Monday, April 27, 2015

Storytelling and the social media age

Searching for gigs is like panning for gold on the putting green of a golf course. The internet is an ocean with possibilities, so vast that it makes the search harder.

You want an easier search, you pay a provider to include you. Does it mean your work is quality? Hemming and hawing could be done, but it comes down to money rather than skill. Money for professional photos and editted video, money to add listings by area of the country and even more if you want or need a national listing. You want to be included with enough detail to interest prospective clients, pull out those dollars as it has nothing to do with talent, appeal or skill. Professionalism already shook its proverbial head and quietly left.

Being found or being considered when you send out lines is even harder; so many fish in the sea and so many vivid, amazing, incredible pr fliers, cards, emails, and ads for so many folks that may or may not be what their flashy ads suggest.

I marvel at the momentous effort required, the frustration of finding knock off princess pseudo-cosplay characters getting gigs as if they were entertainers rather than cheap imitations that people are content to trick themselves into paying for. Hire real entertainment, people who have worked for years considering their performance as important. Performance versus appearance, performance versus an ad campaign.

I cringe at calling myself a storyteller, as everyone tells stories. The word brings to mind someone tedious and long winded rehashing tired stories someone else wrote. Wrong. Entirely wrong. I know amazing storytellers who deserve recognition for their skill. Brother Donald, Joshua Safford and Terry Foy, all gifted, practiced and incredible.
Have we reached a point in civilization where instead of veneration, storytelling is seen as a lesser valued trade? Storytellers used to be the pinnacle of entertainment, I see quotes from famous actors calling out that the world needs us. Needs us? As we race into our metaphorical phone booths to switch into our superhuman storytelling costumes, will we really be perceived and valued for our trade or will it be seen as lesser than other forms of entertainment? It would be like Superman waking up to a world where a thousand someones eating fire bumped him out of respected recognition.

Why should storytelling be valued?
We learn from stories. We gain perspective. We are distracted, we laugh and cry. We release what we've carried and we are reminded of the human connection. A good storyteller sets themselves aside and offers the audience the stories they want and need. It is about the audience. Every politician, lawyer and successful con artist has to be an excellent storyteller although none of those folks want it on their resume.

Allow amazing storytellers to inspire you. Inspire them, appreciate the profound chance and take each beautiful opportunity you are given to savor the way their words inspire you. Appreciate how hard, in a sea of social media, it was for chance to bring you to a place where you could have the opportunity to listen.

How often do we listen anymore? Is that timer running in your head even now, telling you to rush back to a candy colored game or gossip or shopping? Slow down! If you are so discontent that you have to constantly shift your attention, why? Stop avoiding what needs changing or addressing. Settle down for a story, take what you need, make changes to reduce that weird agitation that seems to be affecting everyone lately.

Let a storyteller help you change the world.

Stop buying things you do not need. Stop justifying them. Focus on your health and the health of your relationships. Stop blaming. Take responsibility. Set goals. Relearn self control and impulse control. Be the Captain of your ship rather than a hapless stow away jostled by the waves of social mores and norms, legislation, and advertisements. Turn off your data. Turn off your phone. Go outside. Talk with real people. Live your real life, and if you do not like it- set goals and change it. Possessions and pretending do not make the world a better place. A starving child is not saved with a doll and a princess dress, but with nourishment.

I was asked what my ideal community would be like and to give it serious thought

Start caring for each other, instead of attacking each regardless of the size of the difference. Compromise. If you choose not to get along because of severe conflict you have the right to choose not to interact or have dealings but must accept that mutual connections may still interact. Resposibile living, growing animals and crops, self sustainability: learning and teaching the basics. Choosing to stop and not include disposable, wasteful options like bottled water and plastic toys. Solar, wind power, and human power.

We as a people lost our voice after the sixties. We choose to believe we are stuck. We are not. I hear and read people saying change starts within. Be free in your head and you will be free. It's misleading. It starts there. It shifts to responsible, informed decision making regarding your immediate environment and choices. It expands into changing and reforming the laws and government. Do not accept corruption. Choose to take the power from those who misuse it. Learn to be adults again and without an immature rant, accept that other people are different and have different views and beliefs. Respect them as you want your own respected, and do not assume they are flawed or wrong any more than you would want your questioned.

Storytelling. Learn why it has been held in high esteem throughout history. Read or listen to a storyteller. It could easily be the most dangerous thing you do. Remember, Charles Manson and Leonard Peltier are both still in jail not because of what they did but because of the stories and the influence the would have on others if freed. The power of words in a master's hands goes beyond that of a gun.

Have an excellent birthday Tawasi. May the world change, May people make the individual choices to shift the sands out from under the unstable, unhealthy structt we have now. May each person be strong enough to listen to their spirit and step back out into impacting the world for positive change.

