a category of people who pick up hitchhikers in order to have someone to talk to on a long ride. A 19 year old girl who gave us a ride from Bellingham to Everett back in September fit this category, and so did this guy, though they live utterly different lifestyles. It took very little prompting on our parts for him to tell us so many details of his life, and it is one of the things I love the most about hitchhiking.

Monday, December 1, 2008


There's much to tell of our latest hitchhiking venture, and not enough time right now to do it justice. But here is a synopsis of our adventure, and please look for filled out bullet points in the days to follow:

  • Ride from New Orleans to Jackson, MS from roofer who'd just gotten out of jail for a traffic violation and was on his way home for Thanksgiving.
  • First ride in the back of a pickup truck (pictures will be included!).
  • Stay in cheap hotel, discuss lack of dedication to hitchhiking/tent-camping.
  • Greyhound journey to Mesquite, TX, where my cousin Michael picked us up.
  • Delightful Thanksgiving visit with Danielle and Michael and one of the cutest two-year-olds ever.
  • Recovered dedication! Ride from Dallas to Houston with construction worker who was very hesitant at first, asked us if we had any weapons, specified that I (Stina) sit in front, but by the time we got to Houston was showing us pictures of his family.
  • Angel hanging from the rearview mirror of next ride. Made it to Beaumont, got to ride with real live wranglers (one of whom was a nine-year-old girl).
  • Camping in woods behind a church.
  • 5 rides today got us from Beaumont to New Orleans. One couple even passed us and then got off the next exit and doubled back in order to pick us up.
And here we are! Safe and sound and we got back by 3pm. Sweet! Faith in hitchhiking wonders renewed. Check back for more, and often!


Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy day of being Safe!

Quick note just to let everyone know we are safe and in Plano, Texas and had an awesome dinner yesterday with Stina's Cousin's Wife's Mother's Husband's Parents (yes, all the detail was necessary). We'll probably take a leisurely hitchhiking route back leaving on Sunday or Monday and making our way back in whatever roundabout manner seems most appropriate.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

From discouragement to empowerment

We are reenergized, empowered, and enthusiastic, and let me tell you why.

Yesterday noonish we went out with our circle busk in Jackson Square. It was a beautiful day and tourists abounded (we actually heard it was a rather meager crowd for a Saturday, but it was the most buskerrific crowd we had yet seen this trip). We talked with a few street artists, and found an excellent spot to set up. I set out from our spot on stilts to gather an audience, and Stina stayed behind to amuse passersby. We gathered a modest crowd to begin of about 10. And we began. And everybody walked away. Ouch. We rushed through the rest of the show for the one remaining man, a street artist who had talked with us enough that I'm sure he felt obligated. Towards the end, a couple kids stopped by to listen to our stories. Families, however, had left us, so while kids may be fascinated by us and our everything, their parents are not... and parents generally dictate what their kids watch (and if their kids' entertainers get paid).
Whoa. $0 is discouraging. It doesn't scale well.
We offered our space to Alexander the Magician (see last blog for his website). We watched him operate in the same conditions we had. While he mentioned it was a slow day, he held a good 20 people's attention and convinced them he was worth several dollars each. His show was confident, competent and amusing.

Walking home that evening, and realizing how far our show was from even mediocrity, we outlined our options.

We recognized that much of our disappointment was caused by our nearly zero context for expectations. We had, we thought, modest expectations, but getting out there, we see that our skill set and audience interaction needs to improve 4-fold. And so we also reurned to the question of why we do this and what the payoff is.
In all its glory, our list of options:

1. Continue as planned (see last month's post for that plan)
2. Stay in New Orleans for 3 months and work work work to improve our skills and busking
3. Give up the busking portion of our plan and travel the world for the next year
4. Move to any city we choose and concentrate on our dreams (Brendan-acting, Stina-writing)
5. Seek out venues more attuned to our style of busking (e.g. Ren Faires)

A few of the above options had sub-option, like 4a (city= New Orleans, Brendan's Dream=busking)

Over the course of 3 hours we came to a tentative decision.

We slept on it.

Today we took the necessary steps to make our decision reality.

We will sublet Jocelyn's apartment (she's moving in with her boyfriend, Nate). We will follow a strict rehearsal schedule:
3 hours a day of Juggling and Stilt-walking practice 4 days a week
3 hours a day of content creation and discussion 4 days a week
2 hours of trickle busking each week
3 circle busks each week

As we improve, we will increase the amount of busking we do - there's nothing like practical experience.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Stina's notes on yesterday

We tried frozenness again yesterday, with less success. We went out an hour earlier than we had the day before, hoping we would catch more of the lunch crowd. One man seemed interested when we first set up, but he walked away saying "I wish I had some money." About a half hour later, when we had tired of the stillness and were standing there juggling, that same man came back and we offered to tell him a story and he requested one about a mean clown (he'd just had a negative experience, where he felt ignored by the balloon man down the way) and he gave us three pennies in return. This put us at a -$9.97 profit, since we had donated $10 earlier in the day to a good cause (something about feeding the homeless? I'm not totally sure, but it was one of those people [the second we've directly encountered in our lives, the first being in Seattle] who stops you on the street and issues you a ticket for something like "being with a beautiful woman" or "having too much fun." Those people are good!).

Here is Brendan in frozen mode:
We were out there for a little more than an hour with no one else stopping but the three cents man so we stopped and ate our sandwiches and scoped out the area to see where would be the best place for a circle busk. We want to try our whole routine (what we did in Seattle and Wisconsin with a few modifications) on stilts. We plan to walk around Jackson Square (on stilts, of course) gathering folks and then perform our show, on stilts. We need to practice this--I'm not sure how I'll do walking on stilts and juggling. I know I can do it, but I'm afraid I'll drop a ball and it's harder to recover when you can't quickly grab the ball and continue. But performing the whole show on stilts will, I think, be more impressive to an audience.

