Back from Burning Man for a Brief Hello

Still decompressing from being at Black Rock City, and briefly visiting San Francisco. Woke up this morning and mentally screamed, “I’m in Iowa!” A bit disjointed from being ripped out of the hyperreality of BRC and not staying home in SF. Where is Iowa anyway?

A busy weekend starts tomorrow with the carnival games opening up for a whirlwind Jim Hightower tour. Then off to do two music festivals on Sat. Yep, that’s six gigs in three days.

Will post more on Burning Man later. For now enjoy this Stencil Archive I posted showing over 70 pics of 2006 stencil art on the playa. The DPW had their own graff wall going, a two-story structure out near the Man had walls representing, and the base of the Man himself got hit up by a few crafty taggers. I also ran into my old friend Chris Benfield working his stencil booth at Ill Ville.

“I have an international stencil web site, so will post your stencils there,” I told the unknown person behind a mask.

“I know,” Chris said, taking the mask off for a cheerful reunion, hello, and tagged T-Shirt!

Farewell, Granite State

This will most likely be my last post before I hop in the van and head across the Mississippi. Looking around my room, I’m not sure if all of my things will fit back into the two suitcases I started out with. No worries there, because the van has room to grow. Also, just how do I pack for this carny trip across the Rust Belt? Fortunately, I will only sleep in the van Saturday night before my Bread & Puppet performance.

As you can see, my mind is already on the road. I have two, maybe three, more gigs in New Hampshire before leaving the state, but I made the road trip official today. Today, I took my toys and put them on the dashboard in the van.
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Mike the Gentle Caveman

My friend Mike Fordham died this week in Greenville, SC. After taking a few aspirin because he wasn’t feeling well, he got up to go to the bathroom and had a massive heart attack along the way. Carol his wife started CPR but he had already followed the bright light out of here.

Mike and Carol didn’t have any children, but he is survived by his community of artists, queers, freaks, geeks, and all in between. Guess that tells you something about who he was. The best thing about Mike was the fact that he busted stereotypes. Looking like Charles Manson, Mike actually had a big heart under that mean exterior.  How in the hell could a mean-looking guy be so damn nice? Why is little Mikey so easy to hug? Damn, I’d never want to get on your shit list!
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HappyFt’s Psychogeography

As I walked down the alleys running parallel to chi chi Newberry St. in Boston, looking at layers of quick tags and throw-ups, I realized that I’m not the average tourist. While tourists in Boston hit the Freedom Trail, or drink at Cheers after shopping at Faneuil Hall, I scan years of graffiti for the elusive stencil piece. If you mapped my wanderings this past Tuesday, you’d see an odd path that revolved around one thing: photographing stencils. This history that I chart across the planet creates my psychogeographic story.

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Art Car (Activism): An Anecdotal History

The early-20th-century advent of the automobile brought about many changes to society and how humans organized themselves. In a time when inventions revolutionized the way we communicated, travelled, and entertained, the auto created a powerful framework of the era. Over 100 years later, it still creates that firm, romantic symbol of freedom, uniqueness, and materialism that developing nations like China are quickly becoming aware of.

This modern, Fordist symbol has reached icon status among the American population. The automobile stands as a model of the first step to that hazy, idealized concept of the “american dream.” Put that money down, get that bank loan, and drive away with one of the most expensive things you’ll ever buy. A house with a family will soon follow, complete with (a 30-year mortgage) a pool, a grill, and a lawnmower.

This blog entry will use personal anecdotes to show the power of the car as an icon, and then show how this concept is currently being revolutionized by my current employer, Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities (BLSP). For a week now, I have thought about my own personal relationship with the automobile, and am surprised to see the obvious arc that propelled me to the job as CarnyMobile Operator. Today, at a Hot Rod convention in Gilford, NH, the loose strands came together, making me realize that changing American’s concept of their rides is serious business. I could be a catalyst for this change, or at least the current well-planned attempt.
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CELLspace – 10: War in Iraq – 3

The spring equinox passed Monday, reaching the beginning of year 4 for the Iraq morass as well as year 11 for CELLspace.

Three years ago, I co-produced the Funky Puppet Supper at CELLspace. At that time, CELL had just been shut down by the SFPD and the collective scrambled for ways to keep the space open. We couldn’t allow more than 49 people in the space and went about 7 months with no events. Jonathan Youtt and others started the Mission Village Market, hoping to bring in the rent money. Mia Rovegno and others produced a series of “Save the Cell” events in other venues. Zoe Garvin and others furiously wrote grants. Even our landlord gave us a few months break on rent to help out.

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NeoMysticism for Serious Times with the Secret Chiefs 3

Live music moves me deeply in my heart and soul. I realized in the early 1990s that certain kinds of music pulsed and lived through me. I knew because I’d hear a band and instantly remember their melodies (not their lyrics). Seeing some of these groups live, and hearing the music with my whole body, I would trance out and sometimes dance myself into exhaustion. These neomystic events come to me as a gift, and I have been moved by bands like Phish, Beck, Yair Dalal, Emil Zrihan, Ozric Tentacles, and Radiohead.