As a storyteller, I encourage you to remember that you are the protagonist in your story. You, not a cartoon character, but you. You are incredible, you hide behind apps and you bear the burden of feeling trapped and attacked by judgemental peers in a social climate engineered to divide you and rewarding you for judging, rewarding you for impotence and acceptance. Find your personal strengths and start changing your worlds. Become immune to advertisers and labels. Accept that life is hard, dangerous and fleeting. Appreciate it.

No Preservatives

One day balloon animals, the next waitressing. I learned service skills waiting tables at a country club while I was in college. I also prep cooked, wrapping scallops in bacon, cooking chili and setting up salads. Frying wings and homemade chicken breast tenders in succulent and sauces. What we made, we made. Nothing prefabricated, nothing oozing corn syrup and msg. Preservatives? The look of disdain would have driven them out beyond our manicured golf course and swimming pool.

In Arizona, time between the now and my next show and the chance to work at a Mexican restaurant owned by friends needing a full crew of competent staff. A place that had sought that goal, working in that direction, all season through the flurry of snowbirds and orders for tacos, margaritas, fajitas, and taquitos. I started by waitressing, paced like the busy season was on- except the snowbirds had already spread their proverbial wings and travelled back to northern climes before the heat of the desert summer hits full force.

I did a little prepping and found myself back at the grill. In two weeks I've learned to properly fold burritos, taquitos, chimichangas, enchiladas. I've learned to prepare shells, and to cut, dice, shred everything from meats and cheeses to vegetables for an array of sauces and dishes. We prepare and cook everything from the chips and salsa, the beans and rice, to the hamburgers. Nothing preprepared, everything taking time and specific techniques to create varying flavors and textures.

I've always enjoyed Mexican dishes but a whole deeper world has been revealed. The sauces are a world of their own. From enchilada sauce to Verde sauce, Spanish sauce to Colorado the depth of taste and the impact they have when added to different dishes is incredible. If you've always stuck with quesadillas, fajitas and burritos try the marinated meats or add a side of different sauces! It changes everything.

Today we made chili rellenos. It was a process with many steps that made me appreciate eating them so much more.

Life is a process, its like making an excellent sauce. You might start with dried shrunken peppers and water, add a little spice from childhood experience. On the stove heat softens peppers while in life time and socialization softens our rough edges. We blend everything together into something stronger, something whole that is added then into the larger recipes like our social circles. We impact and bring our own unique influence to situations. Some people are intense, you can add them and appreciate them in very small doses while others are crucial in almost every part of life: say significant others, close family and best friends. You have to work to maintain supplies, quality, and quantity. You have to tend your tools, your environment, you have to know and choose positive ingredients.

I appreciate the lessons I learned, the amazing flavors I am honored to create with such good friends as Sylvia, Randy, Jacque and Karen at Tres Banderas in Apache Junction. It's a great crew working and striving, enjoying work in today's with a personal touch- such a wonderful group is priceless to work with.

Soon I head north for the summer, with plans to return and cook here in the fall when the snowbirds return. It is nice to anticipate working with everyone again through my winter. Hard to leave such a great team, but maybe you can stop by on your way through and say hello for me if you do?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ancient Ruins versus Upcycling

Today we explored a beautiful area in the Four Peaks Wilderness. We watched a dinosaur centipede and several golden gopher snakes as we wandered.

We crossed the Salt River and saw the Dam. It was gorgeous, gold was the color of the day. Gold flowers, large jumping golden bellied fish, golden views and golden company. We hiked to a spring that looked like it should have been in a secret cool spots to hike to top ten list. We sat near cat tails at a still pool of water, there was a little waterfall. I enjoyed clearing leaves so water could flow more freely down, increasing the sound of water moving down the rocks. What an unusual musical instrument it was, volume and tone influenced by my hands gliding in the water. I watched a large crayfish pause in dappled shadows before vanishing beyond the sun's reflection. I imagined having to transport different sized waterfalls to play in Opera Halls, sitting on a lit perch and playing at night with the water lit in multicolored lights.

We explored an area of Indian ruins. I thought about how many have done insane or disrespectful things over and with artifacts. I thought of wintering in South Carolina several years ago.
My landlords lived next door. Two amazing married men who still make me smile fondly thinking of them. They were working on cleaning up the property, prior residents had been evicted while others had chosen to leave. All somehow left their unwanted posessions.
I decided to help, just to see the place become more beautiful and healthy and because it was basically a free way to get good exercise. We filled three dumpsters and a scrap metal bin. We weren't done yet. Modern leavings not worth taking, left and of no reusable value. No one sneaking in to pillage the broken plastic kiddie pool pieces, water bottles, disintigrated pool noodles,  and ruined carpets. No upcycle potential, we wracked our brains for ways to potentially use broken baby car seats, and other items too odd and disfunctional you could ponder a lifetime and never comprehend why it was there. A new toilet on the side of a hill, piles of glass panes and weather beaten books, even a full set up for a jungle gym that was left about twenty or thirty years ago. It felt like the items were just begging to be picked up and discarded. They were left and wanting to leave. If their owners had the choice they'd be bothered to have even been reminded of having owned the items. We are reminded how ephemeral our society is, how everything has fluxuating value; material goods on a slow constant decline after purchase.