We met a cool guy yesterday. He is a magician here in NOLA. His name is Alexander ( and yesterday he was out taking notes on things going on around Jackson Square. He looked friendly yet also imposing and we rightly assumed he is a performer, and we approached him to see if we could ask him some questions about busking in New Orleans. He was super helpful. He told us New Orleans is the Mecca of street performance, and buskers don't come here because it's easy, but rather because it's hard, and if you can make it here you can take your act anywhere. That was encouraging to hear. Not that we've made it yet, but we are learning a lot here and hopefully will be more successful this weekend.

Anyway, I could say more, I'm sure, but internet time is scarce and I want to do a few other things with my onlineness.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Considering all options

This blog brought to you by the everyday uncertainty that is our brains.

Firstly, we have much that we are considering when it comes to what may or may not be the best circumstances for busking. We don't really have enough patience to do sufficient experiments to include or exclude particular results. There are too many variables that might or might not matter, and even if we figure out that a certain variable does matter, to what extent it matters is also important to us, as we also seek to travel efficiently and cheaply (this regards variables that may be bulky or expensive). Some variables we're trying to analyze with our limited information:
Location in city, proximity to other buskers, time of day, day of week, shade vs. sun, costumes, hooks (e.g. carnival barkers, frozen statues), events in city, etc, etc...

We had an overall positive if difficult experience with busking today. Stina had the idea that since our carnival barker approach could be offensive (see fisticuffs incident of last blog) and tired us out without apparently being super effective, we should try this new approach. One of the difficulties we sought to overcome was our inability to entice a crowd as more common buskers might. Musicians can play music continuously, and someone who enjoyed it might stop for a moment or two. People can evaluate whether they enjoy music or not without engaging the performer. It gives them a safe space to make their decision before committing. This is, I imagine, why most juggling buskers are circle buskers. I suppose we haven't really tried yet, but we are just uncertain enough yet of when and where is appropriate to try a circle busk that we haven't exactly, despite getting positive feedback most times we've performed it.

All of this is merely to say that we tried something new today. We made a sign that said:
Step One: Drop in some $
Step Two: Give us a topic
Step Three: Hear a story

We stood behind the sign and froze in a position as if we were in the midst of juggling. After a few minutes, a man dropped a dollar in and didn't say anything, so we told a story of Pickled Mushroom Man then went back to our freeze. He said, "Bravo" and wandered off chuckling, "Pickled Mushroom Man" to himself.

Very pleased with this success we proceeded to stay frozen for 30 minutes without any more dollar or change drops. I noticed a few flashing cameras that Stina didn't notice, so maybe I imagined them or maybe they weren't directed at us. Hard to tell when you're frozen. After waiting quite a while, my feet began to ache, and I proposed we simply juggle and stand looking innocent until someone approached us again. No one ever did except a man who wanted to give Stina juggling advice. We should have charged him a dollar for the privilege.

We were out there from about 2-3pm... should have been there earlier, I suppose, for the lunch crowd.

We're still struggling to find something that works for us.
We have been seeking to create costumes of brightly colorful shirts and pants, but have been unable to find anything cheap and complementary. We're considering buying dye and plain white t-shirts and light colored jeans, but there are fewer thrift stores here than Seattle as far as I can tell, and the Bloomin Deals has odd hours that we never seem to make.
(On an entirely unrelated note, Marx says "hifalutin" at one point in the Communist Manifesto... isn't that strange?)

We're also considering trying to follow the renaissance faire circuit and perform there. In that case, we imagine we would have to get ourselves some fancier costumes. It's hard to know what we should do. We haven't made a significant amount of money busking yet, and we did anticipate a slightly better time of it.

For those dedicated readers we propose an interactive element just for you. We need help narrowing our variables... Today, for example, we walked past some trucks and trailers of equipment for the film shooting in New Orleans and starring Renee Zellweger, we think. I said, "Let's busk right here, right now." Stina said, "That sounds like a bad idea." We each had valid reasons for thinking that. We could decide ourselves... and of course we will, but we want some third brain who is neither of our ridiculous brains. If you send us your phone number in a message that says "put me on your variables list!", we will call you now and then and describe in 2 30-second increments the pros and the cons of the busking situation that faces us. You will then have 30 seconds to say "yay" or "nay" and give your reasoning. We will then chat with you for 29 seconds and then hang up. You will be able to read about the decision on this blog the next time we blog. Congratulations, you are an active participant in our busking!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Adventures in Busking

Stina’s Stories:

On Saturday we set forth, stilts in hand, for a day filled with parades, meeting theatrey people, and enjoying numerous festivals going on in New Orleans. I’ll skip directly to the latter part of busking we did that day. There was a fringe festival going on this past weekend, and they had an area set up as headquarters where people could buy tickets and t-shirts and perform on a stage set up there. We were told it would be open on a first come first serve basis beginning at 5pm, so at 4:30pm or so we headed there so we could hopefully be first and perform a shortened version of the show we did for friends and family both in Seattle and Wisconsin.

There was a show for kids in progress when we arrived, a rather bizarre puppet show. As we waited for it to end, the weather was getting colder and colder and a few people had started to leave. Miss Led, the woman in charge of the stage area, was eager for us to perform and hurried to announce our show as soon as the puppet show was over, and thankfully people stuck around for it.

This was the first time we had a significant number of small children watching our show and they are quite the rowdy crowd. When Brendan started telling jokes, the kids started telling jokes back. When I pretended the balls were stuck in my hand, two kids jumped up and helped pull them out. It’s great how directly involved they get. I wonder if adult audiences should be more like that. But it’s not usually the right way to behave at a show and would throw the performers off, but maybe we need more shows that get the audience involved.

After our show we received a lot of positive feedback. Misled offered to help us set up a show if we come to town again on our travels, and people were very enthusiastic about what we had presented. It made us feel great and ready to do it again.