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Save Al’s Comics

Donate to Save Al’s Comics (or offer a store to rent)

When I moved to San Francisco in 1997, one of the top priorities of my transition was to find a local comic store to patronize. This may humor those of you who do not collect or read graphic novels (comics), but I liken it to the drinker who finds a local bar to call home. I have read, collected, and bought comics for most of my life, and at the time read several titles that had 10 to 30 year story lines (Cerebus and Bone). Finding a local store, setting up a subscription bag, and bugging the owner provides me with quality living through culture and community.

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New Years, Death, and Fall

Fall has always been my favorite season. As a child, turning leaves meant that the brutal heat and thunderstorms of summer were going away. Cooler weather and shorter days meant interesting views through naked trees and muted tones of reds, yellows, and browns. Since moving to San Francisco, I discovered that fall time is the Witches New Years (Samhain, pronounced sow-wan) and is also Yom Kippur for the tribes of Israel. Both of these holidays deal with aspects of death and rebirth.
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Saturday Walkabout

After working two weeks straight for ZinZanni, CELLspace, and Yerba Buena Gardens, I spent a rare Saturday off doing as little as possible. So, like Traveling Matt from Fraggle Rock, I set off on a nice urban hike through San Francisco. My random goal was a viewing of Terry Gilliam’s Brothers Grimm at the Presidio Theatre on Chestnut St. Below are some thoughts and observations of the day:
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Approaching 36

I enter into my 36th year humbled and amazed. These past twelve months have been a time of upheaval, precarity, despair, and loss. I walked into the void where things fall apart, and that nothingness has left me directionless. I don’t know if I want a guiding star because I am falling into the deepest, darkest places that I thought I had visited in the past. I need to work these things out, or begin the process of discovering them. I want to confront the darkness, my fears and insecurities, and become the person I have always been.

The pain that exists there, cob-webbed nooks in my lifetime of travels, will creep around inside me forever. The emotions that are wrapped around those locked-away places are twisted and gnarled, like a rope that a tree has grown over (or a knotted muscle from an old accident). The ropes lead to other places, tangle together, creating walls and rooms. In one of those rooms I scream and I cannot hear myself. I look on through a thick, stain-glassed window.

Luckily, that window can open, and I am on a journey that will lead me to that room where the shrieking me is. Do you know where the monsters are in the darkness of your memory? I used to scare myself silly as a child, having frequent dreams of trapdoors, imagining dead people walking up the steps from the mortuary. I was afraid those visions and I’m afraid now. The adult that never confronted what scared him most is currently trying to find out what the hell those horrors are.

This 35th year seeps into my life’s journey like the experiences I had in Atlanta about 10 years ago. At 25, my life imploded, I betrayed my best friend, lost many others, and sunk to the bottom of the pit of loathing. I spent two years climbing out of that hole, traveling alone in Europe, living alone in Greenville, not dating, learning to love myself, and eventually traveling across the country to land in San Francisco. I arrived into the present without a job, room, or clue. My mother, always the prophet, predicted that I’d fall in love with someone in SF and never move back to SC. She was right on both accounts.

So, ten years later, I stand alone again in the endless darkness of the present moment. Every action I have made led me here, where I’m learning to breathe again. I didn’t realize that dealing with my shit would be a lifelong thing, but know now that it is. I am preparing myself to be up to the task to find myself in the moment, to relish the emotions that come and go in the emptiness.

Today, a simple phone call set me off. I could go into the details of the phone call, but it would be a waste of time. Instead, I began to breathe and observe the emotions and present feelings. This led to an hourlong process that happened mostly in public, in my heart. I was angry, why? Because I don’t express myself that well. Why? Because expressing myself is bad. Why? Because it makes me feel dirty. Why? Because I’m a failure. Why? Because my (biological) parents got rid of me. The last answer came to me in my room as I wrote in my journal, and I instantly began bawling.

I didn’t cry because it was all an illusion. I cried because it was an obvious discovery that finally crept out of its musty hole. I know that I’m not any of those things, but I am all of those things. They are the ropes that have tree trunks grown around them. Hard to find, pull out, and discard. I can deny this all I want, but know that it is true. It is also not true. There’s just the conditioning that goes with forgetting where you are at the current moment.

Which is headed to my 36th birthday. This past year, I have observed the metaphor and symbolism of the things that come into my life. Why did the woman bless me last Thurs. when I sat in a bar and focused on my heart via breathing? Why did that butterfly die on the trip up to Oregon? Why did the body worker give me a seed to nurture myself 6 months ago? Why did I find the tarot cards, and pick the 7 of pentacles, a man with a hoe? What am I planting with all of this, what will grow from it? How are my friends, community, and family providing the soil for this transition to grow out of?