Now I think of ancient ruins. North American, South American, Asian, Indian, everywhere ruins. The arrowheads we found in New York fields. The shards of pottery and complete pieces that are in the southwest. Valued because they were well made, brilliant works of art and function. Not left, still waiting for their people to come back and use them again. The people who made them made them with care and focus, with the intent of making beautiful, strong pottery. They did and people cannot help but want to see it, touch it, admire the skill and longevity.

Perhaps we can learn from the past. Make choices to reduce the unnecessary, picture items the way theyll look in the landfill in a hundred years. Imagine someone digging that up. Value? Inspiration? Worth? Could a broken version of it have value if upcycled?

Upcycling finds ways to take inexpensive items and improve them. Using pallets to plant gardens on the side of a building, using a tea cup as a planter. What do you have around that you could give new life and function through upcycling?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

If You Are Going To Travel, Why Not Try Something New?

Chain stores and restaurants are everywhere. I often read of people taking vacations boasting about how long they crammed uncomfortably in a car as if it were a badge of honor to fight for elbow room rather than ride comfortably perhaps on a train?

I get perplexed by posts excited about chain restaurant food. It's the same back at home, Why did you drive eight or twenty hours to go to the same places just around the block back home?

I was excited, dear friends went on vacation and actually saw the sights, tried all new restaurants and had a great time! They planned well, considered distance and did not do it as if it were a race popping up long enough somewhere for a 360 view before dodging across another state line.

If your passengers get car sick after eating, why are you rushing so fast? Can you really appreciate things when you over structure your time?

Vacations are about taking your time, doing new things and enjoying different cultures. I went to Tucson and tried a Sonoran hotdog. We wandered different gem shows, hiked trails and had fun.

If you drive cross country, Why not stretch your legs at historical plaques and parks along the way? Make memories that inspire your family to want to travel and to associate it with relaxing and delightful adventure rather than stifling tedium of a metal car as an endless prison. Fast food isn't healthy and doesn't make a vacation or car trip better. Take a chance, try healthier options, pack a cooler and get out of the vehicle. Let your food digest, nothing says you have to push, remember, it's vacation.

Prepare using common sense, with your safety and wellbeing in mind. Bring the right clothes and gear, learn about where you are going and properly pack.

Have fun!

If you're going just to enjoy a hotel and a meal; stay local. Kids and adults like shorter car trips if you're just going to stay inside one or two buildings. Why pay to cross the country to go to a place that's the same as ones back home? Absurd! Stay local and use the money you save on whatever you choose from spoiling yourself with a good massage ( the opposite of cramping your muscles in a long drive) or some other wished for object.

Make valuable memories, not mediocre ones lacking character and depth. Immerse yourself in the places you go. You will not regret it!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Breakfast with a Panhandler

I've taken to getting up early, walking or biking. Mostly getting out and enjoying the weather and the flowering cactus. The whole desert is yellow with splashes of pink and orange. Beautiful.

Friday I stopped at a gas station to drink coffee and watch the world go by. A large man politely asked to join me at the table outside. I nodded. He scowled at a police car watching for traffic violations. He put the beer he bought under a blanket in a saddlebag on his bicycle. His bike had a motor. He sat down and explained that some folks choose coffee in the morning while he chose beer. Just two a day, slowly consumed. I nodded and said it was his choice. I was thinking about two.

You see, I worked in substance abuse treatment. Two was the magic number that meant way more than two. Two never means two. I waited.

He took his pocket knife and worked on a scratch off lottery ticket. It was a complicated one, so we talked while he gradually revealed more of the card.

He said he was a pan handler. I told him I was a storyteller. He smiled, said that we both have to watch what we say. I agreed. He suddenly said that he drank two in the morning, two midday, two in the afternoon, and two in the evening. Two, as I said, is a magical number. It is the only number that can really be eight, sixteen or even thirty if mentioned in reference to beverages or food. Remember those "two" cookies the dieter claims is all they ate?

No one ever uses three or four to fudge numbers, it's always two.

I smiled. He finished his scratch off, it was a loss. Win some, lose some he said with detachment. He was scruffy but clean, cautious not to appear sloppy. He had a tattered flag and the other accents that reinforce the perception one has that says "give me," just as a fast food worker and a secretary have their own uniforms.

I had one cup of coffee, or was it two?