On Sunday we set forth once more, this time to do some street busking. We made a sign that says “Find us online at ANDJUGGLING .com” and “If you like what you see, feel free to give a tip” with an arrow pointing to the side where we set our hat. We went to Canal Street, which is at the entrance to the French Quarter and is a popular street for shopping and where a lot of people get off the streetcar. We found a spot on the sidewalk that looked good, and asked the shop closest if it was all right with them, got the ok, and began.

Kids again helped make us feel great. These three kids came by with a man who may have been their father or grandfather walking ahead of them. They stopped to see us juggle and we offered to tell them a story and they loved it, and wanted another, and then another. We told a story about a doll that got revenge on her child because her child never played with her, one about Spiderman, and one about Paul Bunyan scaring away the hurricanes from New Orleans. The adult wanted to move along then, but first he took our picture with the kids, gave us five dollars, and complimented us on what we were offering to the world. These are the moments that make us feel like we’re doing just what we should be doing.

Shortly after this, we realized there was another shop very nearby that we should have asked permission of, and when we did, the shopworker basically said we sounded really obnoxious and it would be great if we would move. So we walked around the corner, but the spot didn’t seem very good. No one was stopping and fewer people seemed to be passing. So we moved on again, this time to Bourbon Street, which is always humming.

There’s a story at Bourbon Street I’ll let Brendan tell, but suffice it to say for now that the rest of our evening was filled with rather negative experiences. It seems very nearly impossible not to take these to heart as much as we do the positive experiences, which leaves me feeling somewhat confused. Why do some people really enjoy the stories we tell and our method of entertainment, and others not? Do other street performers get such immediate feedback from their audiences, both positive and negative? When I don’t particularly care for a street performer’s style of music or artwork or whatever, I usually just walk on by without saying anything. But we got a guy who responded to our question of “Would you like to hear another story?” with “Will it be better than the last one?” I did just say I think audiences should be more interactive, but I’d rather it wasn’t in the form of negative feedback.

Our two days kind of equalize, but we’ll try to learn from both. There is some good to be gained from negative feedback. It tells us something we’re doing is making at least one person uncomfortable and then we can try to figure out ways to make our performance accessible to everyone, even that one nasty person. I just hope the positive feedback will soon far outweigh the negative.

Brendan’s Stories:

Stina got a good chunk of it hammered out above, there, but briefly, some moments for posterity:

Saturday: Unreal! We began the day by seeking out the Fringe Festival Parade. We arrived at the cross streets where the parade was to end, no parade, no people. Had we missed it? We wandered up the street, along the parade’s scheduled path. Was there another St. Claude Street? This one was 4-lanes with a median... it didn’t seem like a parade street to me, especially since it had no people standing on the side to see the parade. Walking a few blocks more, we and two other groups of people converged on a street corner and realized that the 5 of us were all looking for the parade and were baffled. We parted ways, wishing each other luck with parade-finding. Further along, we overheard at a bus stop potential passengers wondering why the bus was late, and hypothesizing that maybe there was another parade... yes, in fact some woman had heard maybe there was something or other like that. We see flashing lights. We sit out front of the Golden Arches, and for one block watch a parade with a marching band, stiltwalkers, and odd accoutrements. Another couple, this one with a ballsy dog, watches as well. The parade passes in 5 minutes, and we go on our merry way.

We head on stilts to the Fringe Festival tent. At the cross street where the tent is meant to be, we find friendly theatre people gathered around a fallen antique circus tent. We help put it back up. When we return later to perform (as mentioned in Stina’s blog), we find no tent. It has been given up on. (This should not be taken as any indication of the organization of the festival, which was very well received from what we noted by the standing room only attendance at the show we attended Sunday night.)

In that in-between time, during which the tent ripped and fell out of our sight, we attended the book fair going on along Frenchman Street. After walking past much of it and running into Nate’s roommate Jo (Nate is Jocelyn’s boyfriend), we ate and went into a bar that had turned itself into an impromptu host of booksellers and artists. Towards the back of the bar, I casually happened upon a Ms. Rippey of Honors Croquet League fame, and member of the whole bizarre interconnectedness that is the University of Washington classes of 2002-2006. She came to watch our performance later that evening and authored the phrase of the night, “German Air-conditioner Vandals”.

After running into our distinguished colleague, down the street we made our way one block to the buskers on the corner playing pretty (Accordion, Violin and Tuba with Dog-style) music. At this folkpunkfiddle venue, we happened upon Lisa from the chocolate shop I worked at in 2004 dancing in the streets. She invited us to attempt rope-jumping with her and her pals. Stina attempted double-dutch unsuccessfully but with great verve. Lisa also arrived to see us at the performance space later, but after watching the around-the-world marionette show for 30 minutes, went to get her coat and did not make it back in time to see us perform.

We performed at a chainlink fence between these two bits of Seattle surreality, and received verbal accolades from pausers and passersby.

Sunday: Not as Unreal, but every bit at experience-ful.
In addition to the 5 dollars made from the positive man and his 3 children, we made a few dollars performing for the waiting crowd outside The Lunatic King (the crowd that didn’t make it in to see that soldout show) and six cents on Bourbon Street from a guy who wished he had more to give because he really enjoyed our show.

The story that Stina has left for me to tell involves badscaryness, so if you don’t feel inclined to know of problems we face, feel free to stop reading this entry.

In our attempts to gather a crowd (or, in truth, even one audience member) we advertise that we have stories for people. Most people respond pleasantly to our invitations to our hear a story, even if the don’t stop. A very few are belligerent as they pass by, but of no concern. Some others offer their excuses: “Late for work”, “had a rough day”, “am too drunk/high”. The in-a-hurry ones we don’t try to stop, mostly. But we do appeal to the other two for their interest. Indeed, we hope we are pleasant and uplifting, and so someone who had had a rough day could find their day improved by pausing for a moment. Even more likely seem subjects of alcohol and drug enhancements. After all, “why not?” is usually an apt reason when inebriated.