What is in store for year 36? I am lost, sad, broken, yet alive, observing the seconds, and connecting with the atoms of the universe. I’m a mess, peaks and lows come when they want to, but I am here. The world falls apart, people die and are born, and I am pushing those stain-glassed windows open to hear the beautiful sound of my screaming. Years ago, I dreamed of my niece, Anna, standing in front of a collapsing building. She had no idea that things fell apart behind her, and just smiled as the wind gently blew her blonde hair. I instantly woke up form the horror of that toppling building.

I failed to notice that my beautiful niece stood firm, unwavering, and in the moment of her own happiness. I was that building then, and now, but I am about to be that grounded child. Like Roland at the end of the Dark Tower, I am starting the story over. Except I have a magical item with me this time. It is the clue to find the balance of falling in this endless void and illusion. It is the fact that I live, I feel, and I am here.

Last week Rob Brezny gave me yet another totem to carry, feel out, and savor. My horoscope (I usually take them lightly) from last week fits my current circumstances:

Please speak the following series of declarations at least once a day in the coming week: “I want to drink in the brilliance of someone’s beautiful eyes today. I want to dream of the kind of intimacy I will someday be worthy of. I want to learn to enjoy everything that I do and everything that happens to me, even if it’s not what I expected or thought I needed. I want the end of every story to be quickly followed by the beginning of the next story. I want to go home to a home I have never known.”

Oregon Country Fair Note Excerpts

These excerpts are from a letter/journal I kept on the recent Oregon trip. I wrote this letter for my best friends Todd and Mark

I’ve been waiting for this trip for months now. Haven’t been on the road outside of the Bay Area for a long while. Rent was too high, I was too poor, and my life fell apart. But you and Mark know best what that urge to move feels like. Headed to a festival makes this trip even more enjoyable. Getting there via a veggie-fueled bus and performing acts just like icing. Guess I don’t have to mention mountains, clean air, and trees…. Dunsmuir, CA


Jonathan and the universe gave me a gift a few hours ago. A buttefly hit the windshield back down on Grant’s Pass. [While taking a break at a rest stop, I wanted] to take the butterfly wings off of the windshield to put on my altar. About to pluck its wings, I saw that it was alive! It’s abdomen was smushed pretty bad. I peeled it off and put it on a piece of moss I had just picked up. It wasn’t flapping its wings, so I knew that its life i this reality was over. But it refused to die, twitching legs for most of our stopover. It eventually died, but I couldn’t bare to take its wings.

So the universe gave me a gift: beauty dieing. Nature’s infinite circle of renewal. Once again, death came to me in a pure form, and allowed me to test the waters of grief. The death of the butterfly sent a direct metaphor to my center of being. Quines Creek, OR


Magic does happen in the world. We drove into the Oregon Country Fair (OCF) with no nighttime/employee wristbands and no parking stickers. 24 hours later, we had 5 wristbands, one extra and two of them gifted to us for free, and two parking passes. I feel that the OCF is a special place for me to be at the right moment.

Walking through the OCF is like being in a faire land theme park. Booths, gates, and artwork line trails and fill meadows. Raw lumber and branches hide alot of the architecture and gates blend in to the forest. This lifestyle is vibrant, creative, and all-ages. The OCF celebrates its elders and many families are present. Day one of the OCF


Tired tonight after ding six shows today and staying up most of the night last night. I spent most of the night in a solemn mood. At one point an Iranian musician showed up to the place where I was hanging out at and began to drum and sing traditional Middle Eastern music. I began to think about the tribe of Ishmael and the wandering lifestyle of the Roma. My inner fears began to open up, and I realized that I was a bastard who had never seen my mother. I am the landless people, I thought, the child of Abraham cast out into the dessert. My current life changes had even made me tribless. I felt like the lonely wandering monk once again.

I left the sweet music and walked into the craziness of the Saturday night fair. At one point, I came across a tree that had an altar under it. Someone was randomly kneeling in front of it. The tree seemed out-of-time; it had a strange quality to it that nothing else had. I knew the night was over when I walked up to a jug band that had an inbred violin player. Bald, cross-eyed, and drooling, he played his violin held out in front of him. The washboard player was staggering drunk, and the guitar player wasn’t too far behind him. Sunday, July 11

After a week of magic, tests, and travel, the veggie bus crew points its compass south. After a lazy morning on some property (Pica Flores) near a creek by the McKenzie River, we spent most of the day looking for veggie oil and processing it for the drive home. Travel goes slow when you run on veg, and I enjoyed every bit of the work that goes into being a fuel bootlegger.


Two nights ago, at Pica Flores, we had a group dinner. The matriarch of the property asked for everyone to introduce themselves. I said something like this: “Hi, I’m Russell. Last weekend was my first Country Fair. This whole trip has been filled with miracles and the fair lived up to its myth from when I lived on the East Coast. I’ve met nothing but kind souls with big hearts, so am humbled by all of your good deeds. I’m currently going through a shadowy life change, and am currently tribeless, so this trip brought much needed medicine into my center of being. I thank you all.” Thursday, July 13