On such group of individuals passed us headed towards Canal Street, and one man amongst them said “I’m too high”. We let them be. But then they approached our area again. An opportunity if I ever saw one.
“So, you’ve come back for a story,” I asked.
“Too high,” was again the response.
“We’ve got stories for people who are high and people who are low,” I cleverly replied.
At this point the man in the group who had not yet said anything to us turned on me.
“What’s your story, man?” he growled, “where do you get off calling us high?” He put down his beer bottle and rounded on me. “What’s your story? Why don’t you tell me your story.” He held his arm out as if to swing at me.
I had very little response. “We’re just peddling stories. Go on. You don’t have to hear them.” I had a moment of clarity, but instead of using it to prepare myself to duck, I prepared myself to be hit. I’m not known for my quick thinking in a crisis.
Luckily the friend who had been telling us he was high stepped in. “They were just making jokes, man.” He put his hand on his friends shoulder and guided him away.
A man from the restaurant came out and told us we had to go, too... or something... and then something about the cops, maybe... I don’t know. I have a hard time understanding people when they’re giving me bad news, I tend to just hear their tone. At first, I thought he had just come out to sympathize with us, but as he ducked his head inside, I realized that I hadn’t understood, but had clearly detected the tone people use when they’re worried about confrontation. We had been involved in a commotion, and were now a liability to that sidewalk space.

You know, I’ve always scoffed at the phrase “mean people suck”, but they really do.

On a more pleasant and recreational note, we got to stop and visit with Eric at the Starbucks on the way home from BloominDeals (where we hope to buy costume pieces, and which is closed on Mondays and at 4:50 every other weekday), and now we’re off to Marxist Monday with Jocelyn and Nathan.

P.S. ornamental peppers are edible, juicy, delicious and SPICY!! (painfully so, attests Stina; delightfully so, attests Brendan)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Taking Busking to Heart (...or the Philosophy of Everything)


If nothing else (but there are things else, I'm just saying, even if there weren't) this trip is definitely leading Stina and me to come up with some philosophies.
New Orleans is a great city for walking. It's all very flat except for the occasional tree root pushing the concrete 2 feet high. Some of you may know that when I walk I talk. So we spent much of today and yesterday talking about why we want to do this.
For some context I must confess, Stina and I have been feeling a bit disheartened by our busking thus far. We have only busked 3 times (aside from by-invitation shows) in the month and a half since leaving Seattle. We haven't been able to quite get into the groove. So this brought up some questions for us... namely, "Why?"
"Why?" led into a couple discussions, all of which stem from some fear. In no particular order they are:
Do we look like beggars? / How can we not look like beggars?
which leads to --> What is "good" busking?

What is the purpose of art? Is busking art? Is our busking art?
Of the many purposes of art, which are worthwhile? / Which do we fulfill?

What can theatre do in terms of making the world a better place?
How can we do that with our theatre?

Should we be busking? How can we develop a process or "great idea" to make our busk exceptional?

Should we busk in Central America?
What is busking's relationship to less privileged or "developing" nations? How does our act translate in Spanish? Are our stilts to heavy for us to comfortably travel with?

Do we think too much?

Hey look, a cockroach! There are lots of them in New Orleans. I think if I were to live here, I would have to get used to them and take one as a pet.

We answered the first three questions (and their subquestions) pretty well, but the last three still haunt us.

The theatre question I think resulted in the most unique philosophy - that I would promote an idea of theatre as a community endeavour... that beyond its entertainment value, theatre helps communities discuss difficult issues. More new theatre should be made. Playwrights should write plays for their communities. People from the community should do the gritty work in rehearsal about it, really getting to know the subject, and the whole community should come out and be participants as audience members. And this philosophy should scale well... Movies should be made the same way, just for a larger community- the U.S., the world. I'm not saying all theatre should be made this way, but I'm hypothesizing that this is the context within which theatre evolved, and the reason for its being in contemporary society.

We know that this trip is just for us, but we're still haunted by a need to do something fulfilling and rewarding and "exceeds expectations". Maybe we'll mellow out as we get more into it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Now we are in New Orleans

We arrived in New Orleans at around 6pm yesterday and Jocelyn and Nate were waiting for us at the station. It is a grand thing to go from cold to warm and from the discomfort of sleeping on a bus to the joy of sleeping in and stretching out on a bed. Jocelyn and Nate took us right to food, which was also a book club meeting with 11 other med school students. They were discussing the book Cosmicomics Italo Calvino, two copies of which have now been lent to us so we can read it and make sense of the discussion we sat in on last night. Everyone at the meeting was kind and interested in meeting us and once they started discussing the book, they stayed on topic very well, which impressed me.

Jocelyn is generously giving us her apartment as our own while we are here. She is staying at Nate's, which is within easy walking distance, and tonight we will head over there to have dinner with them. Right now we are at Community Coffee, which has free WiFi and is also within easy walking distance. Tomorrow we may busk a little, and will at least head to where other buskers are and get an idea of what it's like to busk in New Orleans. Today we are still recuperating from our colds, mine having reached its worst spot (I hope) last night and this morning. The queasiness of yestereve has passed into a general difficulty to breathe today, but I have high hopes that I will be mostly recovered tomorrow.

A question for our readers: What do you think about buskers? How does it make you feel to see a busker (of any kind)? Go any direction you like with this, and please post responses as comments.

And Juggling REVEALED - 02 from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Getting to New Orleans

Brendan’s cold traveled in a minimized fashion to my nose and throat, and it was good to sleep two nights at Heather’s and Peter’s home in Lake Forest. We attended a wonderful choral and orchestral concert with Heather conducting the orchestra and felt very comfortable staying there. But we needed to press on and get to New Orleans. We planned to visit Brendan’s aunt on the way in Tennessee, but knew we wouldn’t get that far in one day. So we were okay with getting as far as Indianapolis on Monday.

We set out not as early as we should have, perhaps, though it may have made no difference. We needed to walk first to the nearest highway, which was about 3 miles away, and this was a good test of how our packs feel over distance. My shoulders were aching after just a few minutes, but it was doable and will probably become easier the more we do it and the stronger we get.

We got to 41 and got a ride almost immediately from a man on his way to Chicago. He didn’t think we would have much luck getting a ride in Chicago, and he took us a little ways beyond his own destination because he felt it would be a safer spot for us. It was south Chicago, but far beyond downtown and beyond, I think, the neighborhood my parents asked of--“You’re not in south Chicago, are you?”--when I spoke to them yesterday. We were at 111th and Corliss, for anyone who wants to map it.

And at 111th and Corliss no one would give us a ride. We first stood at the entrance to the freeway and then moved to that intersection, which was at a light and caught many people leaving a gas station, and people would occasionally talk to us, but no one would pick us up. Mind you, this was only over the course of about 45 minutes, which in hitchhiking terms in not a very long time. Yet it felt like forever because of the cold.

I’m not totally sure why we didn’t check the weather beforehand. When we first arrived to stay with Katie in Waukegan on Friday, she mentioned it might snow the next day or evening. I think I translated this as “Ah, it might be unusually cold tomorrow, and then it will get a bit warmer again. That’s good.” But it did not get warmer. We were both dressed in nearly all our layers yesterday. Brendan was wearing his sweats and his jeans and every upper piece of clothing but one shirt. I was wearing a tank top, a long johns shirt, a t-shirt, a sweater, a fleece and an outer shell, and wool pants. At first it didn’t seem too too bad. But the cold quickly seeped in, first hitting our hands, which only had thin gloves on, so we took turns holding our “Nashville, TN” sign. Then it seemed to sneak under my jacket and cool my stomach, and I guess that’s how it eventually found its way to my feet, and that was the final straw because there was no getting warm after that.

So we gave up rather quickly, and I really did feel like a failure for a while. This was to be our first attempt to hithchike on this trip, and hitchhiking is to be our primary means of travel. But the cold beat us. And that’s okay. It’s why we’re traveling south anyway, to keep away from the cold, so we just found a faster way to do that. We called my parents and my dad used his internetting skills to tell us the way to get to the Greyhound station in Chicago. We thought we would have to take a bus to the L and the L to downtown, but things worked out more serendipitously. We took the bus to the L station, and lo and behold there stood a Greyhound station. It was a teeny one, but it fit our needs, and we were able to book passage all the way to New Orleans. As I write this we are on the bus and most recently went through Memphis, TN. It’s warmer already and there are many more leaves on the trees here than there were in WI and IL.

And that is all for now. Perhaps Brendan will relate the story of the woman we met while waiting for our bus, or else I’ll come back to that.


Maybe there’s something about me, but I think there’s something about me taking a bus to see Jocelyn. No, I know what you’re all thinking, and no, I wasn’t sexually molested. Stina and I were simply accosted in Chicago by a very friendly lady who wanted to tell us things we didn’t need to know and to show us to places we didn’t need to go. Stina eventually gave her a dollar and bought her some cheese fries.
I don’t judge, but I do think it’s notable that there was more pot being smoked in Chicago than I’ve ever seen before, and that includes both Amsterdam and Hempfest. Our driver had it, a man stopped into the bus depot briefly to get out of the wind so he could light his roach, and I’m pretty sure the people I might otherwise have thought were a bit off their rockers were instead just high. They had that hard-to-follow train of thought that just almost seems on the verge of making sense, and then you ask a question and everything seems to fall apart. Also the self-interest of someone who knows they can’t quite grasp what you’re saying, so they might as well talk on the off chance that they’ll understand what they’re saying. Does that make sense? I’m not high.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

On the move ... (finally)

After my illness of the past few days detained us, we finally made it to Illinois on Thursday afternoon. We had our day in Chicago yesterday. We saw the view from the Hancock building and went to a show at Second City with Jon and Katie and Heather and Peter. We had a delicious Chicago pizza last night. We took the train to get from Waukegan to Chicago (can't buy a 10-ride pass ON the Metra)... everything is 45 minutes from Waukegan.
We stayed Thursday night with Katie-Come-Lately and are staying tonight with Heather and Peter.
Chicago seems like it'd be a good busking town... but it's a bit too nippy for standing outside for hours, and we're feeling a bit rushed because of the days late we are, so I think we'll forgo the pleasure.
We're gonna try our luck hitchhiking early tomorrow to get down to the Nashville area and my aunt CC starting on Hwy 41 and working our way down via 65.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Stina's stuff

We are still at Brendan's parents' house today. Brendan came down with a nasty cold that seems to be passing from one person to the next in this household (I hope I'm not next!), so we postponed our journey until tomorrow. We weighed ourselves with our bags and my initial weigh-in was 170 lbs. Without the bag, I weigh 122 lbs, so it weighed 48 lbs. We looked up recommended maximum weights and for a fit individual it should be less than 33% of one's body weight, which for me is about 40 lbs (though I'm not sure I'm that fit). So Brendan helped me re-evaluate everything in my bag and we knocked off about 10 lbs so now my bag is at 38 lbs, though that will fluctuate somewhat depending on what I'm wearing and how much food I'm carrying.

Here is what's in it:

7 lb pair of stilts (strapped to outside)
1 lb 9 oz sleeping bag (graded for very low temps, also strapped to outside)
2 t-shirts
3 tank tops/undershirts
1 button up sweater
1 fleece jacket
1 rain coat (combined with fleece makes a very warm combination)
2 hats (one for warmth, one for keeping glasses dry in case of rain)
1 neck scarf
1 pair lightweight gloves
1 head scarf
8 pairs underwear
5 pairs socks (one cozy, the rest practical)
1 pair slipper socks (entirely a comfort thing)
1 pair stockings
1 pair pj bottoms
1 skirt
1 pair jeans
1 pair shorts
1 bathing suit
1 micro fleece towel
1 pair sandals
1 pair waterproof tennis shoes
1 water bottle with duct tape wrapped around it
1 small bottle shampoo
1 bar soap
toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss
1 comb and a few bobby pins and 2 hair bands
contact solution and contacts (plus extra contacts)
1 glasses case currently holding 2 pairs sunglasses
1 bottle of sunscreen
1 small tube of moisurizer
nail clippers
6 juggling balls
passport, wallet, cell phone+charger, ipod+charger, speakers for ipod
2 tiny notebooks
1 tiny deck of cards
digital camera plus extra batteries
pocket size road atlas
Spanish-English dictionary
1 rechargeable flashlight
2 tarps for use with tent and covering packs in case of rain
feminine necessities
first-aid kit and bottle of painkillers
extra plastic baggies tucked in side pocket
1 clothing line strap thing
1 mesh bag for holding food
a few energy bars and some trail mix

Actually, a few of those things (like my wallet and cell phone) are in a separate purse so I can either toss that in the bag or carry it by itself.

Here's the bag and how the stilts are strapped on:
You can kind of tell from the picture how there is a ton of room at the top of the bag for food or just to keep empty.

And here are my shiny new shoes which Brendan got for me in exchange for our Y membership:

Aren't they pretty? Also they are very comfortable and, most importantly, waterproof.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Packing for the big adventure

Saturday we had our WI family and friends show. We performed twice a somewhat modified routine. We put back in the tango, but led into it with a short scene from Much Ado about Nothing rather than the fight. We want to keep the fight, but it seems too scary (or simply too loud) for the small children who often want to watch us. I'm sure there's a venue for it, but we haven't quite found it yet... perhaps a later evening busk in a brightly lit city would be better for it.
We got to visit with friends and relatives this weekend. Some have children they didn't have when last I saw them. That was neat. Friends are growing up, changing, but with the same personalities they've always had, thank goodness. Family is wonderfully supportive. I'm glad I have a dedicated extended family: uncles and aunts and cousins and 2nd cousins and 1st cousins once and twice removed and 2nd cousins once removed and a great aunt... I come from an adventurous family. No nay-sayers here.

It's ladybug and housefly season now in WI. All the insects are looking for warmth. Dozens of ladybugs guard the window each morning, sometimes feasting on the dessicated corpses of flies who couldn't hack it.

On a lighter note, here's Brendan's packed bag list:
5 pairs undergarment
3 t-shirts
8 pairs socks, inc. 1 cozy pair
1 Fleece
1 Sweater
1 Sweatshirt
1 Tie
1 Pair jeans
1 Belt
1 pair sweatpants
2 hats (one for warmth, one for rakishness)
1 scarf
1 pair light gloves
1 raincoat
1 moneybelt
cheapo razors
Busking Supplies:
4 Pins
Pair of Stilts
ipod and speakers
Food Supplies:
1 large, 1 medium water bottles
1 book
2 EDH Magic: the Gathering decks
pen and pencil
Other necessities:
sleeping bag
Wallet w/ small amount of cash, cards

Tomorrow we head out with our bags on our backs to Chicago and Beyond!

edit: list of packed items incomplete and just plain wrong.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Nov. 1st performance announcement

...And Juggling!
at Bur Oak Farm
8975 Fillmore Rd ZIP 53021
Saturday, November 1st at 3pm

Stina and Brendan return to Wisconsin for a special performance of their critically ignored variety busking show, ...And Juggling. Please come join them for some oohs, aahs, and hahahaas.

They sing, they dance, they juggle... AND SO MUCH MORE!!!

A 15 minute show followed by refreshments and catching up.

All are welcome. It's family friendly (the bits that are racy and raunchy are totally G-rated). Please pass this message along to any parties you think might be interested.

Brendan and Stina

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Our Plans

Stina and I just took a nice, 2 1/2 hour long walk and found ourselves talking about the future. That talk turned into a plan, and that all solidified our goals. Stina, using the wireless internet that we just set up (thanks for the router suggestion, Tony!), is on my mom's computer, and I am on mine. She is researching some of our more solid plans, while I blog, and hopefully we will soon both be blogging simultaneously.

We paused under the Bur Oak tree, by which we plan to get married. We tossed the small Packers football around and watched the dog explore further west along the path towards the river. After some time spent calling her back, and seeing her seek out that path, we decided to follow. She led us into the woods, where we found no man made interruption but my father searching for sugar maples and briefly tossing the ball with us before he headed back over to the north slope.

As the wind blew in the trees above our heads, we found ourselves wondering what would happen after this big adventure and our wedding. We have many grand plans for our lives, but how do we fit them into such a finite period as one's life, and how do we reckon that with the ages and the hypothetical children and... and... everything.

Well, many of you know how I get. We couldn't be done with our walk until we had a plan. So I proposed we walk through everything from today on to get us revved up and in the right frame of mind to figure out our timeline. This part took so long, we forgot our reason for beginning the task by the end of the task. Luckily that was still foremost in our minds, so we stumbled upon it again. In as succinct a form as I can bear to put it, our plans are as follows:

(We skipped the initial stages that we already have planned, but I'll include those here for easy reference.)
Today: Get the telephone numbers of all the friends and family from whom we have not heard, and press them to come to our show on November 1st at my parents' farm in Wisconsin. I hope we'll also have a bit of a party afterwards, maybe with some football and refreshments, and certainly with some catching up and getting along.

During next week we'll rehearse, visit niece, Erin, whose birthday was yesterday, fix my computer's dvd drive, pack, buy any gear we might still need (a lighter, warmer sleeping bag, waterproof shoes, a better backpack for me), and solidify our first few months of plans with the people we hope to visit.

On November 1st, we will have that event we're planning, and then bid adieu to my parents and everybody and travel home with Katie-Come-Lately to Waukegan near Chicago. We'll spend about a week in the area, a few nights with Katie, a few with Heather and Peter, a few with Jon Sabo (though he doesn't know that yet), maybe a few with some party members if we still feel the need and have worn out our welcome elsewhere. Claudia Hommel is a French singer and her partner Cappie (Kappie? Cappy?) and she have stayed here, and they've always been enthusiastic about supporting my performeriness.

After Chicago, we'll book it in a roundabout way traveling a bit further east than necessary to get to Jocelyn in New Orleans. We'll stay with my grandma and aunts along the way in Kentucky and Tennessee. Stina knows some folks along that route, too, I think, and then end up in Louisiana on the 8th or 9th.

We'll spend much of November accompanying Jocelyn's incredible tambourine and kazoo show that she does for all the cadavers at Tulane. (Don't deny it, Jocelyn, I know you do it when no one's looking.)

On November 23rd when Jocelyn heads to TN, we'll head to Fort Worth (actually Plano) for Thanksgiving with Stina's cousin Michael and Danielle and their children. Along the way to and from there, we hope we can stop by Mike and Stacey in Houston and Cassandra in Waco, and a few other TX friends. Perhaps we can extend the radius of our visits and go up to visit Kassie and Dan in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

One of those things that I mentioned Stina researching is a program for us to join whereby we exchange Spanish lessons for English lessons somewhere South of the U.S. My mother mentioned a program that we want to look into that involves volunteer work from us and free room and board to us.

We plan to spend December traveling around eastern Mexico and into Central America (perhaps ideally spending Christmas either in that program or with a friendly Couchsurfing host). Then January in Brazil (maybe we'll see a rainforest... maybe we can help save the rainforest... Who knows!?!), February will see us traveling down the eastern seaboard to the very southernmost tip of South America (maybe), and March will see us move back up the western side and through Central America to wind up in California in mid-April.

While in CA, we'll visit with Ca and Melina and Tai and Kira for a week or so (unbeknownst to them) and with Stina's San Diego clan for a week or so (also heretofore unbeknowing). Maybe we'll spend a day or two in L.A. (see how we're feeling). Then we'll head North and spend a day or two with Silas, and then we'll spend a day or two in Portland (Hi Kaitlin!) and Olympia, and finally end up in Seattle in early May.

Seattle will be a bit of a rest for us. We'll perform frequently, but it'll also be a time to visit with friends we've missed, see something happening at YTN, and recuperate.

From Seattle in June begins phase 2. We'll book it through Canada to the East Coast and tour NYC, the eastern seaboard, and parts of the south, probably down to Virginia, where we'll stay with Stina's people, and maybe see if we can visit with Emily Chilko in WVa if that's where she is right now (anybody know?). We will have found the cheapest flight we can from the U.S. to Europe in late July (probably a bad time of year for cheap flights...hmm). If all goes according to plan, we'll spend the whole month of August in Ireland.

Then in September, a week in Great Britain (mostly Scotland), a week traveling through France and Belgium (maybe 2 nights and a day in Paris?), a full week in Amsterdam (gotta see where in the Netherlands Anna and Lotte are living nowadays), two weeks traveling through Germany (visit Berlin for a few days, find some castles - mit Jungendherberge: e.g. Stahleck im Bacharach, rediscover Rothenburg...berg? It has a city wall!), and the rest of October through mid-November in Austria and Hungary, end of November in Greece and Italy, December in Southern France, Spain and Portugal, January in Morocco and northwestern Africa, February in
OOP! food's ready... time to eat. I'll finish this later. My father just pointer out that we could hit Russia (Moscow and St. Petersburg) after Finland (which'd be part of the Scandinavia tour I neglected to mention and should be inserted between the Netherlands (Den Haag, Utrecht, Amsterdam) and the bulk of our Germany tour) which I haven't even mentioned... so until a moment from now your time, and an hour from now food time. See you then.

Well... delicious chili time is over.
On to Africa: We don't know how good busking will be in much of Africa, having never been there. We're considering... more than considering, we're hoping to find a program or organization to join in Africa volunteering and getting comfortable with the place. Maybe something environmental or political. We'd like to see if there's a youth conference attended by the SWP as there has been in the past. We want something, anything, really that can help us feel more comfortable in a new place to begin with. Maybe Couchsurfing has a program through which we could help in Africa. We're looking for short-term commitments, maybe several 2-week or month-long commitments while in Africa that we could jump one to the next. Stina wants to go to Kenya at some point. I'd like to see what South Africa is like (I've heard truck drivers that I've hitched rides from talk about it, and I want to know what it would seem like from my own perspective). We'll probably leave Africa from either Egypt or Ethiopia.

In March, we'll make our way from Egypt through Israel (I'd like to visit Iran, and I may have friend living there (Hi Zhiela!), but we'll see) and Turkey and Uzbekistan (I wonder if anyone from the UW drama department knows anyone we could meet there). There's a lot of ground to cover in this time as we're trying to make our way over to southeast Asia.

It's hard to know what's "unsafe" and what's truly unsafe. Since we're trying to do it land travel-wise, and we're trying to follow laws and be safe, there seem to be some places that'd be hard to get to. Like India... Are Afghanistan and Iran saafe to travel through for an American? I imagine so, but I'm sure there are those who'd say no. And Pakistan. I mean I'm all support for oppressed peoples of the world, but I'm also all American. Am I silly to worry about things like these? I point out, and rightly so, that we still believe in philosophy of trust... but you also hear about scary things happening "somewhere over there". Where is this somewhere? Is it as dangerous as they all say? Do other nations hear about how dangerous the U.S. is with all its many gun violences each year? I guess I'm mostly afraid that because I will be less familiar with everything going on, I will be less able to deal with dangers. Like deadly spiders and snakes. We just don't have enough of them to worry about in WI, but I know they exist. Oh, bah.

Anyways, after March, we hope we'll be able to visit Thailand. Then we'd like to see if Ca and Melina and kids could join us and visit Ca's family in Vietnam. And then we'd like to see if Mimi can recommend places to visit in Japan (not to presume, but maybe we could even visit your parents, Mimi, whom I've met a couple times... Maybe you, Philip, and Yuki would like to come visit us in Japan in May of 2010 if conditions are right...?). And then we'd like to impose on more of our communities' extended families in the Philippines. Peter, do you know anyone we can visit? How about you, Manny? And then, finally (and really finally this time) we'll end up in Seattle in mid-June 2010.

But wait! There's more! Oh yeah, this was all just the rev up to the discussion of what we're going to do AFTER the big trip...
Well, as most readers know by now, Stina and I plan to be married on 10/10/2010 at my parents' farm in Southeast Wisconsin by the big Bur Oak tree that's one of the oldest trees in the county. Our friend Alissa has gotten ordained as the Reverend Princess Mortenson (RPM for short), and will marry us in whatever way we and she please.

After a tropical honeymoon of some sort (Australia perhaps? Only one continent left to go after that!... maybe we should stop by Antarctica while we're in Chile), we hope Stina can get into a 2-year grad program in Galway. I'll try to work as an actor in Ireland, but if not, I can surely find some work there. I may even start another theatre company to add to my list (WC 4-H, Klichet, RBP, RAT, and so on - you folks are welcome to join me out there). During the semesters off, we'll teach English in Vienna and brush up our German. After Stina's a master, then I'll hopefully be able to attend a university in Vienna and study Austrian and German theatre. I'd really like to someday be known as a political theatre scholar, and I think Brecht'd be a great place to start (maybe I can find Boal while we're in Central America).

Backing up a few years, Stina and I have talked about having a kid or 2 in our early thirties, so around the time I'm done with grad school we hope we'll have a one-year-old and another on the way... or something like that.

Around that time (about 5 years from now... well, 6 really, but who's counting?), we'll probably resettle in Seattle... at least that's where we're leaning. If everyone we know and love has packed up and moved away by then, maybe not, but since that's where so many people we love live and where they're likely to stay, it's currently in first place for a "settling down" place. I'd certainly enjoy trying to make it as an actor, but have long thought that opening a used bookstore/coffeeshop/gamestore would be a delight. Stina would like to write and teach at a community college.

On our 50th year or thereabouts, when the kids are in their early teens, or late teens and early 20s, or on our 20th or 25th wedding anniversary, we'll either take the kids out of school for a year and take them on or, depending on their age, challenge them to an adventure around the world very much like the one we're planning now. The world will have changed considerably, I imagine. Perhaps we'll be able to take public transportation all over... or maybe we'll have flying cars that run on tiny nuclear fission batteries.

Anyhow, after the kids are grown, and after we've taken 10 years to help get them started in their new home on a colony on Mars, I imagine someday 50 years from now, perhaps (since 60 is the new 40 now, I imagine in 50 years, 75 will be the new 40). When my parents are 115 and a 111 and will have escaped to become gnomes in the woods and swamps, we will come live here, in this place, on this farm. And we will raise those sheep I talk about, and I will teach occasionally at Kewaskum High School, and our grandchildren will visit their gnomish great-grandparents in the woods, and I will found a terrific new theatre company in West Bend, and we will perform in the basement of the Tri-county building. We will also use the farm as a Bed and Breakfast, and once a year our friends will all come for a month (during the off-season, of course) and we will play and celebrate our lives together. On weekends, folks will come from miles around for the fine ambiance and delicious food at the Stonehill Cafe. And urban artsy folks will come stay for a night on the farm, and contribute something to the artistic output of our community.

We love you!
Brendan (...and Stina)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Our first circle busk

I count today as our first true circle busk (gathering an audience, then putting a show on for them, often inside a chalk circle to demarcate the performance space - we just used a circular area and set our sign and hat in the middle). We ran our full show from stilts to stories (...and juggling) every half hour, and between shows we wandered the market hollering out our next showtime and the where and what. After our first show a few kids loved us so much, they wanted to join our troupe. They gladly canvassed for us, asking all the adults and other kids they knew to come see our next show. They were playing some disturbing game in which the bigger kid declared the smaller his hostage, and ordered him about. No one seemed upset, though, so no harm no foul.
West Bend Farmers' Market -  it's been said before, and I know it's true, but knowing your audience is essential. Our first show was too much something. A good half of our audience either wandered away, or made an audible choice to leave about half-way through. It was in the midst of our fight scene, so it's possible we upset people with our violence... or it's possible that it was dull to watch, so people lost interest and wandered away. In any case, we performed thrice today. After the first performance, we reevaluated our show. By cutting the fight and tango, we were able to retain our full audience through the show. We need a bigger finale, though... something flashy. Currently, we end on a story... It's good... it's the (soy)meat and potatoes of our show. It's what we've had the most success with when sidewalk busking, and in our circle busk, people seem to like it (though I think the gimmick is not enough, and we've gotta tell better stories than we have been telling), but it's not a good finale. Maybe a good acrobatic something would be nice to end on... Stina standing on my shoulders...and juggling, perhaps?
Aside to Nikki: everyone everywhere loves the leprechaun joke. Thank you for it.
In other exciting news, our business cards have come. I've never had business cards before, and I really like these. It makes me feel legit.
Also, signs make us seem legit. Putting out not only a hat, but a sign seems to draw fewer looks of pity and more interest and impressedness.